What exactly is a “vehicle?” Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with drunk driving offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While most of these offenses involve cars and SUV’s, we do receive questions from those charged with DUI/DWI involving other vehicles. Its important to understand that the term vehicle is defined very broadly in both states. Pennsylvania and New Jersey both classify vehicles as practically anything that will move through some type of artificial power. This would not include bicycles and skateboards but would include vehicles which do not necessarily use gasoline. In the past, most vehicles on the roads and highways ran on gas but today, there are vehicles which run on electric, natural gas, solar, and a combination of fuel sources.
Pennsylvania vs. New Jersey – What is a vehicle?
Pennsylvania’s definition of a vehicle includes everything which runs on any type of fuel source, including compressed air. New Jersey, however, does make an exception for electric scooters. Pennsylvania defines a vehicle as “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks”. Further, Pennsylvania defines the term highway as the entire width between the boundary lines of every way (road) publicly maintained which is open for public use by vehicle traffic.
New Jersey, however, defines vehicles as those things propelled, otherwise powered by muscular power except vehicles run on rails or tracks, low speed electric bikes, low speed scooters, and motorized bicycles. New Jersey makes electric scooters an exception to the vehicle definition.
Low Speed Scooters – The Exception in New Jersey
Low speed electric scooters are specifically defined as a scooter with a floor board that can be stood upon by the operator with handlebars and an electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion and a maximum speed of less than 19MPH.
This is a very important distinction between Pennsylvania and New Jersey because there are often those who use electric scooters to commute to and from work and even some social events.
If you’re charged with drunk driving in New Jersey and it involves a scooter, it is very important that your criminal defense lawyer review the specifications to determine if your vehicle falls within the exception. Obviously, Pennsylvania seems less open to interpretation, but your attorney may want to consider making an argument based on New Jersey’s recent case law defining low speed electric scooters as the exception to the drunk driving statute. This is a very new case in New Jersey (State v. Scanlon – 2020) and many Pennsylvania courts may begin to look at this issue.
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