Court Rules That a Riding Mower is not a Vehicle


A ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court concludes that a lawn motor is, indeed, not a motor vehicle. A riding lawn mower may cost almost the same as a used car and may have a strong engine and four wheels, but a lawn mower theft is still not the same as a motor vehicle theft.

Court Rules That a Riding Mower is not a VehicleThe court decision inverted the conviction of Franklin Lloyd Harris, who was convicted of the criminal act motor vehicle theft back in 2006 when he drove away with a Toro riding mower from an appliance store in Dalton without paying for it. Harris was proven to load the riding mower in his van and drove away.  Charges were filed and Harris was sentenced to spend 10 years behind bars.

According to reports, Public defender Michael McCarthy appealed to the justices that it is true that Harris ought to be charged with theft, his punishment for the felony should be as if he has stolen a motor vehicle. Public defender McCarthy claims that a riding mower should be categorized as a car, and even though a riding mower is indeed a modern mechanical wonder, it is still not a motor vehicle. McCarthy said in an interview that he believes his defense will get through and possibly change Harris’ sentence since under the state law, a riding mower is not a motor vehicle.

On the other hand, prosecutors argued that the state law clearly defines a “motor vehicle” as a “self-propelled” mechanism. Under this definition, it is logical to claim that a riding mower is a motor vehicle because it is self propelled.

In the end, McCarthy’s defense beat the prosecution and the state’s top court agreed that a lawn mower is not a motor vehicle. The Georgia Supreme Court released an 18-page decision saying that the sentence originally issued to Harris should be checked and overturned. According to the decision, the purpose of riding a mower is not to transport passengers, but to cut grass.

Justice David Nahmias said that while a riding lawn mower allows the transport of property or people and is very much capable of being driven on the road for short distance, the primary purpose of the machine is to cut grass.

While the a court ruling has already been released, Justice Harold Melton still disputes that Georgia lawmakers who wrote the state law defined “motor vehicle” in a very broad sense, and this definition includes a riding mower. According to Justice Melton, the ruling on Harris’ case creates argument and conflict. Reports say that regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, prosecutors still intend pursue appeals against the case.