Judge Rules That Wheelchair is Motor Vehicle in DUI Case
Jun. 25, 1992
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) _ A person who operates a motorized wheelchair while drunk can be charged with driving under the influence, a judge ruled today in a case involving a man missing both legs.
During a hearing, the judge agreed to send James I. Jaggers into a pretrial program in return for having the charges dropped after one year.
Warren County Attorney Mike Caudill said Judge Joann Spinks Coleman's ruling upholds the intent of a broad Kentucky drunken driving law and will force legislative action on the issue.
''I looked at the facts of this case and I felt sorry for this guy,'' Caudill said. ''Here he is in the middle of the night, where he has to get from one place to another, the sidewalk outside this place was torn up and he couldn't get over that and he had no choice but to go onto a public road.''
Caudill said because of those reasons and the man's disability, he agreed to the diversion program in which Jaggers is required not to violate any laws, not to drive his wheelchair on public roads if has been drinking and to outfit his wheelchair with automobile reflectors that can be seen in traffic.
As he left the Warren County Justice Center, Jaggers, 55, did not appear pleased with the decision. ''The thing about it is I wasn't drunk. I'd had 2 beers and I had to go to the pharmacy to get my medicine.
''When I came out of there (the pharmacy), the police was sitting there waiting on me. Somebody had set this up.''
Jaggers lost both his legs from midthigh down about 20 years ago after a gunshot wound impaired blood circulation to his legs. Jaggers lived next door to a tavern and was shot as he was entering his house.
Caudill said the case was not one he had been eager to prosecute, but said the Kentucky drunk-driving law was very clear in defining motor vehicles.
When asked if it was fair to compare a motorized wheelchair with an automobile, Caudill said, ''I guess so, if it's fair to compare a wheelchair that goes 6 mph with a farm tractor that goes 5 mph.''
Kentucky courts have consistently held that farm tractors are motor vehicles in drunken-driving cases.
Caudill said it would have been difficult to convict Jaggers on a charge of drunken driving because officers did not obtain breath or blood alcohol analyses after the arrest.