Ever walk in downtown Saint Paul or Minneapolis and an electric scooter whips by your ear? Yeah, me neither. These fun new methods of transportation are emerging in the twin cities as quickly as flies at a BBQ. Companies are dropping off these devices across the nation like fliers from a blimp. All you need is an app on your smartphone to rent these incredibly cheap scoots. Which begs the question, can you get a DWI on an electric foot scooter?
The short answer is: no. The longer answer analyzes what Minnesota considers a “motor vehicle” and whether an electric scooter fits that definition. Read on as you please, or at this point, just feel free to move about the country.
Five years ago, the Minnesota Supreme Court analyzed whether a Segway is a motor vehicle for DWI purposes. In State v. Greenman. The court said that a Segway is not a motor vehicle but is rather a “personal assistive mobility device” under Minn. Stat. § 169.011, subd.26. Some of the factors of a personal assistive mobility device are whether the device is self-balancing, has two nontandem wheels, and has a maximum speed of fifteen miles per hour. The court in Greenman also relied on a mobility scooter case, State v. Brown. Brown was operating a mobility scooter, which also fit the definition of a personal assistive mobility device and was therefore not a motor vehicle for DWI purposes.
Minnesota’s legislature also considers whether a device is a motorized foot scooters by evaluating whether: (1) they have handlebars; (2) can be stood or sat on by the operator; (3) are powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor; (4) have wheels no more than 12 inches in diameter; and (4) have an engine capable of a maximum speed of not more than 15 miles per hour on a flat surface. Because of this classification, Minnesota law generally treats motorized foot scooters like bicycles so that people operating these scooters will have the same rights as bicyclists and must generally follow the same laws.
Under Minnesota law, it is not a DWI if you are riding a regular, self-propelled bicycle while drunk. Due to the legislative intent that motorized scooters be viewed similarly to self-propelled bikes, it also not a DWI for operating a motorized scooter under the influence either. But just because something is legal, may not mean it is always a good idea to do it. City officials are already not pleased with the lack of regulation over these scooters. So, it will be interesting to see if any language change will occur to the DWI laws in the near future to encompass these new popular modes of transportation.
Alec Rolain is a law clerk at Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC in Minnesota. He is about to start his final year at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul. Previously, Alec attended St. Mary’s University in Winona where he played baseball and made the MIAC all-sportsmanship team. Criminal Defense Lawyer Woodbury MN; DWI Attorneys Woodbury MN; and Woodbury DUI Lawyer.