If you have spent any time in downtown Grand Rapids over the past year, you have undoubtedly seen the green and orange scooters positioned on corners throughout town. The purpose of these devices is to provide solo, low-cost transportations options on-demand. They are intended to connect with other transportation services like transit, parking, park-and-ride, and ride share. The city believes that these shared micromobility services fill gaps in transportation options due to transit service changes, increased risks of carpooling and ride sharing, or the cost of a personal automobile.
While these scooters are very useful for their intended purposes, we have become aware of an increased number of people being charged with operating while intoxicated for traveling on the scooters while under the influence. The ability to be charged criminally for operating a scooter under the influence comes as a surprise to many. When one approaches a scooter location, there’s a sign on the ground which lists rules for your ride. Those rules are that the driver must be 18 or older; only one person per vehicle; wear a helmet; and, do not ride on the sidewalk. The QR Code located on the image will take an individual to the Bike and Scooter Share Pilot website for the City of Grand Rapids. Buried deep in the in the safety guidelines is the statement “do not ride while drunk or distracted.”
It’s hard to believe many see the warning before operating a scooter given the location on the website. More importantly, many people do not think they can be charged with operating while intoxicated while riding a scooter because it’s not a motor vehicle. While a scooter is not a motor vehicle by definition, the manner it which it is operated can ultimately make it such. In People v. Lyon, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that an electric four-wheel scooter that the intoxicated driver was operating on a public highway was “a vehicle” within meaning of the statutory provision against drunk driving, even if the scooter qualified as electric personal assistive mobility device, low-speed vehicle, or moped, and even though in the situation of Lyon where the scooter was a wheelchair substitute. By placing the scooter in the roadway, the driver undertook the duties of a vehicle driver. This same rationale could easily be applied to the scooters found throughout Grand Rapids when driven on the roadway.
We encourage everyone to follow the scooters rules and be mindful of the fact that you could be charged with DUI if the scooter user is under the influence. If you find yourself charged with an OWI Scooter offense, the criminal defense lawyers at Willey & Chamberlain are here to help.