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.
Generally, a DUI offense has two parts:
However, both of these parts require a little more explanation.
DUI laws vary by state, but generally, a person commits a DUI offense by driving on a highway or premises open to the public:
So, generally, you can be convicted of a DUI based on BAC (called a "per se" DUI) or actual impairment.
Some states also have per se DUI laws that apply to drugs. In these states, you can be convicted of a DUI based on the actual concentration of certain drugs in your system.
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.
In states that have DUI laws that specifically apply only to "motor vehicles," you can't get a DUI on a bike unless it's motorized.
In all states, the penalties for a DUI conviction depend primarily on the number of prior DUI convictions the offender has. Generally, the possible penalties you'll face for a bike DUI are the same as those for any other DUI offense.
However, there's a good chance that judges and prosecutors are apt to be more lenient in DUI cases involving bikes because they involved a lot less danger and risk to others.
In some states, DUI convictions stay on your record and count as prior convictions forever. But the majority of states have what is often called a "washout period." DUI convictions that are older than the washout don't count as prior convictions.
For example, some states have a washout period of ten years for DUI convictions. In these states, DUIs that occurred more than ten years ago don't count as prior convictions.
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.
A first DUI conviction is a misdemeanor in most states regardless of whether it's committed on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle. However, many states classify DUIs are felonies if the driver has two or three prior convictions.
Aggravating factors such as causing serious injuries or deaths (which are probably pretty rare in bike DUI cases) can also elevate a DUI to a felony.
In most states, a DUI conviction carries fines of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, possible jail time of up to a year (or more if it's a felony DUI), and license suspension (from about six months to several years in most cases). DUI offenders might also be required to complete a period of probation, complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and install an ignition interlock device (IID).
Although some of the penalties (such as license suspension and having to install an IID) aren't directly related to riding a bike, most states don't differentiate between motor vehicles and bike DUIs in terms of penalties.
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.
If you've been arrested for driving or biking under the influence, you should get in contact with a knowledgeable DUI attorney in your area. A qualified DUI lawyer can help you understand how the law applies to your case and assist you in choosing the best course of action.