If you’re driving while intoxicated on a public road or highway, it makes sense that you’re violating the law. You could also face charges for your actions. But what happens when you’re on private land or even on your own property? Do the laws still apply when you’re behind the wheel after drinking? Can you get a DWI/DUI from drunk driving on private property in Missouri?
The situation comes up more than you might think. Here are some common scenarios:
- You’re driving in the parking lot of a local business when pulled over.
- You’re riding an ATV, dirt bike, or recreational vehicle on private property.
- You could be driving on your own property while intoxicated.
- Driving intoxicated on a street in a gated community.
- Driving a golf cart while drinking during a game on a private course.
- Operating a riding lawn mower while drinking on private property and have an accident.
- Driving on a public road but are pulled over onto private property by police.
As with most things regarding the law, the answer isn’t a clear, cut-and-dry yes or no. The answer takes into account language found in the Missouri DWI law books. It also considers a rich history of cases and a few grey areas. Let’s take a closer look.
Understand that DWI laws vary by state
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that DWI and DUI laws vary by state. So, if your friend tells you that he can drink four martinis and pop wheelies on his private ranch in Texas without answering to the law, that doesn’t mean you can get out your drink shaker and keys in Missouri.
For example, states like Michigan and Idaho have clear laws. These draw a line between public roadways, private property open to the public (parking lots, golf courses), and private land. In these states, the logic is that if you’re somewhere where intoxicated driving can hurt other people in public, you can receive a charge. Driving under the influence in public is considered wrong, but if you’re on your own private property, no harm done.
On the other hand, some states, like Kentucky and Mississippi, have clearly written laws that ban drunk driving anywhere within state lines. That definitely includes private property. Even if you’re taking a joyride after having a few drinks on your deserted private land, you can receive a DWI if you have an accident and police end up at the scene.
In summary: all state DWI and DUI laws explicitly outlaw drunk driving on public roadways, like interstates and highways. However, some states differ in how they handle intoxicated driving on private property and off road.
Drunk driving on private property in Missouri
When it comes to DWI laws in Missouri, there is no requirement that you have to be located on a public road to face drunk driving charges. Like Kentucky and Mississippi, driving a motorized vehicle literally anywhere in the state while intoxicated can lead to an arrest. Specifically, it’s illegal to drive or operate a motor vehicle on an interstate highway, state highway, county road, local road, private roads, private drive, private property, offroad, parking lots, and so on.
The general lesson? Don’t get behind the wheel of any motorized vehicle after drinking too much, no matter where you are in Missouri.
Implied consent and drunk driving on private property
The fact that you can face arrest for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated on private land in Missouri can be confusing. When thinking about implied consent or other laws related to driving on private land the lines can seem blurry.
Implied consent states that when you apply for a driver’s license and drive on public roads, you are, in a roundabout way, consenting to the driving laws of the state. This includes consenting to sobriety tests if pulled over by law enforcement.
However, even though it seems like implied consent has little to do with what you can do on your private property, this is not the case for drunk driving. While you don’t need a driver’s license to drive on your own private property, you can still get in legal trouble for driving drunk on private property.
The type of vehicle you’re driving matters
Of course, it gets a little more complicated when you consider what’s technically a motorized vehicle and what’s not. There have been several cases in Missouri that have tested the waters. These made lawmakers question what it actually means to be driving a motorized vehicle intoxicated on private property.
For example in 2013, a Missouri man was arrested for DWI while driving an ATV (all terrain vehicle) in his friend’s front yard. In that case, the man was found guilty because the judge decided that yes, an ATV is a motorized vehicle.
On the other hand, a Missouri DWI case in 2012 found a man wasn’t guilty of driving while intoxicated after he crashed his dirt bike on private property. He had a BAC of 0.226. The judge found that he was operating a non-traditional vehicle off-road. It was perceived that convicting him would set a dangerous precedent about drinking, non-traditional motorized vehicles, and private property. For example, a woman drinking in a motorized wheelchair in her home, or a man mowing his lawn after a few beers.
Note that as soon as you take your non-traditional motorized vehicle onto a public road, it is almost always solidly categorized as a motor vehicle. So don’t try driving your golf cart to the bar.
The bottom line about drinking and driving on public property in Missouri
The general state rule is that it’s illegal to drink and drive anywhere within state lines in Missouri.
It’s also pretty clear that cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even ATVs are considered motorized vehicles even on your own property.
However, if you’re driving a non-traditional motorized vehicle on your own property, the lines definitely blur when it comes to drunk driving laws. Some non-traditional vehicles can be classified as lawn mowers or dirt bikes.
Also remember: it’s never a smart idea to drink and drive any motorized vehicle anywhere, due to safety issues for yourself and others.
If you already did, though, and are facing charges, talk to an experienced Missouri DWI attorney.
Talk to a Missouri DWI attorney
As you can see, the law is not always straightforward, simple, or easy to understand from a blog post. At the same time, all DWI/DUI cases are different and have unique circumstances. If you’ve been charged with driving while intoxicated, it’s important to consult with an attorney about the details of your case to determine the best path forward. To learn more about our legal services, or just to ask a question about your case, contact us today.
Need more information? Download our free ebook, Missouri DWI Survival Guide to better understand your options and best next steps.