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Electric Balance Board and DWI Charges?

June 21, 2024

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Two of the most popular items on Christmas lists across the U.S this year are one-wheel and two-wheel electric balance boards. These recreational skateboard-like products are manufactured by companies like One-Wheel, Hoverboard, iMoto, and even Lexus. Items like these have dominated online retailers, even reaching the number one spot on Amazon’s “Best Seller” list.

While it is easy to see the appeal of these products, it also begs the question on whether or not they are “street” legal, and what the consequences can be for driving them on the roads in New York State. A recent example of the controversy surrounding one-wheel and two-wheel balance boards occurred when the New York City Police Department issued a tweet earlier this year stating “hoverboards are illegal”. According to both the NYC Police Department and the New York State DMV, these devices are illegal to operate on roads under Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 401, because they cannot be insured. Thus New York City has begun to fine individuals up to $200 dollars for operating two-wheel and one-wheel balance scooters on roadways.

DWI Ramifications

While one-wheel and two-wheel balance scooters are not “street” legal under New York State Law, the courts in New York have not yet had the opportunity to address whether or not an individual can be convicted of a DWI related offense for driving one of these scooters under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However there are recent examples that could point toward an answer to this question. For example, in 2008 a man from Whitehall New York was charged with violating Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192(3), Driving While Intoxicated-Common Law, for allegedly operating a motorized beer-cooler or “Cooler Scooter” (see below) after having consumed too much alcohol. The man was also charged with “operating an uninsured motor vehicle”. The Washington County District Attorney’s Office commented, stating that under New York State Law, the motorized cooler fit the definition of a “motor-vehicle” and therefore the individual could be charged with DWI.

cooler-scooter

In New York, in order to be found guilty of a DWI offense, an individual must be found to have: operated a motor vehicle, on a public highway, while in an intoxicated condition, or with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater. Thus the issue that will confront the courts in New York is whether or not one and two-wheel balance scooters fit the definition of “motor vehicle” as contemplated by the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

By definition, New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law section 125 defines a motor vehicle as: every vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power. In regards to DWI related offenses under Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1192, this definition has been found to include motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATV’s, snowmobiles, tractors, boats, jet skis, and apparently motorized coolers.

As stated above, the courts have not yet ruled as to the status of these one and two-wheeled scooters, they have however ruled on the status of a similar product, the “GoPed” (see below).

goped

In Reilley v. Dep’t of Motor Vehicles of the State of New York, the Court refers to the “GoPed” as a “motorized skateboard” numerous times. The Court ruled that a portable scooter which was described as “motorized skateboard” by the ticketing officer was a “motor vehicle” for which insurance was required under Vehicle and Traffic Law. By stating that the “GoPed” was a motor vehicle under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, for which insurance was required to operate on roadways, the Court inferred that the “GoPed” could also be subject to other laws affecting “motor vehicles”, such as DWI. This is because the Vehicle and Traffic Law as a whole uses the same definition of motor vehicle for every one of its sections, so if a vehicle qualifies as a “motor vehicle” for insurance purposes, it also qualifies as a “motor vehicle” for DWI purposes. Furthermore, it is also possible that a vehicle meets the definition of “motor vehicle” but is of a type that New York State will not allow to be insured to drive on public roadways.

Conclusion

Based on the statutory definition of “motor vehicle”, coupled with the treatment of similar products (such as the “GoPed” and “Cooler Scooter”) by courts and agencies in New York, it is fair to say that one and two-wheeled balance scooters will be found to be “motor vehicles”. Therefore it is also likely that individuals, who operate these products on public roadways while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, will be subject to New York’s DWI laws. Therefore think twice before you take your new Christmas toy out on the street, it could end up being a costly ride.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.

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