Archive Article #11 - 09/23/04
Court: Drunk Driving Law Doesn't Apply to Horses
Thursday, September 23, 2004 Posted: 7:00 AM EDT (1100 GMT)
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- The state Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania's drunken driving law can't be enforced against people on horseback, a decision that inspired the dissenting justice to wax poetic.
The court ruled Wednesday in a case against two men in Mercer County in 2002. Riders Keith Travis, 41, and Richard Noel, 49, were charged with drunken driving along with a man driving a pickup who allegedly rear-ended the horse. Travis was riding away from a bar on a dark country road. All three men failed field sobriety tests, police said, but a judge threw out the charges against Noel and Travis after they argued that the word "vehicles" in the state's drunken-driving law doesn't apply to horses.
Prosecutors said the code specifically includes people riding animals. But the majority justices cited a similar case in Utah, where judges said such a statute is confusing and too vague about which regulations would apply to animals as well as vehicles. Justice Michael Eakin, who is fond of writing rhyming opinions, summed up the lone dissent with two stanzas mimicking the theme song of "Mister Ed" -- a 1960s TV sitcom about a talking horse:
"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce
its application from, perforce,
a steed as my colleagues said.
"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse,
and whether a car, a truck or horse
this law applies with equal force,
and I'd reverse instead."