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Can you get a DUI on a backhoe in Illinois?

Illinois law on Driving Under the Influence (DUI) provides that “A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:” [under the influence]. 625 ILCS 5/11-501 There are a number of issues involved in the quoted phrase.

One is the matter of “driving”. The police need not prove that they actually observed you driving. They must simply satisfy a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving at a time you were under the influence of alcohol. People v. Garnier, 20 Ill. App. 2d 492, 156 N.E.2d 613 (1 Dist. 1959)

This can be established by circumstantial evidence. For instance, if you the police find you in a cornfield in the middle of nowhere and your truck is ten feet away and there are no footprints in the snow, a jury might infer that you were driving. People v. Slinkard, 362 Ill. App. 3d 855, 298 Ill. Dec. 858, 841 N.E.2d 1, (1 Dist. 2006), appeal denied, 219 Ill. 2d 591(2006)

There are numerous cases on the issue of “actual physical control”. in grossly simplified form, it’s the idea of keys in the ignition, engine running. But there is no magic formula for determining whether there is actual physical control. It is a question of fact for the jury to determine. People v. Davis, 205 Ill. App. 3d 431, 150 Ill. Dec. 349, 562 N.E.2d 1152 (1 Dist. 1990)

Another question is whether you can drive drunk on wholly private property? The answer is “no” because the Illinois DUI laws apply “within the State” of Illinois. People v. Erickson, 108 Ill. App. 2d 142, 246 N.E.2d 457 (2 Dist. 1969)


The fact that DUI is illegal throughout the state of Illinois must not be confused with the Statutory Summary Suspension (SSS) law. The effect of a failed breath test (BAC at .08 or higher) or a refusal is a suspension of your driver’s license for a determinate period of time. These suspensions are available only if it is shown that you had driven on public property. People v. Kloke, 193 Ill. App. 3d 101, 140 Ill. Dec. 294, 549 N.E.2d 945 (3 Dist. 1990)

Another element that the prosecution is required to prove is that you at the time you were driving or in actual physical control, you were under the influence of alcohol. The state must show that your intoxication existed while you were driving. If you were drunk before you drove, or if you became intoxicated after you finished driving, you have a defensible DUI case.

Lastly, there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a “motor vehicle”. This phrase is defined as “every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway …, except devices moved by human power” and excepting snowmobiles.

Therefore, you may not receive a DUI while riding a bicycle. However, a backhoe is a vehicle. As a result, you can get a DUI while operating a backhoe, even on private property.

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