It sounds like a silly question, but it’s certainly something many viewers have wondered after watching the Iron Man films and The Avengers: Could Tony Stark get a DUI for operating the Iron Man suit while drunk?
Did Tony Actually Fly While Drunk?
Well, the first question, of course, is did he ever actually fly in his suit while drunk? In the first film, he drinks quite a bit, but never before donning his suit. In the sequel though, Tony gets belligerently drunk in his armor at a party. He does not leave his house during this scene though, so he could not be charged with drunk driving.
In fact, the first time that Iron Man could potentially face a DUI charge in the films is when, in The Avengers, he enjoys a glass of scotch before Loki throws him out of the window. Fortunately, Stark is saved by his Mark VII armor, which suits him up and lets him fly away just before hitting the ground. As this is at the climax of the movie (we’ll try to leave out as many spoilers as possible), Tony then goes on to fight, until crashing to the ground at the end of the battle. In all, the epic battle scene only lasts about 15 minutes.
This is the type of situation where drinking and driving laws get a little bit tricky. You see, assuming Stark consumed about 4 ounces of alcohol and that he weighs around 170 pounds, he did drink enough to put him over the legal limit of 0.08% BAC.
So Could Tony Stark Get a DUI?
There’s a problem with him getting a DUI in this scene: 15 minutes is generally not long enough for the alcohol to fully enter the blood stream and cause intoxication. If Tony Stark were taken to a police station and given a breathalyzer after that scene though, he would almost certainly fail the breath test because between the period when he was in flight and the time the test was given, the alcohol would have had time to enter his system. This is known as the rising alcohol defense.
That is why good DUI lawyers will always want to know when you had your first drink and how soon it was before you drove. If you drove immediately after drinking, you might not have been drunk when you were behind the wheel, even if you were intoxicated by the time of the test.
Does the Iron Man Suit Count as a Vehicle?
Of course, another issue facing Tony is whether or not he could get a DUI in his suit. While laws will vary from state to state, in California, you can be cited for drunk driving in any moving vehicle, including a motorized wheel chair, a bike, a boat, or, presumably, power armor. While flying under the influence rules fall under the more strict governance of the FAA, the fact that the Iron Man suit has not yet been legally classified by the government means that the charges may not specify the type of machine he was operating -leaving him to fight DUI charges.
Of course, even a DUI lawyer will tell you that getting drunk before operating a moving vehicle -even a suit of power armor- is something you should preferably avoid. In fact, while Mr. Stark is never be formally charged with a DUI, in the Civil War Era of the comics, he suffers from a tremendous amount of guilt after almost killing an innocent civilian because he operated his suit drunk.
Still, life happens and sometimes otherwise responsible people get behind the wheel after enjoying a few drinks. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, please call DUI attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation. Remember, even superheroes could be charged with drunk driving, but that doesn’t mean they are guilty and you too can fight the charges.
Update: A few people have brought up Jarvis and argued that because he helps to control the suit, Tony couldn’t be charged with drunk driving. While Jarvis does, in fact, help quite a bit, Tony is still the operator of the suit, and just like claiming you can’t get a DUI because your car was on cruise control or autopilot, this defense probably wouldn’t be successful.
Creative Commons Image by tangi bertin