Though we are all aware that driving a car while intoxicated (DWI) is illegal, you may be wondering if the same standards apply to drinking and driving a golf cart. The answer is yes, but just as with most rules, there is an exception.
Interpreting the Language of the Law
First, it is important to know the law that governs a DWI charge. North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1 dictates that a person has committed the criminal offense of impaired driving when he or she “drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State” and satisfies at least one of the following: 1) is under the influence of an impairing substance, 2) has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater, or 3) tests positive for any Schedule I controlled substance. For the purposes of the statute, North Carolina defines “vehicle” as any device that can transport a person or property “upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon fixed rails or tracks.”
Based on the text of the statute, a golf cart does in fact count as a vehicle because it can transport people and property upon highways and streets, private or public. Therefore, you can be charged with a DWI while driving a golf cart on public roads so long as the remaining qualifications of the statute are met. But if the statute just applies to “public vehicular” areas, can you get a DWI while driving a golf cart on your own private property? No. Driving under the influence on private property is the exception to the rule.
Where You Cannot be Charged with a DWI
This private property exception explains why you may see people drinking beer while playing golf, but not worrying too much about the legal consequences. While the golf course itself is private property, the parking lot may be considered a “public vehicular area” under this statute. This means that though you may technically be able to get away with drinking while driving on the fairway, you should walk your bag back to your car at the end of the round to avoid driving in the parking lot--and from there, you should call a cab!
The moral of the story is that all DWIs are treated the same in court and are serious offenses. The same defenses and repercussions also apply to DWIs from golf carts. Being charged with a DWI can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, court-ordered community service, a revoked or suspended license, and even prison time up to two years if aggravating factors contributed to the offense. If you find yourself facing a DWI charge, whether it was obtained while driving a car or a golf cart while under the influence, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.