Jeff Brown, a resident of Ohio, was walking his bicycle across his front yard when he was stopped by a police officer. The officer stated he smelled alcohol on Brown's breath and asked him to take a Breathalyzer. Brown refused and was subsequently charged and convicted of drunk driving, receiving four days in jail, a 6-month driver's license suspension and a criminal record. Although this may sound completely ludicrous, the laws in many states allow for those operating such "vehicles" as golf carts, lawn mowers, farm tractors and bicycles to fall under the same DUI laws as those driving a car.
Riding a Bicycle While Intoxicated
Is riding a bicycle while intoxicated a criminal act? Generally speaking the laws from state to state offer some variation of "A person is guilty of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state." The question then becomes, "What is a vehicle?" In Washington, a vehicle is defined as "including every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles. It's hard to imagine that you could find yourself facing stiff sentences for driving your bicycle home from a party after having a few beers, but it can happen. Even if your state does not allow for the charge of DUI if you are caught riding your bicycle while intoxicated, a police officer may still be able to charge you with public drunkenness or reckless driving.
The Language of the Law
If you have been arrested for DUI while riding your bicycle you must find an experienced DUI attorney who can argue not only the language of the law, but the intent of the legislature when creating the law. Your attorney will be aware that the legislature quite likely altered the definition of vehicles to include bicycles not for drunk driving purposes, but to include bicycles in traffic rules and regulations. In other words, the intent of the law was to ensure that bicyclists followed traffic rules, not to be able to cite inebriated bicycle riders for DUI. Additionally, most DUI related rules will include a reference to motor vehicles and state that the operator must have been exercising physical control over that motor vehicle.
From a rational standpoint, the penalty for drunk driving doesn't make sense for someone riding a bicycle. The main punishment for a DUI conviction is suspension of driving privileges, and riding a bicycle doesn't require a license. You must immediately find an attorney who knows the particular ins and outs of the DUI laws in your particular state or you could find yourself in the same boat as Jeff Brown.