What constitutes a "Vehicle" and "Motor Vehicle" which can lead to a conviction under the Kentucky DUI Statute?

The Kentucky Revised Statute Chapter that governs DUIs, Chapter 189A, interestingly enough, does not define what a “vehicle” or “motor vehicle” is. In order to find the definition, we must look to Adams v. Commonwealth275 S.W.3d 209 (Ky. App. 2008). In Adams, the Kentucky Court of Appeals stated that “the KRS 186.010(4) definition of ‘motor vehicle,’ [does not apply] to KRS Chapter 189A.” Id. at 209-10. And that “[s]ince there is no specific statutory definition of “motor vehicle” in KRS Chapter 189A, we [must] construe that term in accordance with its common and approved usage.’ Id. at 210 (Internal citations omitted.)

In the Adams case, the Kentucky Court of Appeals went on to decide that a moped is a “motor vehicle” for the purposes of the DUI statute. Furthermore, a person operating a farm tractor was convicted of a DUI and the decision was affirmed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Heath v. Commonwealth, 761 S.W.2d 630 (Ky. Ct. App. 1988). The court in Heath refused to accept that the KRS 189.010(18) (the definitions section of KRS Chapter 189 – now subsection (19)) applies to tractors, because, in the court’s words “[i]t would seem to be a gross distortion of the intent of the referred statutes to hold [otherwise].” (Since the decision in Heath, KRS 189.010(19)(b)(3) now explicitly excludes “farm tractors” from the definition of “motor vehicle” presumably for KRS 189A.010, the Kentucky motor vehicle DUI statute, purposes).

Although I believe that an argument still exists that the definitions in KRS 189.010(19) may apply to certain “vehicles” and “motor vehicles,” no case has yet to rule on the issue. And as you’ve seen the court rule in the Adams case, use your common sense when operating a vehicle that may or may not be a “motor” vehicle. Does it have an electric motor (no matter how small)? If so, there is a strong likelihood that it falls within the purview of the Motor Vehicle DUI statute for which the penalties are pretty harsh.

Please see the section on non-motor vehicle DUIs if you believe that you were charged erroneously with a motor vehicle DUI.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you need competent, experienced, and knowledgeable counsel to help you win your case. Don’t delay send the DUI guy a message today!


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