California Law Regarding Driving Under The Influence


Being arrested for driving under the influence doesn’t always happen when are driving a car. As I previously discussed, you can get a DUI while driving a golf cart, riding a bike, or operating a boat or jet skis. Here’s a new one: Riding a horse while under the influence.

Yes, indeed. This past weekend, a man on a white horse was arrested for riding his horse on the 91 Freeway. Riding a horse down the freeway is unlawful enough, but this knight on his white horse was suspected of being drunk, very drunk. His initial blood alcohol screening registered a .021% BAC.

In fact, the California Vehicle Code Section 21050 provides that persons riding an animal on the roads and highways are subject to the vehicle code. And the appellate court in People v. Fong (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1 in referencing this statute noted that persons riding animals on the roads and highways in California are subject to the DUI laws.

If you think this is rare, apparently not too rare. A quick review of the news reveals many DUI on horseback arrests. A Florida woman was also recently arrested for DUI while riding her horse-also down a highway as was a Florida man in 2012. Even in the Lone Star state of Texas, where horses are ubiquitous, two men were arrested for riding their furry friends on a popular downtown street while intoxicated—one man was on a horse, one was on a mule. I bet they enjoyed the laughs until the cops arrived.

However, in many states, riding an animal while under the influence is not against the law. Most often, this is because the DUI/DWI laws in those states limit the under the influence law to the operation of motor vehicles. Reportedly (although laws are constantly changing) you can ride your horse while under the influence in Louisiana, Montana, and Wyoming, just to name a few.

It may seem like overkill to hand out a DUI to someone riding a horse, but is it? Riding a horse on a freeway or a highly trafficked road can be dangerous in and of itself and so much more when the rider is under the influence. This conduct may cause an accident and jeopardizes not only the rider and horse, but also other vehicles on the road.

Fighting a DUI charge on horse-back requires the same defense as any other DUI. If the rider’s BAC is just at the threshold, there is often an opportunity to plea bargain to a lesser offense. However, a creative defense might be to argue that the rider was not causing the horse to move because the horse knew its way home and was just going there with the rider on its back. This creative defense might argue that the element of “driving” requirement under the DUI law ( i.e., California DUI law, requires a volitional movement of a vehicle) was not present. Creative? Maybe. Likely to prevail? Probably not. Still, this small fissure in the prosecution’s case might be enough to persuade the district attorney to a plea bargain more favorable to the defendant.

Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg has been defending persons charged with DUI for 25 years. While he has not yet defended a horse-back rider, he has defended clients charged under almost every conceivable circumstance, from minor first-time DUIs to those charged with very serious DUIs, such as a Watson murder. You may contact him for a complimentary consultation about your DUI matter at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at

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