What is “Driving” for DUI in NH?

Driving in NH – One man in Orange County, California, must have been surprised to learn the complexity of criminal laws when he was arrested under the suspicion DUI – even though he was riding a horse. New Hampshire’s laws might be less expansive than California’s, but that doesn’t mean that the act of “driving a motor vehicle” is any less confusing.

What Constitutes Driving?

“Driving” is not really driving; it’s much more. For example, in the mid-nineties, a man was arrested for DUI after being found asleep in a parking lot. He was in the driver’s seat of his car with the engine running. The defendant argued that he could not be driving if he was asleep, but the Supreme Court said he was wrong. It agree d that he could not be operating his car, but driving only means that a person has “actual, physical control” over the car, which he did before he fell asleep (even though he chose to go to sleep instead of operate the car). So you can be arrested for DUI in all kinds of situations where you never put your foot on the gas; starting the car just to warm up or close the windows, pushing/steering a car when you run out of gas, or putting your foot on the brake in a parked car heading down a slope.

What Is Considered a Motor Vehicle?

Similarly, “motor vehicle” can be anything with a motor – even if that motor isn’t working. In the early nineties, a NH man learned that the hard way. He had just bought a non-working motorcycle from an auction and needed to bring it home. On his way, he used it to coast down the breakdown lane when he was spotted by an officer. The Supreme Court said that the prosecutor did not need to prove that the motor on the bike worked, only that the bike was “self-propelled.” That means every “mechanical device” that is meant to be “self-propelled” and capable of transporting people or property is a “motor vehicle” out here. That includes lawnmowers, mopeds, ATVs, even your kid’s Fisher Price Power Wheels dune buggy.

It’s hard for anyone to know all of the ways the courts have defined the words in our laws. If you’ve been charged with DWI in New Hampshire make sure you have a thorough and experienced lawyer to protect and defend you. To get started, call us at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form.

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