In yet another drunk driving on a horse case, a 29-year-old Placentia man who was celebrating his birthday was arrested earlier this week for drunk driving after riding his horse down a freeway in Long Beach. California Highway Patrol officers were summoned to eastbound Highway 91 by motorists, but the horseman exited the highway at Downey. He was apprehended on Bellflower on his white Arabian. The cowboy agreed to field sobriety testing at the scene of the stop. After two tests with a portable testing device, the man’s blood alcohol content was determined to be somewhere between .19 and .21. Both are more than twice the legal limit. As reported by USA Today and the Associated Press that the horse named Guera was released to the man’s mother who arrived at the scene shortly after his arrest.
The rider was booked, charged with drunken driving on a horse and jailed with a bail of $10,000. The California Motor Vehicle Code section 21050 provides that while riding an animal on a highway, the rider is subject to the same legal duties and obligations as the driver of a motor vehicle. The rider must maintain control of the animal at all times. If the animal becomes spooked, and it runs out into traffic, the rider can be held liable for any resulting accidents or injuries. Riding a horse on a roadway while intoxicated or impaired by drugs poses an unreasonable risk of harm to everybody around.
In 2017, a Florida woman who was riding a horse on a public roadway was taken into custody for drunk driving. The law on whether a person can be arrested for driving drunk on a roadway while riding a horse varies from state to state. Had the facts of either the California or Florida case arisen in Montana, the rider might not have been taken into custody. That’s because Montana requires a person to be operating or otherwise in physical control of a motor vehicle. Devices that are moved by animal power are specifically excluded. Any defenses asserted in the California case will certainly be interesting.