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Do Maine’s OUI Laws Reach Horse-Drawn Vehicles?

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A freak accident in Clinton, Maine, left four people hurt when a horse-drawn carriage careened out of control and hit a car and a telephone pole.

The incident raises a question: can you face operating under the influence (OUI) charges for driving a horse-drawn carriage in Maine – just as you would face the same if driving a car?

The answer involves the scope of Maine’s OUI statute and some important definitions elsewhere in Maine’s code.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident Leaves Four Hurt

The accident happened on Water Street in Clinton, Maine, during the evening of Sunday, August 11.

According to the initial reports, a loud noise spooked the two horses that were pulling a wagon with four passengers. The driver of the carriage couldn’t control them and they ran with the carriage before hitting a car and then a utilities pole.

All four of the passengers were hurt. One passenger was flown to the hospital in a helicopter and is listed in serious condition.

While there is a small Amish community in the Clinton area, police say that the driver of the buggy and the injured passengers were not a part of it.

Maine’s OUI Law and Horse-Powered Vehicles

While there is no evidence that the driver of the wagon was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the incident raises the question of how Maine’s OUI law would handle the hypothetical situation of a drunk horse-and-buggy driver.

The short answer is: you can’t be convicted for driving a literal horse-powered vehicle in Maine.

The reason centers on the scope of Maine’s OUI laws, and its definition of “motor vehicles.”

Maine’s OUI Law Only Covers Motor Vehicles

Maine’s statute prohibiting operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is 29-A Maine Statute § 2411.

That statute forbids being “under the influence of intoxicants” or having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit while operating “a motor vehicle.”

The important part, of course, is the phrase “motor vehicle.”

The definition for “motor vehicle” comes from 29-A Maine Statute § 101(42). This statute defines it as a “self-propelled vehicle” that is not:

  • Solely operated on train tracks
  • A snowmobile
  • An ATV
  • A motorized wheelchair.

Because horse-drawn carriages are not “self-propelled” – they’re powered by the horse – Maine’s OUI law does not apply to them.

Maine OUI Defense Lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group

The OUI defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group strive to legally represent everyone in southern Maine who has been arrested and accused of drunk or drugged driving. From their law office in Portland, they protect people in towns like Saco and Biddeford who have been pulled over and accused of an OUI violation.

These charges are serious and can significantly alter the course of your life if it is not defended against. The penalties for an OUI conviction can include fines, jail time, and license suspension. The trickle-down effect of this license suspension can impact your ability to get to and from work, which can create even more problems.

Call the lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group at (207) 571-8146 or contact us online.


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