What is a “Vehicle” for Purposes of the OVWI Statute in Indiana?

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Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OVWI) is one of the most frequent crimes charged in Indiana.  While it is never a good idea to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication, many people think that motorized scooters or bicycles are a safe, legal way to get home after a day (or night) of drinking.  The question becomes, then, is it possible to get an OVWI on a scooter or bicycle?  What exactly constitutes a “vehicle” for purposes of the OVWI statute?

The statute defining “vehicle” in Indiana is found at IC 9-13-2-196.  It states as follows:

  • “Vehicle” means, except as otherwise provided in this section, a device in, upon, or by which a person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn upon a highway.  The term does not include the following:
    • A device moved by human power.
    • A device that runs only on rails or tracks.
    • A wheelchair.
    • An electric foot scooter.
  • For purposes of IC 9-17 (Certificates of Title), the term includes the following:
    • Off-road vehicles
    • Manufactured homes or mobile homes that are:
      • Personal property not held for resale; and
      • Not attached to real estate by a permanent foundation.
    • Watercraft.
  • For purposes of IC 9-22 (except IC 9-22-6) and IC 9-32, the term refers to a vehicle or watercraft of a type that must be registered under IC 9-18-2 (before its expiration) or IC 9-18.1, other than an off-road vehicle or a snowmobile under IC 9-18-2.5 (before its expiration) or IC 9-18.1-14.
  • For purposes of IC 9-30-5 (the OVWI statute)……the term means a device for transportation by land or air.  The term does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device.

At first glance, it appears that mopeds, scooters, and bicycles do not meet the definition of a “vehicle.”  Subsection (a) of the statute specifically carves out devices moved by human power and electric foot scooters.  Without reading further, it appears as though bicycles, mopeds, and scooters are all legal “vehicles” that are immune from prosecution for operating while intoxicated.   But, as the great Lee Corso says, “not so fast, my friend.”

Subsection (a) of the statute defines a vehicle, “except as otherwise provided in this section.”  Reading further into the statute, subsection (d) makes it clear that for purposes of the OVWI statute (IC 9-30-5), the term “vehicle” means “a device for transportation by land or air.”  This includes any contraption that is designed to travel by land or air.  Airplanes, bicycles, golf carts, scooters, mopeds, and skateboards are all fair game in terms of “vehicles” that are subject to prosecution for OVWI.  The only carved out exception in subsection (d) is for “electric personal mobility devices.”  So, unless you own an electric personal mobility device and are using that to get home from the bar, be wary that you can be stopped, and charged with OVWI if you are intoxicated while operating any of the aforementioned means of transportation.

Have you or someone you love been charged with an OVWI?  Please contact the experienced attorneys at Banks and Brower anytime by calling us at (317) 870-0019 or emailing us at info@banksbrower.com