share on:

We’ve all read the frequent headlines about drunk driving crashes on highways and residential streets, in urban and rural areas, at excessive speeds and even driving well below the speed limit. A DUI arrest is not limited, however, to operating a car on a designated public road.  

Each state determines the legality or criminality of where you are and what you are doing when you are behind a wheel with alcohol in your system. We’ve taken a look at six of the more surprising ways you can receive a DUI in a variety of states.  

State Drunk Driving Laws Search Tool

1. Drunk Driving While Operating a Tractor

The Arkansas House has recently approved legislation containing a new definition of “motor vehicle” that includes farm equipment such as tractors. A portion of the bill clarifies that operators of farm equipment involved in near-fatal or fatal driving incidents must have their blood alcohol content (BAC) checked just as an automobile driver would. The bill will be known as “Jacob’s Law” after the Arkansas man killed in an alcohol-related farming crash.

2. A DUI While Your Car is Parked

In many states it is possible to be charged with a DUI without actually moving your vehicle. Laws in these states declare it is illegal not only to drive a vehicle under the influence but also to be in “actual physical control” of a vehicle in a state of impairment. This Florida man was arrested on just such an offense, as was this Missouri lawyer. These laws also apply to intoxicated drivers who moved into the passenger seat or the back seat of the car they were operating. 

3. Driving Drunk on Private Property

The West Virginia Supreme Court determined that anyone driving while intoxicated, whether on public or private lands, can be charged with drunk driving. 

“The legislature chose to structure our DUI statutes to regulate the condition of the driver, not the locale in which the driving is taking place,” Justice Ketchum wrote. “Thus, the legislature expressed its plain intent to prohibit an intoxicated person from driving a vehicle anywhere in West Virginia, whether on public roads or across private land.” This precedent could be overturned with new legislation reaching the West Virginia legislature in 2019. 

4. Driving With (legal) Open Containers of Alcohol  

Mississippi is the only state in the nation without a law against open containers in a vehicle. Technically this lack of a prohibition does not mean that drinking and driving is legal. A driver could be in possession of any number of containers of alcohol, but they still cannot drink while driving, and they must maintain a BAC under .08. 

5. Don’t Drink and Ride a Bike in these States

More than 20 states have laws that allow for charging a drunken bicyclist with a DUI. Of the remaining states, many have laws that can be applied depending on where the bicyclist is riding. This Colorado woman was charged with a DUI after she damaged a car while riding her bicycle. North Dakota recently exempted bicycles and horses from state DUI laws, while South Dakota will charge a DUI not only to those operating a bicycle, but also anyone operating a tractor, horse, lawnmower or golf cart while under the influence.

6. Operating Watercraft Under the Influence

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a state law nationwide. In several states not only does this charge apply to the intoxicated driver of any type of vessel such as a boat or jet-ski, but also includes operators of water skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, and similar non-motorized recreational watercraft.  

Laws on drinking and driving exist for a reason—to keep people safe. Driving while impaired by alcohol slows reflexes, reaction time, and physical coordination. In a car or on a bicycle, on private property or on public waterways, driving under the influence of alcohol is always dangerous.

What surprising and unexpected ways to get a DUI have you read about? 

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


Leave a Response

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.