Snowmobiling while Intoxicated (and Overly Free-Wheeling Four-Wheeling), Etc.

In our entry of March 13, 2014, we discussed ‘boating while intoxicated’ and/or the consequences of whetting your whistle on the water. We look this week at the sorts of trouble you can get into – without getting your feet wet – all in the name of having a good time.

The law clearly tries to cut the recreational vehicle user some slack. As we pointed out last time, convictions for ‘boating while intoxicated’ or for ‘snowmobiling while intoxicated’ aren’t currently reported to DMV. And, as we’ll see below, you can get away with some things on your own property that would be offenses anywhere else. Things have tightened up a bit over the last ten years, though.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t commit vehicular assault or vehicular homicide with a boat or a snowmobile. We’re linking here to People v. Davis, an appellate decision from 1991. The court there considered (and dismissed) the argument that a snowmobiler might be convicted of vehicular homicide.

Decisions like Davis were implicitly overruled by ‘VaSean’s Law‘, which was passed in 2005, and made changes to the laws concerning vehicular assault and homicide (see, for instance, Penal Law Sections 120.03 and 125.12). These statutes now explicitly apply to boats, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles.

Like so many things, of course, one of the keys to committing these crimes is alcohol. So we thought we’d examine some of the mischief you can do with an All-Terrain Vehicle, after we say good bye to winter with a brief glance at snowmobiling while intoxicated.


‘Snowmobiling while Intoxicated’ is defined in Section 25.24 of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law. And like Section 49-A of the Navigation Law, which we discussed last time, it tracks New York’s DWI/DUI legislation.

Subsection 1(a) of the statute makes it an ‘offense’ – but not, necessarily, a ‘crime’ – to operate a snowmobile while your “ability to operate such snowmobile is impaired by the consumption of alcohol.” The law applies to conduct committed on “a street, highway, public trails, lands, bodies of water, or private property of another.” Have a strong desire to break your neck on your own land? We would recommend counseling. But Section 25.24 is silent, and the courts don’t seem to have said anything either. Any degree of impairment on any land but your own violates the law.

It is a crime – per Subsection 1(b) – to operate a snowmobile on any land but your own with “.08 of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol” in your “blood, breath, urine, or saliva” as determined by a chemical test. As in the Vehicle and Traffic Law, there is a catch-all provision making it illegal to operate a snowmobile while ‘intoxicated’, without assigning a particular blood alcohol content. This is found in Subsection 1(c) of Section 25.24. And Subsection 1(d) makes operation while impaired by drugs a crime.


All terrain vehicles, or ‘ATVs’ are defined in Section 2281 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. The term covers any vehicle (that’s not a snowmobile)

manufactured for sale for operation primarily on off-highway trails or off-highway competitions and only incidentally operated on public highways providing that such vehicle does not exceed seventy inches in width, or one thousand pounds dry weight.

Section 2404 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law contains some of the rules to be followed off-road. This includes a stricture against operating an ATV

on public lands, other than highways, or on private property of another while in an intoxicated condition or under the influence of narcotics or drugs

The statute also says that “[f]or the purposes of title seven of this chapter, an ATV shall be a motor vehicle and the provisions of such title shall be applicable to ATVs.” Title seven contains the ‘Rules of the Road’, including Section 1192, New York’s primary DWI/DUI provision. Convictions for operating an ATV while intoxicated are reported to DMV and therefore carry license sanctions.

We conclude with links to a couple of – more or less – local cases involving ATVs. People v. McRobbie resulted in a felony DWI/DUI conviction. People v. Hart relates the tragic death of a child due to his father’s drunken operation of an ATV.