Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Drinking and Riding a Horse: Is it Legal?

   We have all seen those old westerns in which there is that random cowboy riding a horse after he comes out of the saloon, usually drunk or intoxicated.  He is slumped over the saddle and his horse pretty much is left to his own devices.  Sometimes being drunk can get him in some predicaments.
   Bring this picture to present day, and we find there can be repercussions when riding while intoxicated, if you're caught.  The main issue is this:  Is it legal to drink and ride a horse?

    Several states have statutes that hold mandate that a horse is considered a vehicle. However, if the rider is intoxicated, they can be charged with public intoxication, or even drunk and disorderly (if the circumstances fit the crime).  There are some states that have a no tolerance policy, and a person can be charged with a DUI, even though they are riding a horse.  Unfortunately for horseback riders, these laws vary from state to state, and even within the local law enforcement community.
    While the idea of a DUI on a horse may sound silly, the main concern from public law enforcement is safety.  Someone riding a horse or a bicycle while intoxicated could potentially be a risk to others.  Drivers could get into an accident due to the erratic riding pattern of a rider.  In many situations the horse can also get injured or killed, putting the rider at risk for animal endangerment.
    The normal procedure for citing and punishing a DUI while on horseback is pretty much the same as a driver in a motorized vehicle.  The officer stops the offender under suspicion of being under the influence.  If a breathalyzer indicates a rider is under the influence, the officer will issue a citation.  In many states, the lawbreaker's license will be revoked, and he or she will have to go to court in order to get it back.
    A public safety announcement that appeared in Montana shows a horse picking up its rider from a bar, obeying all the laws and acting as a designated driver would. You can see this video here: Sober Friend 
    Helena Police Chief Troy McGee says he has received many calls from residents wanting to know if riding a horse while under the influence is legal.  The law says yes, however Montana law carefully defines a vehicle, and excludes those running under animal power.  But that does not mean people should ride their horses while drunk.  Please be safe, don't drink and ride.
 Should an intoxicated rider be charged with a DUI or just a pubic intoxication?
What are your thoughts?

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