DUI on Horseback: Understanding the Laws in Arizona

Opinion Article: The Legal Argument for Horse Riders Not Being Charged with DUI

Imagine you're out on a beautiful day riding your horse when you get pulled over by a police officer who, after administering a breathalyzer test, tells you that you're over the legal limit. Can you be charged with driving under the influence (DUI)? This is a question that many horse riders may ask themselves. The answer is no. In Arizona, at least, horses are not considered motor vehicles, which means you can't be charged with DUI while riding them. Let's take a closer look at the legal argument for horse riders not being charged with DUI.

The Legal Definition of Motor Vehicle in Arizona

Arizona law defines a motor vehicle as "any self-propelled vehicle that is designed primarily for use upon the highways and includes any trailer." Since horses do not have motors and are not designed for use on highways, they do not fall within this definition. Therefore, riders on horses cannot be charged with DUI under Arizona's motor vehicle DUI laws because they are not operating a motor vehicle. However, it's important to note that a rider can still be arrested for public intoxication or other related offenses if they're too drunk to safely control their horse.

How Other States Interpret DUI Laws for Horse Riders

While Arizona's motor vehicle definition excludes horse riders from DUI charges, other states have different laws. Some states consider horses to be vehicles, while others do not specify. For example, in California and Oregon, riders on horses can be charged with DUI if they're under the influence. In contrast, Colorado and Virginia have the same laws as Arizona. In some states, like Texas and Illinois, the law is unclear, and it's up to the discretion of the arresting officer and judge to decide whether a horse qualifies as a vehicle.

Arguments for and Against Including Horses as Vehicles

The arguments for including horses as vehicles are based on public safety concerns. Riding a horse while drunk can endanger the rider, other riders, and the public. Therefore, some advocates argue that including horses as vehicles in DUI laws encourages responsible horse riding behavior and helps prevent accidents. On the other hand, opponents of including horses as vehicles argue that horses are not comparable to cars or motorcycles. For example, horses require training and skill to ride, and they're often used for recreational purposes rather than transportation. Additionally, including horses as vehicles could lead to unnecessary and costly regulations for riders.

The Importance of Responsible Horse Riding

Whether or not riders can be charged with DUI while riding a horse, it's important to always prioritize safety and responsible behavior. Riding while intoxicated is never a good idea, as it can lead to accidents, injuries, and legal trouble. It's also important to follow all local laws and regulations regarding riding horses in public spaces, including wearing appropriate safety gear and following traffic laws if needed. By practicing responsible horse riding, riders can help ensure that horses continue to be recognized as a unique and important part of our culture and society.


So, can you get a DUI while riding a horse in Arizona? The answer is no. Horses are not considered motor vehicles under Arizona's definition, which means riders cannot be charged with DUI under motor vehicle DUI laws. However, it's important to note that it's still possible to be arrested for public intoxication or other related offenses if you're too drunk to safely control your horse. Ultimately, responsible horse riding should always be a top priority for riders, regardless of the legal technicalities. By doing so, riders can help ensure that our beloved equine companions continue to be a cherished and respected part of our society.

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