Uggggg! Someone was recently charged in Kansas with DUI while riding….wait for…wait for it…. A HORSE! Really?!? Yep. The attorney in this case will have his hands full arguing whether it should apply.
The good news is, this may be a defensible. The bad news is, it will likely take a big fight and even have to go to the court of appeals or even the Kansas Supreme Court. Hopefully they get a common sense judge in the district court and the case will be dismissed. Alas, a horse should not be deemed a vehicle for purposes of drunk driving.
Kansas defines vehicle the following way: "Vehicle" means every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, excepting electric personal assistive mobility devices or devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.
Kansas defines traffic the following way: "Traffic" means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles and other conveyances either singly or together while using any highway for purposes of travel.
A case from 1954 addresses this issue, but not regarding DUI In that case, the Court relied on an old K.S.A. statute, which has since been modified. They states that "Section 8-506 provides that every person riding an animal upon a roadway shall be subject to the provisions of the act applicable to the driver of a vehicle." It will be observed when the legislature adopted section 8-501, it expressly made the definition of the word "vehicle" in that section so broad that it included not only automobiles and animal-drawn vehicles, but every device upon or by which any person or property may be transported, and this definition is sufficiently broad to cover ridden animals and bicycles. This same section defines the word "traffic" to mean ridden animals while using any highway for purposes of travel. Moreover, the legislature in adopting section 8-506 definitely made all the provisions of the act applicable to persons riding animals upon a roadway, irrespective of whether such animals came under the definition of a vehicle.
While K.S.A. 8-506 was repealed in 1974, it was recodified as 8-1504. Rights and duties of person riding animal or driving animal-drawn vehicle. Every person riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this article, except those provisions of this article which by their very nature can have no application.
Other States have cited to Conrad v. Dillinger as support for DUI horse cases. In fact, North Carolina took the Conrad v. Dillinger language to approve the convicting a citizen for DUI on a horse.
Utah however took a different approach to our Kansas case of Conrad v. Dillinger when dealing with a DUI on a horse. Utah's definition of "vehicle" was identical to Kansas' definition and they didn't apply it to DUI, stating "The operative word in the statute is "device." No dictionary we have examined defines "device" to encompass an animal, and section 41-6-1 uses the word "device" in its usual sense. Both due process and common usage restrain us from torturing the definition of a "vehicle" to include a horse. Therefore, to convict Schofield of violating section 41-6-44 would deny him due process."
Hopefully, when the lawyers litigate this, the courts here in Kansas will apply Utah's common sense and due process reasoning.