DUI On Horseback - Could This Happen In Alabama?


Frank Ward is a lawyer based out of Huntsville, Alabama, and practicing throughout North Alabama.  His practice focuses on DUI defense, driver license issues, expungement of criminal records, as well as, estate planning and probate.

A man was arrested for DUI for allegedly riding a horse on a Long Beach, California Highway while intoxicated over the weekend.  To clarify, it is the man who was allegedly intoxicated, not the horse.  The horse, the man, and the general public all appear to be unharmed.  Though humorous now that it is over, it would have been a sad situation had the man equestrian adventure led to an accident.

While it is clearly dangerous to ride a horse drunk on the highway, it's fair to ask does this amount to a DUI.  I haven't read California's DUI statute, which would govern in this case, but I can say that it very well may meet the elements of Alabama's DUI statute.  Alabama's DUI law (Section 32-5A-191, Code of Alabama) makes it illegal to "drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle" while under the influence of alcohol, etc.  Section 32-1-1.1(81) says "a ridden animal shall be deemed a vehicle."  This means that if the State of Alabama can prove that you "drove or were in actual physical control" of a horse while under the influence (you, not the horse) then you would be guilty of DUI. 

The next logical question, and probably the strongest defense against a horseback DUI, is can you drive or be in actual physical control of a horse.  Arguably, riding is distinguishable from driving, but what about actual physical control?  I suppose that would depend on the temperament of the horse.   If our hypothetical drunken horseback rider were on the back of a wild, bucking bronco, then he would have a strong argument that he was not in actual physical control of the horse.  However, if he were on the back of a gentle, well-mannered pony, then his defense would be much weaker. 

The bottom line:  It's probably a good idea to avoid drunk horse riding.  That goes for you and the horse, too.