Can You Get a DUI While Riding a Bicycle?
Cycling accidents are responsible for 751 deaths every year in the US alone. This figure hit an all-time high of 1,260 in 2020 and has been on the rise since then.
Bicycling has become a great source of leisure and transportation. Thanks to the COVID-19 induced fear of crowded public transport, people now prefer cheaper and more private means.
With more people riding bicycles, questions about DUIs and how it affects bicyclists have become recurring. People want to know the rules that govern cycling under the influence of alcohol or drug intoxication.
The answer is yes; some US states issue DUIs to cyclists. Keep reading to understand the laws and the dangers of breaking this law.
Can You Get a DUI on a Bike?
Riding or driving under the influence of alcohol is wrong. You’re putting your life and that of others around you in danger.
Besides the physical danger, you can also get arrested for it. In the US, most state laws are yet to have definite guidelines to tackle drunk cyclists, but there are still ways to charge the offenders.
California and South Dakota are two states with definite DUI laws for cyclists.
South Dakota has one of the harshest cycling DUI laws in the US. Cyclists caught riding under the influence will be treated the same as vehicle drivers driving under the influence.
Essentially, bicycles and vehicles are in the same category, and offenders will face the same penalties like fines, revoked licenses, and jail time.
In California, the laws are less harsh. Bicycles aren’t classified under vehicles in DUI laws. However, law enforcement can stop any cyclist and conduct a test to determine whether alcohol or drugs are present in their bodies.
If found guilty after a DUI arrest, perpetrators may be fined $250 and will most likely spend a night in jail. Other states don’t have specific laws like this. But erring cyclists can be arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and public intoxication.
Fines for public intoxication are usually $1,000 or more, and the offenders can also serve 30 to 60 days of jail time. Bicycling is generally supposed to be a fun and safe experience. It’s not advisable to ride a bike when drunk; choose alternative transport modes, preferably one where you aren’t in control of the vehicle, to avoid accidents or run-ins with the law.
How Are Cycling DUI Laws Defined?
Every state has its own DUI law. However, a biker commits a DUI offense when they cycle on a public highway or any place that’s open to the public while:
1. Having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher, the legal standard of drunkenness
2. Impaired or under the influence of drugs (even those prescribed by a physician)
Although these stipulations are for vehicles, most interpretations cover bicycles. For example, Oregon defines a vehicle as any device that a person can use to transport themself on a public highway or premises.
According to this meaning, a bicycle falls under the vehicle category. Other states have their definitions, and most support DUI charges for bicyclists.
A cyclist can also be charged with public intoxication if caught. Public intoxication charges usually escalate to more intense indictments, and offenders can pay heavy fines or spend months in jail.
Most states don’t have specific laws for bicycle DUI, and the offender will most likely get charged with Vehicle DUI laws if caught. Each state has its penalties, ranging from jail time to fines, community service, and driver’s license suspension.
For states with specific laws on bicycle DUI offenses, a conviction will most likely result in the offender losing their bike to seizure or paying minor fines.
If it’s a first DUI case, a cycling offender will probably walk unless a person is killed or seriously injured.
States with bicycle DUI laws usually keep records of bicycle DUI offenses. If an offender gets convicted of their first vehicle DUI, it won’t count as the first.
In summary, DUI laws apply to both bicycles and motor vehicles.
Fighting a Bike DUI Charge
Defending a Bike DUI charge follows the same procedure as a vehicle DUI charge.
For example, if a cyclist gets charged for riding a bicycle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, they could argue the integrity of the blood or breath test. The cyclist could also claim to be a victim of an illegal police search or an unlawful police stop.
Prosecutors who handle bicycle DUI offenses are rarely harsh. In most cases, the prosecutors will offer a light plea bargain. Compared to other DUI cases, bicycle DUI plea bargains are favorable.
The main aim of DUI laws is to help keep everyone safe from dangerous accidents and serious injuries that may occur due to drunk driving. Bicycles rarely pose a significant threat to people’s lives, so prosecutors are usually more lenient towards such DUI cases.
The Bottom Line
Several things could go wrong riding a bicycle under the influence. For starters, you risk hurting yourself and the people around you. While drunk or intoxicated, your behavior can lead to people reporting you for disorderly conduct, a criminal offense. If you find yourself in such a scenario, it’d be best to contact a DUI attorney to help you get a less sentence.
We hope this article has helped clear up some of the confusion around bicycle DUIs and provided you with a better understanding of the law. If you have any additional questions or comments, we would love to hear from you! In the meantime, be sure to stay safe and obey all traffic laws when riding your bike – no matter your location.
What States Can You Get a DUI on a Bicycle?
States like South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Oregon have specific laws for drunk bicycle riders. There are about 15 other states with such laws.
Can You Get a DUI on a Bicycle in Kentucky?
No, but it’s illegal to operate any vehicle under the influence of alcohol, including bicycles.