Can You Get a DUI on a Bicycle?
Yes, you can get stopped for riding a bicycle if you are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol in all states. If an individual is exhibiting behavior that indicates they are extremely intoxicated, police officers have the right and responsibility to detain that person if it is suspected that they are danger to themselves or others.
All states and jurisdictions allow for some type of offense related to public intoxication or endangerment. Police officers have the option and responsibility in many cases to detain an individual who is believed to pose a threat or danger to themselves or others as a result of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thus, in general, anyone riding a bicycle who appears to be severely impaired as a result of alcohol intoxication could be arrested.
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Anyone, in any state, who is arrested for being intoxicated and who tests with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above the 0.08% is defined as being legally intoxicated. When the tests used to measure a person’s BAC are at or above this level, the person is formally defined as being legally intoxicated, whether they exhibit physical signs of intoxication or not. Sometimes, attorneys can challenge test results depending on the circumstances, but this is rare. Typically, exhibiting a BAC of 0.08% or above is considered to be definitive evidence that the individual is legally intoxicated.
In many states, the definition of what actually qualifies as a DUI or related offense (e.g., DUIL, OUI, etc.) is dependent on the legal wording of the law within the statutes of the state. The specific issue is how the state defines the term vehicle within their statutes. Some states define a vehicle as any and all devices that are capable of being moved or transporting people. Some states may explicitly include bicycles in their definition of vehicles in DUI offenses. Other states specifically define these offenses occurring during the use of a “motor vehicle.”
States that simply define these offenses using the term vehicle can interpret the use of a bicycle and any other form of transportation as falling under the statute of a DUI or other similar offense. For example, one of the states that is commonly mentioned when discussing the possibility of being arrested for DUI offense while riding a bicycle is California. California laws treat bicyclists the same as they treat individuals who operate motor vehicles with regard to traffic violations and DUI offenses.
States that have a more restricted definition of vehicle, such as “motor vehicle,” or that define specific circumstances that relate to the vehicle as having a motor, are less able to charge someone on a bicycle with a DUI offense; however, an individual on a non-motorized vehicle who is intoxicated may still be charged with some form of public intoxication or even an endangerment offense. There are cases where individuals have been charged with DUIs due to operating motorized lawnmowers, golf carts, and bicycles. Again, it depends on the state’s definition of the term vehicle. In these cases, the penalties and sanctions associated with the offense are the same as if the person had been driving an automobile. In order to find out how a particular state defines a vehicle, access the state’s website, and read the definitions and specifications associated with these particular offenses.
Because individuals who ride bicycles share the same roadways with individuals using motor vehicles, people riding bicycles in public who are legally intoxicated should expect to be arrested and charged with the offense appropriate to the state’s statutes. Whether or not the individual is charged with a DUI-type offense depends on the actual wording of the laws within the state’s statutes.