Although DUI laws generally relate to motor vehicles, the laws in some states apply to drunk bicycling as well as drunk driving. In those states, if you ride a bicycle drunk, you face the same legal consequences you would if you were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Before you drink and pedal a bicycle, knowing how the drunk driving law in your state treats cyclists may be enough to get you in the habit of calling for a ride home instead.
When Bicycling Intoxicated Doesn't Break the Law
Some states only apply their DUI laws to motor vehicles. If the law specifically prohibits operating a motor vehicle while drunk, then it probably doesn't apply to bicycles. Courts often consider that a bicycle isn't intended for use on public streets and highways, so they aren't considered a vehicle. In some states, the DUI laws are written to specifically exclude bicycles.
But even in states that don't have laws against riding a bicycle drunk, you could be arrested for other related offenses, including disorderly conduct, reckless driving, and public drunkenness. A police officer can also take you into custody if there is concern that you are too drunk to ride your bicycle, which may lead to you taking unnecessary risks.
Drinking too much alcohol can impair your ability to ride a bicycle safely. Alcohol in the bloodstream affects your vision, balance, muscle coordination, judgment, and reaction time -- all skills you need to ride a bicycle.
When Bicycling Intoxicated Breaks the Law
If the language in a state's drunk driving law is more general and simply refers to driving a vehicle drunk, you could find yourself in legal trouble. In this case, the court considers a bicycle just another vehicle on the road to which the same laws apply.
If you live in a state that applies it drunk driving law to riding a bicycle drunk and you are arrested, you could do jail time and have to pay a hefty fine -- the same as if you were driving a motor vehicle. An arrest that leads to a conviction will leave you with a criminal record and show on your driving record.
Keep in mind that once you have a criminal history, other people can access the information. Employers, landlords, and volunteer organizations have the right to request criminal background checks.
In some states, a drunk driving conviction remains on your criminal record indefinitely. The conviction may also affect your insurance rates, or even your insurability, when an insurance company checks your driving record.
When There Are Separate Laws for Bicycling Under the Influence
While some states make drinking and riding a bicycle illegal, they have separate laws dealing with the issue. Riding a bicycle while under the influence isn't considered as serious an offense as driving drunk.
Although the offense is classified as a misdemeanor, it can still put a criminal conviction on your record. If you're under the legal drinking age for that state, you could also have your driver's license suspended. It doesn't matter you were riding a bicycle at the time of your arrest.
If you have more questions about whether riding a bicycle drunk would count as a DUI in your state, you may want to contact a local DUI lawyer from a firm like Hogan-Kimrey LLP Attorneys At Law.