Can I Get a DUI on a Bicycle?
What Constitutes a “Vehicle” for Purposes of Driving While Intoxicated Laws?
William C. Head, Atlanta DUI Attorney
As bicycles become more popular as a means of transportation, many people are concerned that they can be charged with driving under the influence while riding a bicycle. Because all drunk driving laws are state-specific, no one single answer exists to the question, “Can you get a DUI on a bike?”
DUI bicycle cases are very rare. State law defining what constitutes a vehicle will determine whether or not you can be DUI on bicycle or not. If state law is worded in a way that includes both motorized vehicles as well as non-motorized vehicles, then bicycles may be a proscribed method of transportation for drinking drivers. While it may seem that keeping drunken bicyclists off roadways is the primary purpose, DUI laws in each state are defined according to that state’s interpretation of where a DUI can be obtained.
For example, in Georgia a DUI can be issued anywhere within the state to a person who is driving a motor vehicle. Georgia law implicitly leaves out non-motorized vehicles in the description of what type of vehicle is covered by the drunk driving laws of Georgia.
Other states do not include the word “motor” in their DUI or DWI laws. In states such as this, any method of transportation, motorized or not, might be sufficient to trigger driving under the influence charges. Although a license is not required to ride a bicycle, a DUI on a bicycle can act as a first criminal offense against you in a state that does not permit anyone to drive drunk while operating a bicycle. Rather than leave the question to chance, some states such as California specifically exclude vehicles that are propelled by a human being.
Despite the fact that the law in Georgia does not cover bicycles, we have had clients arrested for DUI on a bicycle. One specific case happened in the Southern Tech parking lot in Cobb County, Georgia. Once the case was brought to us and certain pre-trial motions were filed, the drunk driving charge was dismissed.
Because the young man riding the bicycle was 17 years old, and due to the fact that he admitted consuming alcohol, he also faced a charge of underage possession of alcohol. This is a much less serious offense, and does not impact the person’s driver’s license. Like many of the other cases around the United States for which a person who was DUI on bicycle had been arrested, this young man had ridden his bicycle in a manner that impacted cars that were parked in the Southern Tech parking lot.
Two types of “bicycles” that may report a driving under the influence of alcohol charge is a Moped or motorized bicycle. Once a motor is added to any device that otherwise operated by human propulsion, you should assume that a DUI on a bicycle charge may be maintained against you.
So while a drunk driving bicycle charge may not lead to a conviction, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on a motorized bicycle can lead to the opposite result. Such a conviction may impact your ability to drive a car in your state, and could land you in a local jail for impaired driving.
Call us if you were arrested for riding a bicycle drunk. We have many ways to win this type of case.