Yes, it is possible to get charged with a DUI for operating an e-scooter under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most states have DUI laws that apply to motorized scooters. This includes Lime or Bird e-scooters. However, some states have DUI laws that only apply to vehicles with larger motors.
The particular language in each state's driving under the influence law will matter.
A conviction for DUI is serious. This is true even if it happened on a Lime or Bird scooter. Defendants can face penalties that include:
- a fine,
- a license suspension, and even
- jail time.
What kinds of vehicles fall under DUI law?
All states have laws that forbid driving under the influence (DUI). Some states forbid driving a motor vehicle while inebriated. Other states forbid driving any vehicle while under the influence.
In states that forbid drunk driving on any vehicle, e-scooters fall within the scope of the law. In these states, people can get a DUI while driving or riding:
- bicycles, or
Some of the states that prohibit drunk driving any vehicle include:
- Colorado,3 and
DUI laws in other states, though, only apply to motor vehicles. Some of these states are:
- Nebraska,6 and
In these states, it will depend on whether an e-scooter is a “motor vehicle.”
Are Lime or Bird's e-scooters considered “motor vehicles”?
The e-scooters provided by Bird or Lime can be considered a “motor vehicle.” It depends on how the state's DUI law defines the term.
Many states define “motor vehicle” very broadly. In some of them, e-scooters will be considered a motor vehicle. In these states, riding a Lime or Bird e-scooter while drunk can lead to a DUI.
Texas, for example, is a state that defines “motor vehicle” extremely broadly.8 Under the definition, electric scooters are considered motor vehicles. Riding one while drunk in Texas can lead to a DUI.
Nebraska, however, has a narrow definition of a “motor vehicle.”9 In Nebraska, a motor vehicle is any “self-propelled land vehicle,” except for:
- vehicles operated on rails,
- self-propelled wheelchairs used by the disabled, and
- electric personal assistive mobility devices.
Law enforcement there has determined that Lime and Bird's e-scooters are too similar to bikes, mopeds, and assistive mobility devices to be considered a motor vehicle.10 Riding one while drunk cannot lead to a DUI in Nebraska, unless local ordinances say otherwise.
Can people lose their driver's license for a DUI on an e-scooter?
Yes, e-scooter riders who get convicted for DUI may lose their driver's license.
A license suspension is a common penalty for a DUI conviction.
However, many people ride shared e-scooters without a driver's license to suspend. Drunk driving an e-scooter is also less dangerous to the public than drunk driving a car. As a result, some e-scooter DUIs end without a license suspension.11
Will a drunk e-scooter rider be liable for a crash?
By riding a shared e-scooter from Lime or Bird while under the influence, the rider violates the terms of the user agreement. Breaking the user agreement allows Lime or Bird to escape liability from anything that goes wrong. The rider will have to pay the costs of a crash out of their own pocket.
California Vehicle Code 23152a (“It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle”).
NRS 484C.110 (“It is unlawful for any person who” is inebriated “to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or on premises to which the public has access”).
CRS 42-4-1301 (“A person who drives a motor vehicle or vehicle under the influence of alcohol…commits driving under the influence”).
ORS 813.010 (“A person commits the offense of driving while under the influence of intoxicants if the person drives a vehicle while the person…”).
47 OS 11-902 (“It is unlawful… for any person to drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state”).
NRS 60-6,196 (“It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or be in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle”).
Texas Penal Code 49.04 (“A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place”).
Texas Penal Code 32.34(a)(2) (“‘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”).
Danielle Meadows, “Mayor Stothert signs resolution to introduce electric scooters,” KMTV News (May 14, 2019).
See Steve Kiggins, “'Safer' sidewalks: Los Angeles secures first motorized scooter DUI conviction,” USA Today (September 28, 2018).