Where, geographically, can I be charged with a DUI?

Can I get a DUI while riding my personal lawnmower in my own back yard? According to a literal reading of KRS 189A.010(1)(a) (the DUI statute), the answer is ‘yes.’

The Kentucky DUI statute begins with, “[a] person shall not operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle anywhere in this state…” Courts give great deference to legislative intent, and a literal interpretation will nearly always trump any possible ambiguity. The Kentucky legislature changed the wording of the statute from “operate a motor vehicle on a highway” to “anywhere in this state” in 1968, and Courts have taken that to mean that the legislature was concerned about public safety and wanted to broaden the statute’s geographical reach. See, e.g. Lynch v. Commonwealth, 902 S.W.2d 813, 814-5 (Ky. 1995) (internal citations omitted). That reach was to include private property.

The Court in Lynch reasoned that a person on a private road can “leave the private road and pursue a mad course down a public highway with the resulting damage [that is] so frequently reported. …  An intoxicated person should not be permitted to operate an automobile anywhere because of the potential dangers of such instrumentalities.” Id. at 815. It affirmed the jury’s guilty verdict in the trial court below.

Furthermore, an unpublished opinion by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Mattingly v. Commonwealth, 2008-CA-000610, found the operation of a golf cart on private property to have fallen under the purview of the DUI statute.

Thus the answer is clear. “Anywhere in this state” literally means, anywhere within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, whether on public or private road and whether on private or public property. So be careful next time you’re drinking at home and decide to get in your friend’s ATV.

Note that not all states are born equal. Some states’ DUI statutes will not have such all-encompassing language. For instance our sister-state to the South, Tennessee, casts a smaller net by prohibiting operation of a vehicle “on any of the public roads and highways of the state, any shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex or any other location which is generally frequented by the public at large[.]” Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401. So, perhaps, your lawnmower and ATV joyrides are better off done down South.

If you need help with a DUI Charge, you need competent and experienced counsel to help you with your case. Do not delay, call the DUI Guy today.

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