Yes, if you are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol while riding a bicycle, you can be stopped in all states. If a person is acting in an intoxicated manner, police officers have the authority and responsibility to hold that person if it is thought that they are a danger to themselves or others.
All states and jurisdictions permit some form of public intoxication or endangerment offense. In many circumstances, police officers have the choice and responsibility to hold someone who is thought to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and poses a threat or danger to themselves or others. As a result, anyone riding a bike who looks to be significantly impaired due to alcohol intoxication can get a DUI charge.
Driving Under the Influence regulations differ by state, but there are a few generalizations we can make. DUI is defined as having 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in the blood (blood alcohol level) or being under the influence of and impaired by alcohol or another restricted substance.
Intoxication is an observable state, which means that it is normally up to the police officer or other witnesses to determine if additional testing of the person suspected of being inebriated is necessary.
In most states, the first DUI conviction is a misdemeanor, whether by automobile or by bike (in states where the DUI laws apply anyway).
The issue for people trying to determine whether they should be concerned about DUI or not (or who may have been charged with DUI when they believe they should not have been) is whether the bike is defined as a vehicle or not because most DUI laws are based on the concept of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
The Problems With DUI and Cycling
DUIs and bikes go hand in together. Although many states consider bikes to be vehicles for the purposes of DUI, the truth is that a drunk cyclist will generally cause far less havoc than a drunk car.
In addition, inebriated cyclists get into fewer accidents than drunk drivers. As a result, proponents frequently argue that there should be a separate body of law that deals solely with riding under the influence (or BUI), rather than ignoring it or lumping it in with driving under the influence.
A few states have taken steps in this direction, but for the time being, intoxicated cyclists are either treated as DUIs or are stopped by police officers and given a ride to a safe location with no actual consequences.
This does not imply that you will be let off the hook if you cycle intoxicated. Drunk bikers cause more accidents and injuries, and it’s much easier to get hit by a car or hit pedestrians.
Officers can still impound your bike, pull you off the road, or otherwise prevent you from cycling if they believe you are a hazard to others.
State Biking Under the Influence Laws
|State||Does DUI Apply to Bikes?|
|California||No, but California has other laws that make it illegal to ride on a bike while under the influence. So, it’s not under vehicle DUI, but cyclists can still get in trouble for it under their own laws.|
|Delaware||No, but it is illegal to ride a bike on the road while under the influence of drugs or alcohol if it would create a hazard.|
|District of Columbia||Yes|
|Kentucky||No, but the law does prohibit people under the influence from operating unmotorized vehicles.|
|Louisiana||No (Court ruled)|
|South Dakota||Yes and even specifies bikes|
|Texas||Technically yes; however, charges are rarely pursued.|
|Utah||Yes, but it’s hardly ever enforced|
|Washington||No, the court ruled. Police can offer to take a drunk cyclist to a safe location and/or impound a bike if the cyclist is perceived as a danger to the public. The impounded bike can later be retrieved for free|
How to Manage Being Pulled Over While Biking While Impaired
If you are ever pulled over by the police while riding your bicycle, there is a process you should strive to follow in order to keep your safety. Keep in mind that if you are pulled over on suspicion of being impaired while riding your bike, you will most likely be subjected to the same roadside testing as if you were driving a car.
While an officer is needed to show reasonable suspicion for pulling you over and probable cause for arresting you, it is in your best advantage to just obey their directions whether you agree or not. If you were wrongfully stopped, you can deal with it afterward. However, it is critical for your safety that you follow all protocols requested during the initial stop.
The actions outlined here are a decent protocol to follow if you are pulled over by police while riding.
- Pull safely to the side of the road and await further instructions.
- Maintain your cool and be courteous to the police.
- Keep your hands visible at all times and avoid any unexpected movements.
- Say as little as possible and avoid admitting fault.
Upon your release by the officer and arrival at your destination, jot down all you remember about the incident. If you decide to contest the charge, you will need this information.
What Are the Definitions of Biking DUI Laws?
DUI laws vary by state, but in general, a person commits a DUI crime by driving on a highway or on public property and:
- has 0. 08 percent or more alcohol by weight in their blood, or
- is intoxicated (impaired by) alcohol or a controlled substance
Some states’ statutes apply exclusively to motor vehicles, but other states’ laws apply to all vehicles. In jurisdictions where DUI rules apply to all vehicles, it is often possible to receive a DUI on a bike because a bicycle is normally considered a vehicle.
In Oregon, for example, a “vehicle” is any device that transports or draws a person or object on a public highway. Whatever vehicle that is pushed or powered by any means is included in the term. Oregon’s vehicle code specifies that a bicycle is a type of vehicle in its definition of “bicycle.”
Other jurisdictions, like California, define a vehicle as an instrument capable of moving on a public roadway or by which any person or property may be conveyed or drawn on a public highway, including bicycles.
In most states, a first DUI conviction is a misdemeanor, regardless of whether it is committed on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle.
Most states that have DUI statutes that relate to bicycles have the same punishments for both bicycle and motor vehicle DUIs. Fines, probable jail time, driver’s license suspension, community service, probation, substance addiction evaluation and treatment, and installation of an ignition interlock device may be the penalty depending on the state.
However, several states have unique punishments for DUI convictions on bicycles. In some places, bike DUI sanctions may be slightly less severe than motor vehicle DUI fines and may involve additional repercussions such as bicycle impoundment that are better appropriate to the nature of the offense.
In jurisdictions where bike DUIs are legal, a conviction will normally count as a DUI prior if the driver is convicted of another DUI in the future. Hence, when it comes to prior convictions, bike and car DUIs are typically viewed the same.
Other Charges that Drunk Bikers Might Face
Whether or not bikers are subject to DUI laws, riding a bike while inebriated on public streets or facilities open to the public can result in criminal prosecution. For example, an inebriated bicycle rider could face charges of public intoxication or irresponsible driving.
Did You Get a DUI While Riding a Bike? Consult With an Experienced DUI Lawyer.
We hope you found this material useful and got a better knowledge of OVI and DUI rules as they apply to bikes. While we hope you never find yourself in a situation where this knowledge is required, we hope it provides insight into how to appropriately address a potential OVI or DUI charge as a biker if you do.
If you have a DUI or OVI charge as a biker and still have questions, you are not alone. Consult with an experienced DUI/OVI attorney now for expert information and guidance in your situation.
Biking under the influence can be difficult to navigate and describe because bikes aren’t traditionally thought of as vehicles or as something dangerous to ride. It’s further complicated by the fact that many people may ride their bike home from a party or a club while drunk, believing it to be safer than driving.
It is also true that a cyclist cannot bring the same level of harm to society as a drunk driver. However, drunk cyclists pose a risk to themselves, other cyclists, pedestrians, and, yes, drivers, because they become more unpredictable.
As you can see, several states do not consider bikes to be a part of their DUI legislation; nonetheless, your bike can still be confiscated or taken off the road for being a hazard to others.
There is a tiny push for ‘BUIs’ (Biking Under the Influence), but it has only taken off in a few states, such as Washington (and even then, the penalties are just impoundment and transportation to a safe place).
Overall, while riding a bike while drunk is not prohibited, it is not recommended. It’s simpler to get into accidents, harder to pay attention to what you’re doing, and you’re more likely to endanger others.
If you’ve been drinking, take an Uber or a safe transport home or locate a safe location to stay, and leave your bike chained up.
Is There a Safe Drinking Level?
Despite common ideas of possibly favorable health impacts, an increasing number of treatment specialists believe that any amount of drinking, no matter how tiny, may have negative consequences. In average, 1 or 2 standard alcoholic drinks per week are “safe” or, at the very least, not problematic—though even this number is debatable. Although there is no definitive response to queries concerning the potential implications of even one drink, scientists are learning more about this powerful chemical every day.
Does alcohol have the same effect on everyone?
Everyone’s reaction to alcohol is unique. The effects of alcohol can differ depending on age, gender, body weight, metabolism, tolerance, physical health, mental status, and other individual characteristics. Even if two persons consume the same amount of alcohol, they are likely to experience relatively distinct subjective effects as well as a differential impact on their respective health and well-being.
What Constitutes Intoxication?
While the same quantity of drinks can affect everyone differently, there is a clear legal distinction when it comes to alcohol intoxication for public safety considerations. When a person’s blood-alcohol level (BAC) is 0.08 percent or greater, they are considered legally impaired or “intoxicated.” This is the legal limit for driving under the influence (DUI) as well as the BAC threshold for binge drinking (i.e., roughly 4-5 drinks within a 2-hour period to reach a BAC of .08).