Driving under the influence (DUI) on public roads is illegal in all 50 states. But state laws generally go further and also prohibit drunk driving on certain or all private properties. Read on for an overview of these laws and examples of the types of private property they cover.
DUI laws are worded differently in each state. However, state courts have interpreted several different types of statutes as applying not only to public roadways, but also to private property.
Anywhere in the State
Some states have broadly worded DUI statutes that outlaw driving under the influence anywhere in the state. These statutes make no distinction between driving on public and private property, and courts often find they apply to both. For example, Mississippi’s DUI law says it’s unlawful to drive under the influence “within this state.” Kentucky law similarly states that drunk driving is illegal “anywhere in this state.”
Courts in other states—including Georgia and Kansas—have interpreted statutes that prohibit driving under the influence on “highways and elsewhere throughout the state” as applying to private property anywhere in the state.
So, drivers in states with these broadly worded laws can get a DUI regardless of whether they were driving on public or private property.
If a state’s DUI law only prohibits DUI in a public place, does it mean it’s okay to drive on private property while under the influence? Not necessarily.
Texas law, for example, says it’s illegal to drive “in a public place” while intoxicated. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find a separate law that defines “public place.” This law says a public place is “any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access.” The definition includes streets, highways, and “common areas” of schools, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops. So the Texas definition of “public place” includes lots of private properties.
Other states—including Michigan and Idaho—have DUI laws that explicitly say drunk driving is illegal anywhere that’s “open to the general public.” Like in Texas, the question in these states is whether the public has access to a certain location. If so, chances are DUI is prohibited there.