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May 21, 2015

COA holds that a scooter is a “vehicle” under the Michigan Vehicle Code when operated on public roadways

In People v. Lyon, No. 310242, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the circuit court abused its discretion in dismissing charges against the defendant for operating a vehicle on a public highway while intoxicated under MCL 257.625(1), third offense, and possessing an open container of alcohol under MCL 257.624a.  The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case, holding that the circuit court wrongly concluded that the defendant’s scooter was not a “vehicle” under the Michigan Vehicle Code (“MVC”).

Defendant William Lyon is disabled and uses an electric four-wheeled scooter.  On the date in question, police officers saw the defendant cut over on his scooter from the paved curb lane into the vehicular traffic lane.  Upon stopping the defendant, officers observed the defendant was in possession of an open can of beer while operating his scooter and administered field sobriety tests.  After the defendant failed the sobriety tests and admitted to being intoxicated, he was charged accordingly.  The defendant argued that his scooter was not a “vehicle” within the meaning of the MVC and was more aptly described as either an “electric personal assistive mobility device,” a “low-speed vehicle,” or a “moped.”

The Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s alternative legal classifications and determined that the statutory definition of a “vehicle” was sufficiently broad to include the scooter.  The court further reasoned that, according to MCL 257.657, the defendant assumed the duties of a vehicle driver when he chose to operate his scooter, regardless of its classification, on the highway.  The court relied on the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in People v Rogers, 438 Mich 602 (2001), which held that a snowmobile fell within the definition of a “vehicle” when used on a highway and therefore its use was governed by the MVC.

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