Riding Animals While Intoxicated (RAWI)?

posted Jan 14, 2011, 12:51 PM by Calan McConkey
If you couldn't tell by the absurdity of the headline, this story comes straight from Texas. According to the article on Legal Blog Watch, two men were arrested for riding a mule and a horse in downtown Austin while they were drunk. For more details on the story -- along with an entertaining video of the incident -- check out the link to the original article below.

The outcome of the situation hinged on the fact that they were riding animals, which are not covered under the Texas statute controlling DWI convictions. Because of this, the prosecutor dropped the charges against the men (for the DWI, anyway, not for public intoxication). Based on a couple of quotes, it seems like the prosecutor in this case has a pretty good sense of humor:

"It has to be a motor vehicle or device...[a]nd 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."

The prosecutor also quipped "[t]hat doesn't seem like the right drink. This story begs for tequila," in regards to one of the riders admitting that he had been drinking cranberry and vodka.


This situation got me thinking: I wonder how this would turn out in Missouri? Based solely on the reading of the Missouri statutes, and without consulting a single piece of case law, here is my prediction.

RSMo 577.012 explains that it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC in excess of .08.

But now we need to figure out what is considered "operating a motor vehicle". "Motor vehicle" is not defined in Chapter 577. It is, however, defined in Chapter 300 as follows:

"'Motor vehicle'", any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively upon tracks, except farm tractors and motorized bicycles." RSMo 300.010

But this definition still leaves us without an explanation as to what constitutes a "vehicle."  So, here is another definition for "vehicle":

"'Vehicle'", any mechanical device on wheels, designed primarily for use, or used, on highways, except motorized bicycles, vehicles propelled or drawn by horses or human power, or vehicles used exclusively on fixed rails or tracks, cotton trailers or motorized wheelchairs operated by handicapped persons." RSMo 300.010

After digging through enough definitions, I think the answer is finally clear. The two men in Texas would also not be guilty of the standard DWI in Missouri. As you can see from the definitions, a horse/mule is NOT a mechanical device on wheels. Furthermore, vehicles propelled by horses are specifically excluded from coverage, so if you have a horse without an attached vehicle, it stands to reason that it would also be excluded.



While on the subject, I have always been curious as to whether or not someone riding on the back seat of a tandem bike (only pedaling, not steering) could be guilty of a DWI. I now know the answer. The tandem bike is not motorized/self-propelled and, therefore, not covered under the Missouri DWI statute. I'm sure this revelation is as groundbreaking to all of you as it is to me.







Disclaimer: this blog post, although written by a very great, persuasive author and attorney, should not be construed as encouraging any of the above-described behavior. Furthermore, this article should not be taken as legal advice.  It should, however, be thoroughly enjoyed.
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