Toronto’s city attorney’s office successfully prosecuted its first-time DUI offence on an electric scooter case in 2020. A 28-year-old man was arrested for DUI after he knocked over a 64-year-old pedestrian while riding the electric scooter with a blood alcohol level three times over the legal limit. Upon conviction, the suspect was sentenced to 36-months of probation, fined $550, ordered to pay restitution to the pedestrian, and required to complete a DUI program.
The Rise of Electric Scooter Popularity in Ontario
Electric Scooters have become incredibly popular around the world in just a few short years. Also known as “e-scooters,” the devices are similar to the two-wheel platform manual-steering scooters that have been a popular kid’s toy for more than 100 years. The difference, however, is that e-scooters come with high-tech battery power that can help propel the scooters at over 20 kilometres per hour.
e-Scooters have become especially popular in urban areas, as they are touted as quick, eco-friendly means of navigating city streets and sidewalks. In fact, e-scooter share programs are cropping up in cities around the world, similar to the rapid rise of bike sharing programs started two decades ago.
To get a handle on this rise in popularity, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation initiated a five-year e-scooter pilot program that allows municipalities to determine how people can safely and legally operate e-scooters in their jurisdictions. Based on this pilot program, the province’s goal is to develop regulations covering future use of e-scooters in the province.
The City of Toronto, notably, has declined to join the pilot program. In a unanimous decision last May, Toronto’s councillors voted to maintain a ban on shared and privately owned e-scooters on public street, bike lanes, sidewalks, pathways, trails, and other public spaces. Despite the continued legal ban, there are thousands of e-scooter riders in the Greater Toronto Area, and a city staff report noted that the city and its police forces lack resources to enforce the ban.
Why e-Scooters Are Subject to Ontario DUI Laws
That said, GTA police are always willing to expend resources in their fight against impaired driving and will certainly lay DUI charges whenever they come across an obviously impaired e-scooter rider. Electric scooters are covered under Canada’s DUI laws under the Offences Relating to Conveyances section of the Criminal Code. The Code defines conveyance as a “motor vehicle, a vessel, an aircraft or railway equipment.” The Code then describes every DUI-related offence in relation to “operating a conveyance.”
Thus, it’s the motorization of the e-scooter that makes it subject to Ontario DUI laws. Based on this, a regular non-motorized scooter is not subject to DUI laws and, for that matter, you cannot get a DUI while riding a bike in Ontario or Canada, either. You can though, get a DUI while riding a bike with an electric motor—that is an e-bike or any bicycle that has a motorized peddling-assist device. You can also get a DUI on a motorized wheelchair, mobility scooter, riding lawn mower, golf cart, or pretty much anything with wheels that is motorized.
Are There Ways to Get Out of an e-Scooter or e-bike DUI?
With a relative lack of court precedents pertaining to e-bike and e-scooter DUIs in Ontario, strategies for defending against such charges are evolving. With regard to e-bikes, challenges have been raised based on arguing whether the electric bike was actually being powered by the motor at the time of the incidence.
Absent the use of the motor, the e-bike is technically not a conveyance under the law. That said, these defences have failed when the Crown has been able to prove that the peddles were removed or that the motor was definitely helping propel the bike at the time of the incident.
Trying to mount a similar defence with an e-scooter DUI is problematic because the device’s weight pretty much necessitates the use of the motor. Other than when going downhill, a rider would likely be hard-pressed to propel an e-scooter at any speed absent the motor. And, absent such speed, it’s probably not likely that a rider is going to capture the attention of the police in the first place.
Can You Get an e-Scooter DUI Even if You Are Not on a Road?
Whether you’re on an e-scooter, e-bike, mobility vehicle, golf cart, or any other powered vehicle, you can be charged with a DUI even if you’re not on a public road. While laws in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act generally require that an offence occur on public roads, Canada’s Criminal Code DUI provisions do not differentiate between public or private property.
Thus, you’re not shielded from DUI by staying off public roads and sidewalks should you choose to ride an e-scooter or other conveyance while impaired. In fact, police can even arrest you for DUI on private property, though police would need a good excuse to makes such arrests on private property. Crashing a golf cart and trying to assault a neighbor provide two such examples that led to police laying DUI charges on private property. We haven’t heard of any e-scooter DUI arrests on private property but based on their fast-growing popularity it’s bound to happen sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Consult with Mass Tsang for your Ontario DUI Defence Needs
No matter what conveyance, if you or someone you know is facing DUI charges in the greater Toronto area, the expert criminal lawyers at Mass Tsang today for a free consultation. We study each DUI case in the Toronto area in our efforts to seek out the most favorable outcome possible for those charged with DUI in Ontario. Mass Tsang lawyers have successfully defended thousands of Toronto-area DUI cases and have a solid record of securing favorable outcomes for their clients.