Thursday, May 21, 2015


Original Story:

TRAVERSE CITY — A stalled drunken driving case against a Traverse City man appears full speed ahead after state court judges ruled that his electric scooter can be considered a motor vehicle. A Westchester County DWI lawyer is following this story closely.

Michigan Court of Appeals judges this week unanimously agreed that Michigan's rules of the road applied to William Shaw Lyon, 52, of Traverse City, when he drunkenly scooted down Garfield Avenue in 2013.

Their opinion reverses 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers' previous dismissal of a third-offense drunken driving charge against Lyon and remands the case to his court for a potential trial. Lyon's attorney David Clark, who uses an electric wheelchair, said he's "extremely disappointed in the opinion."

"In my opinion, the court of appeals has pretty much disregarded handicappers' civil rights in defining a wheelchair as a motor vehicle," he said. A New York drunk driving lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

In September 2013, Lyon was ordered out of a Save-a-Lot grocery store after he caused a drunken disturbance on his scooter. He set off down Garfield Avenue at 4 mph in the curb lane toward Burger King, open beer in hand, when city police officers stopped him for causing a traffic backup.

Police arrested Lyon for disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana, and prosecutors later added charges of possession of an open alcoholic container and third-offense drunken driving, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Lyon's court-appointed attorney -- Clark -- appealed the driving-related charges, arguing Lyon is disabled and his scooter is a substitute for walking and not a motor vehicle. Rodgers agreed and dismissed the charges, prompting an appeal from Grand Traverse County prosecutors.

The appellate judges found because Lyon placed his scooter on a roadway while admittedly intoxicated he "undertook the duties of a vehicle driver, which include refraining from driving while intoxicated or with an open container." A Nyack DWI lawyer represents clients charged with felonies, misdemeanors, violations, and driving while under the influence.

"Accordingly, the circuit court committed clear legal error and abused its discretion in dismissing the charges in this case," the opinion states.

Rodgers didn't return a call for comment.

Clark worries the opinion could have unintended consequences. He said if a rowdy, drunken bachelor party crossed from a sidewalk into a street that a reveler in an electric wheelchair could face different legal penalties than those who traveled on their feet.

"An overzealous police officer could cite them for disorderly (conduct), but arrest the guy in wheelchair for drunken driving," he said.

But county Prosecutor Bob Cooney had worries of his own, specifically that drivers with suspended licenses might take to similar devices to skirt drunken driving laws. He's happy with the opinion, though he said the law should be refined to address concerns.

"I was concerned with the message to other drivers and other persons who might think it's OK to travel along roadways in Grand Traverse County on similar vehicles while intoxicated, or with their licenses suspended," he said. A New York DWI lawyer is dedicated to protecting the driving rights of clients charged with drunk driving.

Lyon didn't return a call for comment. Clark said he's unsure whether Lyon will take the case up with the Michigan Supreme Court, take a plea, or opt for a trial where jurors would decide his guilt.

"They’d be instructed that a wheelchair is a motor vehicle," he said.

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