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Bicycle DUI

I've heard that I can be cited for DUI and lose my driver's license if I'm stopped by a police officer while riding a bicycle on a public street. Is this true?

By
Michael W. Flynn
3-minute read

First, a disclaimer: Although I am an attorney, the legal information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, I do not intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any listener.   

 

This past week, I received a legal question whose answer, not only did I not know, I probably should as an avid (if slightly incompetent) cyclist. Tyler from Michigan wrote:

 
I've heard that I can be cited for DUI and lose my driver's license if I'm stopped by a police officer while riding a bicycle on a public street. Is this true?
 

Well, Tyler, it is generally not a good idea to operate any kind of mechanical transportation, motorized or not, while under the influence of alcohol. But, the short answer is that most states consider bikes and motorized vehicles differently for the purposes of DUI statutes.

 

Statutes prohibiting the drunken operation of vehicles or motor vehicles have long existed throughout the country. At the same time, persons riding bicycles are generally held to be governed by the same rules as persons riding or driving any other type of vehicle. The combination of these two facts has on occasion forced the courts to consider whether a person operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol may be charged under a drunk-driving statute.

 

Most drunk-driving statutes proscribe the operation of a “vehicle,” so the starting point for a court reviewing a DUI conviction is the definition of the word “vehicle.” Courts in Ohio, Florida, Oregon, Hawaii, and Colorado have interpreted “vehicle” to include both vehicles that are motorized and vehicles that are powered by humans. So, the courts affirmed the convictions of driving under the influence on the basis of operating a bicycle in those states. However, most states do not apply the penalties related to a driver’s license for a conviction based on operating a bicycle.

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