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Can You Get a DWI While Driving a Golf Cart in Texas?

Two golf carts drive along a course in Texas

DWI penalties are generally the same for all vehicles.

Imagine you're out on the golf course - Montgomery County has over a dozen to choose from. You're having fun playing a round and possibly enjoying a drink. You might believe you're making a responsible choice by avoiding cars or trucks, but did you know that even operating a golf cart can result in felony DWI charges in Texas?

Golf cart DWI charges seem to be happening with more frequency. There have been at least two serious DWI golf cart cases in Texas over the last 12 months, including:

  • A fatal golf cart accident in San Antonio resulted in an intoxicated manslaughter charge.
  • A Denton man was charged with a third offense DWI for allegedly crashing a golf cart at a Denton clubhouse.

DWI and other types of drunk driving charges can be applied in more circumstances than many people may realize - golf cart DWI is just one example. Regardless of the vehicle involved, a DWI conviction has serious potential consequences, including jail time for convictions on first-time offenses, loss of license, thousands of dollars in fines, and a felony criminal record.

Here's what Texas drivers need to know to protect their rights and help avoid legal trouble while driving golf carts in the Lone Star State.

Golf cart DWI in Texas

A DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge is possible for a driver operating a golf cart because, like many states, Texas defines "DWI" and "motor vehicle" broadly. The charge itself is deceptively simple. Under Texas law, a DWI occurs when a "person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place."

As straightforward as this may sound, the law is complicated, with many exceptions and technicalities. For example, in Texas, a driver can be charged with DWI even if they haven't had a drop of alcohol in 8 or more hours.

In general, the law establishes three conditions that the prosecution must prove for a DWI conviction:

  1. The driver was intoxicated.
  2. The intoxicated driver was operating a motor vehicle.
  3. The intoxicated driver was operating a motor vehicle in a public place.

However, the common and legal definitions of words may differ in important ways. That's why it's important to understand what "intoxication," "motor vehicle," and "public place" mean regarding a Texas DWI.

Defining terms in Texas DWI

As it applies to driving while under the influence, Texas law defines "intoxicated" as:

"Not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more."

For drivers under age 21, Texas has a zero-tolerance policy. The detection of any alcohol at all in a BAC test is grounds for a DWI charge.

In regard to a Texas DWI, 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."

A small golf cart meets the definition of a motor vehicle in Texas. Golf carts can typically transport about 950 lbs. and may have an electric or gas engine with a top speed of 15-20 mph. It is worth noting that in addition to motor vehicles, Texas DWI law applies to the operation of watercraft (boating while intoxicated) and the assembling of or operation of amusement rides.

And finally, what is considered a public place in Texas? In the context of a DWI, a public place is:

"Any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops."

Therefore, even in places that may be marked "private," like golf courses and parking lots, Texas may consider the space "public" in terms of DWI charges.

Take DWI charges seriously

The vehicle is smaller and the speeds are slower, but the penalties for a golf cart DWI are just as harsh as they are for any other type of motor vehicle. Take golf cart DWI charges seriously from the start. If you are facing DWI charges involving a golf cart or any other type of vehicle, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer for a free case evaluation.

Our firm has been fighting to protect the freedom and rights of people accused of DWI in Montgomery County and the nearby area for decades. We are ready to hear from you any time, day or night. Contact us today for answers to your questions and an explanation of your potential legal options during a confidential case evaluation.