The Blue Ridge Mountains are popular tourist destinations. With an array of activities ranging from spa days to wine tasting, the Blue Ridge Mountains offer something for everyone. For those inclined to partake of the fresh outdoor air, the mountains offer an array of hiking and bike trails. However, those inclined to partake in any of the wine tasting activities or open a fresh cold one on a picnic should remember to avoid motorized transport.
Hiking and Alcohol Consumption
It is not unlawful to consume alcohol while hiking, even if one consumes enough alcohol to become legally intoxicated and if one is indisputably in a public place. Under § 14-447(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes, the mere fact that one is intoxicated in a public place does not constitute public intoxication. To qualify as a crime, the subject must also be “disruptive.”
Disruptive conduct is exactly what one would expect. Under § 14-444(a), conduct is disruptive if it, among other things, involves cursing, shouting, insulting, begging, shoving, grabbing, fighting, or obstructing travel on a public vehicle area, sidewalk, or building entrance. Individuals who become intoxicated may lose their inhibitions and engage in such conduct without realizing it.
Even if one is capable of moderating their consumption and avoiding such quarrelsome conduct, consuming alcohol before hiking is not necessarily a good idea. Even small amounts of alcohol can inhibit one’s coordination and impair judgment. Hiking trails often have rocks and potholes that most individuals would have no trouble negotiating, but a mixture of poor coordination and diminished perception can result in a fall.
When a person consumes alcohol and begins operating a motor vehicle, the consequences become much more serious. Under § 20-138.1 of the North Carolina General Statutes, anyone who drives a vehicle on any public highway, street, or “public vehicular area” while under the influence of alcohol commits the offense of impaired driving. Note that drunk driving is not confined strictly to paved roads; individuals operating motorcycles in an area normally reserved for vehicle travel may be arrested and charged with violating the aforementioned statute.
Depending upon the nature of the offense, offenders may be fined, incarcerated, and may have their licenses suspended. A person is under the influence of alcohol if he or she has a blood alcohol content of.08 or greater. North Carolina assigns specific penalties based upon the presence of aggravating and mitigating factors. You will be advised whether you ask a DWI lawyer in Charlotte, NC or Myrtle Beach, that heavy intoxication and reckless driving are examples of aggravating factors that can enhance the sentence of anyone riding recklessly in the mountains.
The presence of these factors and others will result in the defendant’s placement into one of five levels for sentencing. Punishments for level one violators consist of incarceration for up to two years and a $4,000 fine, while a level five violator will receive 24 hours of incarceration or community service and a fine of up to $200. “Grossly aggravating factors” like prior convictions within seven years or serious injury to another person will result in an assignment of level one or two.
Cycling is another popular activity in the mountains. Unlike motorcycles, bicycles do not constitute vehicles within the definition of North Carolina’s impaired driving statute. As a result, operating a bicycle while intoxicated is not unlawful by itself. However, bicyclists who ride in such a manner as to constitute a wanton disregard for the safety of other persons may be convicted of reckless driving. Biking bears many of the same regulations as hiking, but also much of the same potential for injury.
Hiking and biking while intoxicated can be done lawfully, but are difficult to do safely. Intoxication will increase the probability of injury when one is furthest away from immediate medical attention. Riding a motorcycle while impaired is not lawful or safe. Most visitors will bring back photos, memorabilia, and fond memories. Visitors who do not consume alcohol responsibly may bring back medical bills and a criminal charge.