February 6, 2015

DUI on a Street Sweeper

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I’ve heard of people getting arrested for DUI on all kinds of things; from a golf cart to horse to a raft. But this one is new to me. Earlier this month, a New York man was arrested for driving under the influence in a street sweeper.

Jerry Mitchell, 48, of Brooklyn, New York was arrested after police responded to reports of a street sweeper driving erratically. Mitchell had led police on a five minute, low speed chase before he was eventually stopped by police. It was later determined that Mitchell’s blood alcohol content level was twice the legal limit.

Mitchell told troopers that he had gone around the block for candy when he got lost.

Although Mitchell was charged in New York under New York’s drunk driving law, his case raises the question: Is a street sweeper a “vehicle” for purposes of California’s DUI law?

Although California DUI law requires that a person drive a “vehicle,” California Vehicle Code Section 670 defines a “vehicle” as “a device by which any person or property may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.”

Street sweepers of California, beware. You are driving a “vehicle” under California law and you, like Mitchell, can be arrested for a California DUI on a street sweeper.

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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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