Can You Get a DWI on a Golf Cart in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, driving a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol is considered a crime. We all know that driving a car, truck, or SUV while intoxicated is a crime. However, many people do not realize they can be charged with driving a recreational vehicle like a golf cart. In short, being convicted of a DWI on a golf cart in North Carolina is possible. Regardless of the vehicle involved, if you have been charged with a DWI, it is crucial that you reach out to an attorney who can begin investigating your case and developing your legal defense strategy.

Interpreting the Language of North Carolina's DWI Law

North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1 governs the crime of driving while under the influence of alcohol (DWI). A person has committed the criminal offense of impaired driving when they "drive any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State." Additionally, prosecutors must prove at least one of the following elements to convict someone of a DWI:

  1. Is under the influence of an impairing substance
  2. Has a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher, or 
  3. Tests positive for any Schedule I controlled substance
What is a "Vehilce" Under North Carolina's DWI Law?

For the purpose of North Carolina's DWI law, a vehicle is 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." When considering this definition of a vehicle, it is clear that a golf cart would be regarded as a vehicle. Golf carts transport people and property on streets and highways, both public and private. For that reason, as long as a prosecutor can prove all the other elements of DWI, a person could be convicted of a DWI involving driving a gold cart. 

Public vs. Private Property

Why haven't we heard more about North Carolina golf cart drivers being charged DWIs? It is relatively rare for prosecutors to charge a person with DWI related to driving a golf cart because of the law's requirement that the driving occurs on public property. North Carolina's DWI statute clarifies that drivers can only be charged with DWI when driving on public property. Most golf cart drivers operate golf carts on private golf courses or on their own private property. 

The exception to the general role may be that so many people drink beer while playing golf without worrying about the legal consequences of a DWI. However, while the golf course is almost always considered private property, the parking lot may be considered public property. Prosecutors may be able to successfully argue that the parking lot is a public vehicular area under North Carolina's DWI statute. Although someone may be able to get away with drinking while driving a golf cart on the fairway, they can potentially be charged with a DWI for driving while intoxicated in the parking lot.

The Penalties of a DWI Conviction

DWIs are always considered serious offenses, whether they involve a passenger vehicle, a commercial vehicle, or a motorized recreational vehicle. In addition to facing jail time, if you have been charged with a DWI, you could be required to pay thousands of dollars in legal fines. You could also be required to go through court-ordered drug or alcohol rehabilitation and community service. 

You will certainly have a revoked or suspended driver's license, making driving difficult. You could face jail time if there are aggravating factors related to the alleged DWI. You will also have a permanent criminal record if you are convicted. In short, being charged with a DWI for riding a golf cart or other recreational vehicle will not result in you facing less severe penalties. The type of vehicle does not matter when sentencing for DWI cases in North Carolina. 

Charged With a DWI? We Can Help

If you have been charged with a DWI in North Carolina, it is important that you understand your legal rights and options. You should not accept a plea deal from the prosecution until you have discussed your case with an experienced, skilled criminal defense attorney. The terms of the plea bargain could be unfair to you and result in a severe penalty. After investigating your case, your attorney may be able to negotiate a better outcome. Do not delay. Contact the Charlotte DWI defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule your free case evaluation and learn how we can fight for you.