So, you are out with your buddies at the golf course on a beautiful Southern California day–putting along in your golf cart, knocking in a few balls and beers – ah, this is the life. Maybe you are having too much fun because you and your buddies are getting a little rowdy—enough to trigger a complaint. Suddenly the good life goes bad as you see one of Orange County’s finest approaching you and your buddies. “Step out of the golf cart please.” Next thing you know, the officer is conducting field sobriety tests on you.
Does this sound far-fetched? Well, an arrest for driving a golf cart under the influence can and has happened in this state. Under California law, it is unlawful to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, which as everyone knows is defined as more than 0.08% BAC. You are certainly driving as defined by California’s vehicle code and a golf cart is a vehicle. As defined in Vehicle Code section 670, a vehicle is “a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway.” A golf cart is such a device under this broad definition but what about that “highway” part? Under California law, “highway” means any public street or roadway. Technically speaking, a golf cart could motor down a “highway,” even if these vehicles are usually confined to the links.
The DUI laws in California once made it illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence on highways or other areas open to the general public. But in 1982, the law was changed to prohibit simply driving under the influence without any reference as to where. The courts have held that the wording of the statute means that it is unlawful to drive under the influence anywhere in California and that includes private property and even golf courses.
We could take this to its logical conclusion and surmise that one could even get arrested for driving a riding lawn mower while under the influence if the driver takes the mower off his or her property, for example, on a short drive to the neighbor’s house. Now, that really does sound far-fetched but it could happen! The intent of the DUI laws is to prohibit “extremely dangerous” persons from driving anywhere they pose a threat to the public. Driving with a BAC is considered “extremely dangerous.” (People v. Malvitz (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th Supp. 9.)
The purpose of my discussion today is to make the reader aware of just how far-reaching the DUI laws are in this state. You can get arrested for biking under the influence, boating under the influence, and even skateboarding under the influence. Add golf carting and driving a riding mower to that list.
William Weinberg has almost 25 years of experience in defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at Bill@williamweinberg.com.