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Farm Animals Not 'Motor Vehicles' for Purposes of DWI Charge

In Texas, a person can be charged with the crime of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) if, while at a certain level of intoxication, he or she drives a "motor vehicle" -- that is, "a device in, on or by which a person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn on a highway."

Jose Rios and Samuel Olivo Jr. may not have known the exact language of the law, but they tested its limits Friday night when they rode farm animals down Austin, Texas' busy East Sixth Street in an allegedly drunken state.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Austin police quickly descended on the men, put them in handcuffs, and loaded their horse and mule onto a trailer bound for an animal shelter.  Rios, the mule rider, was charged with DWI. A police affidavit said that Rios "had bloodshot eyes and was swaying, staggering and stumbling, and that he told officers he'd had 'two vodka and cranberry drinks.'"

When the case reached the desk of Travis County's County Attorney, David Escamilla, however, he was not convinced that riding the farm animals met the language of the DWI statute. After researching similar cases in other states, Escamilla's office dropped the case, stating that the law did not support DWI on an animal. "It has to be a motor vehicle or device," Escamilla explained. "And our research shows a mule is not a motorized vehicle. To be absolutely sure, I watched a few episodes of 'The Lone Ranger,' and not once did I hear the masked man refer to Silver as a device."

Escamilla added that the Rios choice of vodka and cranberry seemed all wrong, too. "That doesn't seem like the right drink. This story begs for tequila," he said.

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 14, 2011 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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