Crime or Not?

by Debbie Burke


On March 20, an unidentified man rode a horse into the Town Pump convenience store in Bozeman, Montana.

I’m not sure if this constitutes a crime. After all, in Montana, it’s not unheard of to ride a horse into a bar and sometimes even a hotel lobby.

There is also the fuzzy legal question of whether or not DUI laws apply to horseback riding. The Montana code reads:

61-8-401 states that it is unlawful for any person to operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, intoxicants or any combination thereof with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater.

One can argue the law doesn’t apply because the horse is not a motor vehicle. Also, the horse is quite likely to get the intoxicated rider home safely. So, ensuring public safety seems to come down on the side of Ole Dobbin.

That raises another question: if this rider is sober, what crime, if any, should he be charged with? Trespassing? Misdemeanor showing off?

What do you think, TKZers? Should this prank be considered a crime? If so, what’s the charge? 

This entry was posted in #truecrimethursday, Writing by Debbie Burke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Heart...and Sass. The first book in the series, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and the Zebulon Award. Additional books in the series are Stalking Midas, Eyes in the Sky, Dead Man's Bluff, Crowded Hearts, and Flight to Forever. Debbie's articles have won journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

18 thoughts on “Crime or Not?

  1. Horses are heavy, shod with metal, and poop where they want to so I doubt the store will be unscathed so there’s the damage. If the rider is drunk, this will be a drunk and disorderly. In North Carolina, if you are drunk and on a sober horse, this is a DUI. Montana’s laws may vary.

    • Excellent points, Marilynn. Fortunately, this horse seemed quite mannerly and well-behaved.

      “A sober horse”? Does the horse have to walk a straight line, heel to toe? 😉

  2. Good morning, Debbie. Good post for a chuckle and to lighten the mood.

    I have no legal background, and know absolutely nothing about the laws in Montana. The questions I would ask: Did the horse and rider endanger public safety? Did they create any damage? And did they pay before they left the store? Oh, and if the horse and rider purchased any alcohol, is the horse under age?

    Have a great and sober day!

  3. Debbie, thanks for the laugh this morning! However, as much as I love horses, I wouldn’t want to encounter one in the aisle of a store. Certainly this might fall under the category of criminal mischief, though I’m manifestly not a lawyer, just a former librarian 🙂

    From the Montana Code (2019)

    45-6-101. Criminal mischief. (1) A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if the person knowingly or purposely:
    (a) injures, damages, or destroys any property of another or public property without consent

  4. That’s an interesting question, Debbie. I did a (shallow) dive into Montana law and the interpretation of the same. Montana law defines what a motor vehicle is and a horse is not included in the definition. Since the Montana code does not specifically prohibit riding a horse while under the influence of a controlled substance, one apparently can do so. Lee Marvin is safe. That said, the rider would, intoxicated or otherwise, still be responsible for any damage incurred by the horse while under their control.

    As far as riding a horse in a store is concerned, there again seems to be nothing in Montana law prohibiting that. Again, however, the rider would be responsible for any damages committed by the horse while doing so.

    This might all seem odd but horses as transportation continue to be a significant part of the culture of Montana and Wyoming and, I would guess, rural areas in Texas and even California.

    I would put both of these situations under the same rule that holds that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

    Thanks for getting the brain cells stimulated this morning, Debbie!

    • Another learned legal opinion from the esteemed Mr. Hartlaub. Thank you, sir.

      IMHO, Lee Marvin is safe b/c the statute of limitations has probably run out. Besides, Montana prosecutors won’t prosecute a deceased person.

  5. Thanks for the fun start to the day, Debbie! I watched the video and it seems the horse didn’t find what he was looking for. Maybe they don’t sell oats in that convenience store.

    My vote: No harm no foul.

  6. I think equine and rider were just horsing around. Or were they shopping for horse radish?

  7. Horses are the best form of transportation and therefore always have the right of way. 😎 Besides, the people in the vid hardly did much of a double take. LOL!

    And maybe the drive-through was closed. 😎

  8. Reminds me of the stories my mother told of her teen years living out on the prairie. Everything was fine when all the boys rode horses to the barn dances but then along came the Tin Lizzies. No longer could the horse be relied upon to take a drunk cowboy home.

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