While looking at some of the latest drunk driving cases in the news, “British man arrested for drunk driving in toy barbie car” caught my eye. It brought up an amusing situation that I have yet to encounter as a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney. A few days ago, a 40-year-old British man who happened to be a former Air Force aeronautical engineer was helping his son re-build a discarded, battery-operated, barbie-mobile for a college project. After consuming enough alcohol to set him over U.K.’s legal limit, the 40-year-old hopped into the two-foot high car, his knees tucked under his chin, and attempted to “drive” it to a neighbor’s house to show-off their work. Although the car’s top speed is just 4 mph, the man was pulled over by local police on the road outside of his house. His license is now suspended for 3 years.
All other factors being equal, and assuming this man does not have a significant criminal record, the United Kingdom’s 3-year license-loss for the offense is certainly more harsh than Massachusetts’ first-offense drunk driving penalties. However, a police officer would actually have legal grounds to arrest this man had this situation occurred in Massachusetts.
Under Massachusetts Law, in order for a person to be arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol, three elements must be present:
1. The person operated a motor vehicle,
2. on a public way,
3. while under the influence of alcohol.
In this case, if the man was driving the vehicle on the road in front of his house while over the legal limit, elements two and three are clearly present. Although it may seem a little ridiculous, the vehicle may be considered a “motor vehicle” for purposes of this statute. I am not aware of any Massachusetts cases involving an intoxicated person driving a 2 foot-high pink barbie car with his knees tucked under his chin at under 4 mph, but I would love nothing more than to take the first one to trial.