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Can I be charged with DUI/DWI in Utah for riding a horse?

It sounds like a strange question.  But strange things sometimes happen in the criminal justice system.  The question of whether a person can be convicted of DUI/DWI in Utah for riding a horse while intoxicated was raised in the 1980's.  Two defendants were initially charged and convicted of DUI charges stemming from an accident that happened in Davis County.  But through the efforts of a Utah criminal defense attorney, the Utah Supreme Court ultimately determined that a person could not be lawfully convicted of DUI for riding a horse while intoxicated.

According to the Utah Supreme Court, see, State v. Blowers, 717 P.2d 1321 (Utah 1986), two individuals were charged with DUI after allegations were made that the two had been riding horses while drunk.   Prosecutors alleged that the two individuals spent the afternoon drinking beer, then got on their horses and began riding down the street.  There was some dispute as to whether the two individuals had been racing, or the horses had been spooked by two small boys.  But prosecutor's claimed that one of the rider's sisters had fallen from one of the horses and suffered a severe concussion.  Both individuals were charged with, and convicted of, DUI for driving a "vehicle" while under the influence of alcohol.

Both defendants appealed their conviction, on grounds that their convictions violated Constitutional Due Process protections.  The Due Process protections afforded a criminal defendant in the Utah criminal justice system require that a defendant be given notice of what conduct is prohibited by a criminal statute.  The Utah Supreme Court determined that the term "vehicle" as used in the Utah statutes did not adequately put a person on notice that he could be prosecuted for riding a horse while drunk.  Prosecuting and convicting a defendant for riding a horse while drunk was therefore determined to be a violation of the defendant's Constitutional Due Process rights.  The Supreme Court reversed the conviction.

The Court did leave open, however, the question of whether a person "driving" a horse-drawn carriage or wagon might be subject to prosecution for DUI under Utah law.

If you have been charged or cited with DUI in Utah, it is important to promptly contact a criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.  Based in Salt Lake City, we provide legal services to clients throughout Utah.  Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.

*Note:  The Blowers case was decided under Utah's then-applicable DUI law, Utah Code section 41-6-44.  The Utah legislature has since amended Utah's DUI statute, and renumbered it as section 41-6a-502. It is likely that the Supreme Court's rationale would still apply to the new law and prohibit prosecution for DUI in cases involving a person riding a horse while drunk.  But, for both legal and practical safety reasons, the author of this page strongly discourages anyone from riding a horse while drunk.  It is simply not a good idea - for either the horse or the rider.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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