In many states, DUI (driving under the influence) laws apply to bicycle riders and the penalties for a bicycle DUI are often the same as those for a motor vehicle DUI. This article provides an overview of how DUI laws apply to bicycle riders and the consequences of riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
DUI laws vary by state, but generally, a person commits a DUI offense by driving on a highway or premises open to the public and:
The statutes of some states specifically apply only to motor vehicles, while the laws of other states apply to all vehicles. In states with DUI laws applying to all vehicles, it's generally possible to get a DUI on a bike because a bicycle usually falls under the definition of a vehicle.
For example, in Oregon, a "vehicle" is defined as any device by which a person or property may be transported or drawn upon a public highway. The definition includes any vehicle that is propelled or powered by any means. In its definition of "bicycle," Oregon's vehicle code also makes clear that a bicycle is considered a type of vehicle.
Similarly, other states define a vehicle as every device capable of being moved on a public highway or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a public highway—including bicycles.
Most states that apply DUI laws to bicycles have the same penalties for bicycle and motor vehicle DUIs alike. These penalties vary by state but may include: fines, possible jail time, driver's license suspension, community service, probation, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and installation of an ignition interlock device.
However, some states have penalties specific to DUI convictions on bicycles. In these states, the bike DUI penalties might be slightly less severe than their motor vehicle counterparts and include other consequences like bicycle impoundment that are more tailored to the nature of the offense.
In states that have bike DUIs, a conviction will generally count as a DUI prior if the driver is ever convicted of another DUI in the future. In other words, in terms of prior convictions, bike and motor vehicle DUIs are normally treated alike.
Whether or not bicyclists are subject to DUI laws, riding a bicycle on public streets or premises open to the public while intoxicated can lead to criminal charges. For example, an intoxicated bicycle rider could face public intoxication or reckless driving charges.