Going to Put-in-Bay or Kelley’s Island this summer? Taking a ferry and renting a golf cart to tour around? You might get charged with a DUI if you drink and drive that golf cart, just as people have been charged at golf courses and campgrounds.
Given the slow speed, low mass, and the environments in which golf carts are used – it seems counter-intuitive to think of someone being charged with a DUI for having a beer while playing a round of golf. However, working as DUI lawyers along the North Coast of Ohio, we get calls for help with golf cart DUIs every summer.
Being charged with an OVI/DUI for driving a golf cart raises two issues. First, can it be a DUI if you were only driving a golf cart? Second, is it a DUI if you were on private property such a campground or golf course?
A Golf Cart Is a Vehicle
The DUI/OVI statute, Ohio Revised Code 4511.19, prohibits being impaired while operating, “any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state . . .” The definition of vehicle is found in Ohio Revised Code 4501.01 and it is expansive, including golf carts. In fact, the vehicle need not even be a “motor vehicle.” That has its own separate definition. The answer is yes, a person can be charged with a DUI / OVI for operating a golf cart.
A DUI on Private Property is still a DUI
While many traffic laws require operation on a public road, Ohio’s OVI statute does not. Note the language above from Ohio Revised Code 4511.19, that says, “No person shall operate any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state . . .” The statute does not limit a DUI to public roads or even public property, but includes impaired operation of a vehicle anywhere "within this state." A person can be charged with an OVI even if they were operating on private property such as a campground or golf course, and certainly if they were operating upon the roads of Put-in-Bay or Kelley’s Island.
Is There Any Way to Beat a Golf Cart DUI?
There may still be many ways to attack a golf cart OVI. For example, the implied consent laws (Revised Code 4511.191) that allow the police to conduct alcohol/drug tests upon people, and which can result in license suspensions for refusals and high tests, are more limited than “within this state.” Rather, the implied consent laws do not allow testing if on private property that is not used by the public.
The police may also have greater difficulty establishing authority to enter upon private property to investigate a DUI. There are also many prosecutors and courts that will be more agreeable to reducing or dismissing a golf cart OVI charge in recognition of the fact that it simply is not the same as an automobile OVI. All of the defenses that apply to automobile OVIs also still apply to golf cart OVIs and an attorney who is experienced with those defenses can be great help in avoiding a conviction.
So, can you get a DUI on a golf cart in Ohio?
Yes, you can get a DUI/OVI on a golf cart in Ohio, even on private property, but you may well get it thrown out or reduced with an experienced DUI attorney.