To be charged with a DUI or DWI in any state, a person must be operating a vehicle while over the legal limit. Different states have different definitions for “vehicles” and “motor vehicles,” so it is not immediately clear whether a person can be charged with DUI or DWI while operating a wheelchair. It depends on the state in which the offense occurred and other factors. However, people have been charged and convicted of operating wheelchairs while intoxicated, which means that charges are possible in some cases.
In some states, a vehicle is defined as a conveyance that operates with a motor or a battery. Under that definition, a motorized wheelchair may qualify. In other states, a vehicle is any conveyance that has a drivetrain. In other words, it does not have to have a motor or battery. Under that definition, a bicycle would qualify. Non-motorized wheelchairs, on the other hand, do not have drivetrains and are therefore unlikely to meet the legal definition of a vehicle in such states.
In all fifty states, a person must be operating or in control or a vehicle to be charged with DWI or DUI. Therefore, someone who is intoxicated while on foot cannot be charged with such an offense. If a disabled person cannot get around on foot and must, therefore, use a wheelchair, some people may suggest that such charges are discriminatory. That is something that must generally be determined by the courts. However, if a wheelchair meets the definition of a vehicle in the state in which the offense occurred, the charge may hold up in court.
Even if a wheelchair qualifies as a vehicle in the state in which you reside, being convicted after being charged with a DUI or DWI while operating such vehicles does not guarantee a conviction. If you are facing that charge, you should contact a lawyer who is familiar with criminal defense cases.