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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Would California Ever Legalize Biking Under the Influence?

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Jun 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

We all know that driving under the influence in California is a crime, with extensive penalties for a DUI conviction. A driver found guilty of drunk driving will face a suspended license, thousands in fines, DUI school, and may even have an ignition interlock device in their car. Similarly, it is unlawful to ride a bike under the influence of alcohol in California. However, some cities like Wichita, Kansas are legalizing biking under the influence as an option to driving. Will California cities follow suit?

Political and public service efforts, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have made the laws against drunk driving relatively similar across the country. In most states, as in California, the legal limits of a per se DUI violation are 0.08% blood alcohol concentration, 0.04% for commercial drivers, and around 0.01% or 0.02% for underage drivers. However, the uniformity against drunk driving has not extended to bicycling under the influence. In some states, biking under the influence is considered legal.

Officials in Wichita, Kansas may consider repealing a law that bans bicycling under the influence. At the present time, it is not illegal in Kansas, but it is a violation under a Wichita city ordinance. Under state law, bicycles are not defined as vehicles because they are “moved by human power.” However, under city ordinance, bicycling under the influence is treated similarly to a vehicle DUI, including a mandatory 2-days in jail or community service, and a fine of up to $1,000.

Under California law, bicycling while intoxicated is a misdemeanor offense that usually results in a fine of about $250. (Vehicle Code 21200.5) Underage cyclists may have their license suspended. Even though these penalties are less severe than a motor vehicle DUI, the cyclist may still end up with a criminal record.

In South Dakota, lawmakers made horses and bicycles exempt from the state's DUI laws. This was based on the rationale that they would rather have an intoxicated individual take to the road on a bicycle or horse, where they may pose a danger to themselves, but they present a much lower risk of harming others.

Other states fall somewhere in between. In Arizona, police officers who come across a drunk cyclist may take the rider into custody for their own safety, and release them when they have sobered up. In Washington, police officers similarly will pick up an intoxicated bike rider, and take them somewhere safe. However, the cyclist will not face an arrest for biking under the influence. In other states, a drunk on a bike may be cited for public intoxication or disorderly conduct, and not specifically for biking under the influence.

Some states take the most extreme approach to bicycling under the influence. For example, in Colorado, biking while drunk is treated similarly to drunk driving. A bicycle is defined as a vehicle under Colorado law. A cyclist found to be riding with a BAC of 0.08% or higher can be charged with a DUI, with possible penalties including jail time and jail time. However, a cyclist will not have to deal with an administrative driver's license suspension.

Whether you received a misdemeanor bicycling while intoxicated charge, or a more serious DUI arrest, you don't want to end up with a criminal record. At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending drivers charged with a DUI in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a DUI conviction can affect your future, threaten your job, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a DUI, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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