Aynor, S.C. Mayor Not Charged with DUI…

The mayor of Aynor, S.C., who is also the chief financial officer for Horry County Schools, was pulled over last month while driving down the road on a lawn mower. He appears intoxicated in the dashcam video, failed to stop for the officer, and had an open beer in the cup holder.

Horry County police officers made the stop, but then declined to investigate and called Aynor police to come and get him instead. Neither agency wrote an incident report, and neither agency charged the mayor with any crimes.


Did Aynor’s Mayor Commit any Crimes?

Horry County Police did not charge the mayor with any crimes, and released a statement saying that this “will be a training opportunity” for their agency.

The mayor of Aynor was stopped by Horry County Police last month while riding a lawnmower down the road, apparently with an open can of beer. An Horry County Police official confirmed the mayor was not cited or charged, and said that their officers’ response “will be a training opportunity” for their agency.

Training for what? How to cover up crimes committed by public officials? Based on the video and media report alone, it appears that the mayor could have been charged with, and most of us “ordinary people” would have been charged with:

  • Failure to stop for a blue light: he did not stop for the Horry County police car and instead led them on a “slow speed chase” as they followed the lawnmower with lights flashing. Failure to stop for a blue light is a general sessions level offense that carries up to three years in prison.
  • Open Container: there was apparently an open container of beer in the mayor’s cup holder. The officers poured it out for him. Open container is a municipal offense in Aynor that carries up to 30 days in jail.
  • Although the officer did not ask the mayor to perform field sobriety tests, and did not engage in any type of DUI investigation, the mayor appears to be clearly intoxicated on the dashcam video.

Officers have discretion as to who they charge with crimes and whether they take a person to jail. Is the fact that a suspected criminal is the mayor an appropriate reason for an officer to exercise that discretion?

Wait, You Can’t Get a DUI on a Lawn Mower Can You?

You can in South Carolina. S.C. Code Section 56-5-2930 defines driving under the influence (DUI) as:

It is “unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired…”

So, the next question is: What is a motor vehicle?

S.C. Code Section 56-5-130 defines a “motor vehicle” as “[e]very vehicle which is self-propelled, except mopeds, and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails…”

Although mopeds have been specifically excluded from the definition of motor vehicle, the legislature amended the law earlier this year to specifically include mopeds for purposes of DUI offenses.

A lawn mower, tractor, or any other self-propelled vehicle qualifies under South Carolina law. A bicycle, unless it is propelled by an engine of some kind, does not qualify. Police have charged suspects with DUI on tractors and lawn mowers in Horry County and in other areas of the state.


One Response to “Aynor, S.C. Mayor Not Charged with DUI…

  • From this blog post:
    “So, the next question is: What is a motor vehicle?”
    “A lawn mower, tractor, or any other self-propelled vehicle qualifies under South Carolina law.” (as a motor vehicle)

    This is the response I received (finally) from Lauren Phillips, from scdmv.net, concerning my question as to whether or not a riding lawnmower would be considered a “motor vehicle”:

    We determine if a vehicle is allowed to be registered for public road use if it meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards. Lawn mowers do not meet these standards. Therefore, we would not register.

    Any “vehicle” operated on public roads without proper state registration is a law enforcement issue.

    If a customer attempted to title and register a lawn mower, they wouldn’t have an manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO) or title to do so. Therefore, the request would be denied.

    My reading of her response is that a riding lawnmower is not a motor vehicle for the reasons stated above.

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