Florida sometimes gets a bad wrap. From people who claim the state has little value outside of the theme parks to those who suggest the strangest behavior seems to culminate here, at times it can feel a bit like the Sunshine State spends an unfair amount of time as the butt of jokes. Unfortunately, the following story does not help this stereotype.
According to a story by the Washington Post, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman for riding her horse on a busy highway while under the influence of alcohol. A passerby noticed the woman looking distressed and confused and reported her to the police, who quickly took her into custody after she was found two times over the legal limit. However, this arrest has some experts skeptical as to whether it was justified according to Florida’s DUI laws.
Let us break down a few quick facts about what constitutes drinking and driving in the state of Florida so you can weigh in on this case.
- The Legal Limit: In Florida, a driver’s blood alcohol limit is .08 if they are at or over the legal drinking age of 21 years old. Drivers under 21 face a zero-tolerance policy if stopped with a blood alcohol level of .02, facing an automatic license suspension of six months. In the case of the intoxicated woman on horseback, she was clearly over the legal limit based on her reported stumbling, the smell of alcohol on her breath and her breathalyzer results.
- Vehicles: Though rules on what constitutes a vehicle vary from state to state, an easy rule of thumb is that if it is supposed to be driven, ridden or operated on roadways or has an engine, it counts. This includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, and even lawn mowers and golf carts. Now, some would argue that a horse is a vehicle, especially when ridden on a roadway, but others point to a law that states that horseback riders are to be treated as pedestrians. This is an ambiguous factor in the case.
- Consequences: For first-time DUI offenders, consequences include a fine up to $500, 50 hours of community service, up to a year of probation, up to six months in jail, license revocation for at least 180 days and 12 hours of DUI school. If the offense includes a minor in the vehicle, up to 9 months of jail time can be sentenced. If the DUI involves an accident that destroys property, injures others or leads to death, the punishments only become more severe. This conviction stays on a person’s driving record for 75 years–essentially, for life. It is unclear in the article whether this was the woman’s first conviction.
Florida’s DUI laws mostly go along with the standards seen across the U.S., which is to say they are as severe as the crime they punish. If you decide to drink and drive, you also willfully choose to not only negligently put your life and the lives of your passengers in grave danger, but also risk the lives of all others on the road.
In the case we open this blog with, the lines are a bit blurred. The woman put her life, her horse’s life and the lives of motorists at risks the day she decided to overindulge and hit the road. However, is her crime, under Florida’s DUI laws, punishable as a DUI? Given the aforementioned statute that dictates horseback riders be treated as pedestrians, probably not. However, her actions were still negligent and she should think twice before taking a ride after hitting the bar.
As for those of us who stick to more traditional vehicles, always decide how you will get home safely before you consume alcohol. Whether it is electing a designated sober driver, arranging a cab or utilizing a ride-sharing app, there are plenty of ways to not only enjoy adult beverages but also get home safely at the end of the night. Be safe, be smart and never drink and drive.