Laws & Penalties Biking While Intoxicated: Bicycles and DUI DWI Law

  1. Most people assume that DUI / DWI charges involve an impaired person driving a motor vehicle such as a car, motorcycle, truck or SUV. But what is the law with regard to non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles? Is there an offense such as biking while intoxicated?

    Understanding DUI / DWI Laws and Bicycles


    Laws concerning DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) vary between states. They may have DUI laws, DWI laws or both. And with regard to whether such charges apply to bicycles, it should not come as a surprise that there isn’t uniformity either. It is best to look at the current DUI / DWI law in your state since it may speak specifically on this issue of including or excluding bicycles. There is much debate on whether riding a bicycle while intoxicated is an issue important enough to merit policing. A bicycle doesn’t create nearly the same risk and severity of harm as a powered motor vehicle. And much of the time it is the drunk bicyclist who suffers the greatest injury. But it is not a stretch of the imagination to realize that this type of misconduct can cause car accidents and serious injury to others.

    Biking While Intoxicated Laws


    Some states have specifically excluded bicycles from DUI / DWI law. Others will treat cyclists the same as any other motor vehicle driver on the road. In such cases, intoxicated riders may be charged with a DUI / DWI offense and will follow the same legal process as motor vehicle drivers.

    California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 states that riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is unlawful.

    "...it is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. Any person arrested for a violation of this section may request to have a chemical test made of the person's blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic or drug content of that person's blood pursuant to Section 23612, and, if so requested, the arresting officer shall have the test performed."

    A conviction of V C Section 21200.5 is punishable by a fine of not more than $250. State DUI laws do not apply to bicycles.

    Arizona Transportation Law §28-812. Applicability of traffic laws to bicycle riders states that a bicycle rider is no different than the driver a motor vehicle, including DUI charges.

    “A person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title, except special rules in this article and except provisions of this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title that by their nature can have no application.”

    In South Dakota SDCL § 32-23-22, the legislature specifically excluded from the law unpowered, foot pedaling devices such as bicycles and tricycles.

    The courts in the State of New Jersey are split on the matter of bicycling while intoxicated. They do seem to agree that should a defendant be convicted, there should be no loss of one’s driver’s license.

    How about drunken horseback riding? In Texas, two men were charged with a DWI for riding a horse while intoxicated. A man was also arrested in Colorado for riding a horse while drunk, while on his way to his brother’s wedding in Utah.

    Hybrid Bikes and Non-Street Legal Vehicles


    What about motor vehicles such as mini-bikes, go-carts, mowers and golf cars that are not intended to be used on the roadways and don’t require a license to operate? State laws will vary and some carve out exceptions for these types of vehicles or make reference to inclusion. In the event you are unable to determine the law for yourself, experienced DUI / DWI lawyers should be able to help. This topic should be familiar to them as it relates directly to the nature of their legal practice.
    DUI & DWI Law:
    Charges - Drunk Biking

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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