A Florida Woman Charged with DUI After Riding Her Horse on the Highway Drunk.

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Donna Byrne was arrested on Thursday by Polk County Sheriff deputies for riding a horse while drunk.

Sheriff deputies found Byrne on Combee Road near North Crystal Road in Lakeland, which is 35 miles east of Tampa on Thursday as a result of a passerby tip who saw Byrne. The passerby saw Byrne on a horse with a confused look and She thought Byrne could possibly be in danger which prompted her to notify the police. When the officers confronted Byrne she dismounted the horse and lost her balance, she also smelled of alcohol, and had bloodshot eyes.

Brian Bruchey, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said, Byrne rode the horse for from Polk City about a 10 to 15-miles.

“We haven’t had a horse DUI that I’m aware of. We’ve had incidents of bicycle DUIs and motorcycle DUIs, so this was a different kind of thing.”

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s office, Donna Byrne, 53, is charged with a DUI for riding her horse equipped with a saddle and bridle, drunk on a Florida highway and faces a count of animal neglect. She put the horse in danger of being injured or killed while riding it on the highway while drunk. Depending on the state a person under the influence can be charged with a DUI and DWI while riding a horse.

An appellate court in California in 1993, ruled in People vs. Fong that people riding animals while on the street should follow the same rules as the drivers of vehicles, so, riding animals should be at a reasonably safe speed and no reckless behavior.

In Montana, however, riders on horseback can’t be arrested while under the influence because the state law’s conditions exclude mechanisms moved by “animal power.” The issue created a buzz in Montana in 2011, due to the state’s department of transportation airing a commercial in which a horse picked up its owner after a night of drinking.

Numerous criminal defense lawyers in Florida are doubtful of whether the DUI charge will hold up in Florida court. A Tampa attorney, Thomas Grajek, specializes in DUI cases, he believes Byrne can’t be charged with a DUI because the law in Florida states people riding animals on roadways or shoulders are not exposed to the same rules as automobile drivers they should be treated as pedestrians. Grajek believes Byrne would be charged with disorderly conduct or public intoxication like a pedestrian for riding a horse drunk and not a vehicle.

During Byrne’s sobriety test she registered blood-alcohol levels of .157 and .161, twice the state’s legal limit of .08. The officers then arrested her, and the horse was taken to the Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control livestock facility.

“The road she was stopped on was a very busy road,” Bruchey said. “Of course, if somebody hit the horse, then that person would be in danger. And (Byrne) was a danger to herself.”

The officer who arrested Byrne, according to Bruchey the sheriff’s department spoke person, he had enough information for probably cause to consider the horse a vehicle. No immediate comment has been made by The Polk County State Attorney’s office.

“I can tell you it’s going to be interesting if (the DUI charge) goes through,” Bruchey said. “The way sheriffs look at it, the woman put a saddle and bridle on this horse and was riding it to get from point A to point B. For all intents and purposes, we look at that as a vehicle.”

Byrne could not be reached for a comment. However, according to officers, her criminal history includes five felony and ten misdemeanor charges, consisting of cruelty to animals, drug possession, probation violation and criminal traffic.

 

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