Can You Get a Tennessee DUI on a Motorized La-Z-Boy?

Recent headlines have read:

“DWI in a La-Z-Boy”

“Man Charged with Drunk Driving on a Bar Stool”

“Man Arrested For Driving Lawnmower While Drunk”

These may seem like humorous headlines out of Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida, but these cases are no laughing matter.  The chair, bar stool and lawnmower in the above-referenced stories all fall within the legal definition of a motor driven vehicle under Tennessee law. Tennessee DUI laws, in relevant part, prohibit a person from driving or being in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle while under the influence. See Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-401.

Although the Tennessee legislature has not clearly defined “automobile” or “motor driven vehicle,” Tennessee courts have held that the term “automobile” refers to any “self propelled” vehicle.  See State v. Freels, 190 S.W. 454 (Tenn. 1916). Accordingly, any motorized form of transportation, including a car, a lawnmower, a scooter, or even a motorized cooler would fall within the Tennessee DUI statute.