Can You Get Arrested for Riding a Bicycle While Drunk?

We all know that driving a vehicle under the influence can get you in trouble in California. You may face jail time, probation, license revocation and other serious consequences. But, what about riding your bicycle while under the influence of alcohol? Can you get in trouble for that? The short answer is: Yes, you can get in trouble. The part of the California Vehicle Code, which classifies riding a bicycle under the influence as a crime was actually added only in 1985.

Under California Vehicle Code, while bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles, the bicycle by itself does not fall within the definition of a vehicle. Therefore, it is not subject to DUI laws. The law takes into account that you cannot cause as much injury or harm to another while riding a bicycle under the influence as you would driving a vehicle while under the influence. California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 makes it illegal for any individual to operate a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Proving Cycling Under the Influence

The crime of riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is typically charged as a misdemeanor unless you caused serious injuries or severe damage. In order to prove that you committed this particular offense, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you were, in fact, riding the bicycle. This means that the prosecutor must not only show that you were riding a bike, but that it was exclusively powered by you and not a motor. A bicycle as defined under this section of the law cannot be motorized. If you were riding a motorized scooter or a motorized bicycle, you would be subject to driving under the influence or DUI laws.
  • That you were riding the bicycle on a “highway,” which is defined as a public roadway. If you were riding on the sidewalk, you will still be charged the same way as if you were riding on a highway or public roadway. Examples of locations that are not highways or public roadways include private roads and driveways.
  • Finally, the prosecutor must prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you have been arrested on suspicion of riding a bicycle under the influence, the investigating officer may request a blood sample to determine your blood alcohol level or BAC. Just like motorists, bicyclists who drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher are considered to be cycling while intoxicated.

Defending the Charges

While you may not receive jail time for cycling under the influence, you will face a fine of up to $250. But, more importantly, this is a misdemeanor crime. If you are under 21 and above the age of 13, you may lose your driver’s license for a year or if you don’t have a license, may be delayed from getting one for a year. If you have been charged with riding a bicycle under the influence, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced California DUI defense lawyer who can help defend the charges and help uphold your rights.