Fifteen at One Blow


“Motor vehicle” means a device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, except a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks.

In other words, a motor vehicle does not have to have a motor. A little red wagon is a motor vehicle, for purposes of Texas’s DWI statute (a street is a highway). So if you are walking around Lights in the Heights operating (pulling) your wagon full of beer, and you’re intoxicated, you could be charged with driving while intoxicated.

I have found what I believe, in light of this information, to be the One True Grail of DWI arrests:

Yes, that’s fifteen possibly intoxicated people “operating” (pedaling) a “motor vehicle” (people-transporting device) in a public place: The Pedal Party.


17 responses to “Fifteen at One Blow”

  1. Since the sober company provided driver is in control of when the vehicle stops, starts as well as where it goes are you sure the pedalers can be considered to be “operating”?

  2. I did a little research on the http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/ website, I was trying to find the definition of “operation” as it pertains to a vehicle (motorized or otherwise), but I was unable to find the definition. Could you point me to the definition of operation in the state statutes?

    • Kelly, there is no statutory definition of “operating,” which means that the jury uses its own definition.

      A court has held the evidence of operation legally sufficient (that is, a reasonable jury could find that the defendant was operating his car) when the defendant was “slumped behind the steering wheel with his foot depressing the brake pedal and holding the car in place, even though the car’s transmission was turning in ‘drive.’”

      If you gambled that a jury wouldn’t find that the people pedaling the Pedal Party were “operating it,” or that a court of appeals would not uphold that finding as within the jury’s discretion, you would be gambling.

      (The issue will never be decided because, while technically it might fit the definition of DWI, it would be a stupid case. The cop and the prosecutor who took it would be laughingstocks.)

  3. “is or may be transported or drawn on a highway” may be the limiting clause. Bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles are prohibited from highways. Assuming the pedal-powered bar is also prohibited from highways, it should not qualify as a motor vehicle.

    • No good.

      “Under all the authorities every street in a city or town is a highway, though not every highway is a street.” Nichols v. State, 49 S.W.2d 783, 785 (Tex. Crim. App. 1932).

      • Oh sure, back then a gravel road was a highway. Are you sure the definition of a highway has not been changed by regulation since then? I can ride my bike on Washington Avenue but not I-10.

        • (5) “Highway or street” means the width between the boundary lines of a publicly maintained way any part of which is open to the public for vehicular travel.

          Transportation Code, not Penal Code, but still…

        • All roads are highways, but some highways fall into the category of “limited-access or controlled-access highway” (Texas Transportation Code, § 541.302(8)) and the relevant authority may prohibit the use of such highways “by a parade, funeral procession, pedestrian, bicycle, electric bicycle, motor-driven cycle, or nonmotorized traffic.” (§ 545.065(a)).

          There is also a technical term “freeway”, defined as “a divided, controlled-access highway for through traffic” (§ 541.302(3)).

  4. One problem with the definition of “street or highway” as the space between the kerbs: that does not define “highway”. A thing could be a street without being a highway. Yes, you know what part of the dirt falls within the definition, but you do not know whether it is within the definition of “street” or the definition of “highway”.

  5. True, and I’m looking at the law of a different state than you are. Still, if the case comes up, you may want to be sure to parse everything finely.

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