If you have had too much to drink, you risk being subjected to a DUI prosecution when you get behind the wheel of a car or motorcycle. While riding home on your bicycle is a safer alternative, California law makes DUI on a bicycle a misdemeanor.
Walking, taking a taxi, or riding with a designated driver are the best ways to travel if you might be impaired by alcohol.
The bad news is that a section 21200.5 VC conviction counts as a misdemeanor and therefore gives a convicted defendant a criminal record.
Even if it is eventually expunged, a 20200.5 VC conviction must be disclosed on most applications for professional licenses or government employment. A conviction can also lead to a driver’s license suspension if the rider is under the age of 21.
Before you decide to accept the consequences of a drunk bicycling conviction, get advice from an experienced bike DUI lawyer. By asserting appropriate defenses and engaging in negotiations, the criminal consequences of a drunk biking conviction might be avoided. We discuss some of those defense strategies below, but every case is different.
To learn more about how your case can be defended, call The Law Offices of Randy Collins at (888) 250-2865.
To establish a violation of 21200.5 VC, the prosecution must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt. The first is that the accused individual was riding a bicycle. California law defines a bicycle as a wheeled vehicle that is propelled by human power.
If you are riding something that has a motor, you can be charged under California’s DUI law for drivers of motor vehicles, or under a separate law that applies to motorized scooters.
A bicycle is also defined as having a chain, belt, or gears. A skateboard is therefore not a bicycle.
The bike does not need to belong to the rider. For example, if you rent a bicycle from one of the DecoBike stations in San Diego that rents bicycles for shared public use, the San Diego police can arrest you for cycling under the influence if you begin pedaling after drinking too much alcohol.
Whether someone is riding a bicycle is usually clear, so the first fact is one that the prosecution can typically prove. In some cases, however, a police officer might only see the rider pushing a bicycle. Pushing is not riding. In other cases, a police officer might not catch the rider in the act of riding, creating the possibility of mistaken identity when the officer tickets the alleged rider at a later time.
The second fact the prosecution must prove is that the accused was riding on a public road or path that is maintained for vehicular travel. Most streets easily meet that definition. So do bike paths that are maintained by a city or other governmental entity.
On the other hand, the law does not apply to private roads, lawns, and driveways. “Drunk cycling” down a hill in a public park would not violate the law unless the rider is on a path that is designed for bicycles or other vehicles. When the police can only say that the rider was on private property or on public property that is not maintained for vehicular travel, the bicyclist will have a defense to the charge of cycling under the influence.
Third, the prosecution must prove that the rider was under the influence of alcohol or a drug. A rider is under the influence when, due to the consumption of an intoxicating substance, the rider is so impaired that he or she cannot operate a bicycle with the same care as a sober person who is riding cautiously under similar circumstances.
The presumption that a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 is evidence of impairment does not apply to 21200.5 VC. For that reason, if a police officer administers a breath test, the prosecution will probably need to call an expert to testify about the relationship between the rider’s blood alcohol concentration and the rider’s ability to ride carefully.
When a defense attorney puts up a fight, many prosecutors will decide the effort of calling an expert witness is not worth it.
Section 21200.5 VC allows a rider who has been arrested for cycling under the influence to request a chemical test (usually a breath or blood test). If the police refuse that request, a defense lawyer can probably get the charge dismissed based on the officer’s failure to comply with the statute.
On the other hand, if a rider asks for the test and the results shows a high blood alcohol concentration, the rider may be creating evidence that will strengthen the prosecution’s case. Unless a rider is confident that the test result will be low or zero, it may be better not to request the test.
That gives the defense attorney the opportunity to challenge the arresting officer’s conclusion that the rider was under the influence.
The Law Offices of Randy Collins represents bicycle riders who are charged with cycling under the influence in Orange and Riverside Counties, as well as all Southern California communities, including Los Angeles and San Diego.
As a former prosecutor, Randy Collins understands that an aggressive defense will often motivate prosecutors to dismiss or reduce cycling under the influence charges.
Criminal convictions harm reputations and careers. Helping clients avoid criminal convictions for drunk bicycling and other offenses is the first priority of The Law Offices of Randy Collins. Call (888) 250-2865 to learn more about the defense strategies that can be used to help you with your charge of bike DUI.