The Attorney General was asked whether the driving under the influence of alcohol laws apply to someone riding horseback on a public road. The Attorney General replied that since a horse is not a “vehicle” under those laws, they do not apply.
It is clear from the plain language of the relevant statutory provision, that the DUI Statute, NRS 484.379, does not apply to a person riding a horse on a highway.
Ms. Marla Zlotek
Deputy District Attorney
Office of the District Attorney
Post Office Box 593
Tonopah, Nevada 89049
Dear Ms. Zlotek:
This letter is in response to your request for an opinion from this office concerning the following inquiry:
Does the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Statute, Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 484.379, apply to a person riding a horse on a highway?
NRS 484.379 states, in pertinent part, that:
Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or controlled or prohibited substance: Unlawful acts; affirmative defense.
1. It is unlawful for any person who:
(a) Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
(b) Has a concentration of alcohol of 0.10 or more in his blood or breath; . . . to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or on premises to which the public has access.
For purposes of NRS chapter 484, vehicle is defined as ". . . every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails." NRS 484.217. See also NRS 484.013. The term in this provision key to answering your inquiry is "device."
"Device" is not defined for purposes of the DUI statute. It does, however, appear in certain statutes in the context of electronic or mechanical devices used in the interception of wire and oral communications. See State v. Reyes, 107 Nev. 191, 808 P.2d 544 (1991). [FN1] It further appears in the context of traffic control devices. See Gordon v. Hurtado, 96 Nev. 375, 609 P.2d 327 (1980). [FN2] Nowhere in the statutes referenced in Reyes or Hurtado is "device" construed to include an animal or, for purposes of this analysis, a horse.
It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that a statute should be interpreted to arrive at a reasonable and common sense construction. Sheriff v. Smith, 91 Nev. 729, 542 P.2d 440 (1975). Moreover, statutes should be construed to ". . . avoid absurd results." Las Vegas Sun v. District Court, 104 Nev. 508, 511, 761 P.2d 849, 851 (1988) (citations omitted). Given that NRS 484.379 is expressly limited to driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle which is defined as a device to transport a person or property, it would be a stretch under the rules of statutory construction to interpret device as meaning a horse.
Further, our Supreme Court noted: "In construing a statute, this court must give effect to the literal meaning of its words." Arnesano v. State, Dep't Transp., 113 Nev. 815, 820, 942 P.2d 139, 142 (1997) (citations omitted). A device is literally not an animal. "Device" is defined as "a thing that is made, usually for a particular working purpose; an invention or contrivance, especially a mechanical or electrical one." WEBSTER'S ENCYCLOPEDIC UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: BASED ON THE 1ST EDITION OF THE RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY 59 (Portland House 1989). WEBSTER'S further defines animal as:
. . . any living thing typically having certain characteristics distinguishing it from a plant, the ability to move voluntarily, the presence of a nervous system and a greater ability to respond to stimuli, the need for complex organic materials for nourishment obtained by eating plants or other animals, and the delimitation of cells usually by a membrane rather than a cellulose wall.
Moreover, "horse" is defined as "a large solid-hoofed, herbivorous quadraped, Equus Caballus, domesticated since prehistoric times, bred in a number of varieties, and used for carrying or pulling loads, for riding, etc. . . .[A]ny animal of the family Equidae, including the ass, donkey, etc." WEBSTER'S AT 685 (emphasis added). Consistent with the holding in Arnesano in giving literal effect to the meaning of words, a horse is not a "device."
In your inquiry, you referenced NRS 484.257. This statute appears to have no applicability here in that this provision contains the following restriction:
Rights and duties of person riding animal or driving vehicle drawn by animal. Every person riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except those provisions which by their nature can have no application.
Clearly, in reviewing both the DUI Statute NRS 484.379, and the definition of "vehicle," NRS 484.217, in the narrow framing of your inquiry, NRS 484.257 does not apply. NRS 484.257 is expressly limited to those statutory provisions, "except those . . . which by their nature can have no application."
It is clear from the plain language of the relevant statutory provisions, the DUI Statute, NRS 484.379, does not apply to a person riding a horse on a highway.
Frankie Sue Del Papa
By: Mariah L. Sugden
Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General
Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety Division
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