21200.5 …It is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. Any person arrested for a violation of this section may request to have a chemical test made of the person’s blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic or drug content of that person’s blood… A conviction of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
California treats cycling under the influence very different than other types of DUI offenses. In most cases, riding a bicycle while intoxicated is a misdemeanor criminal offense with a maximum $250 fine and no jail time. VC 21200.5 is the law that governs this offense.
Notable differences between VC 21200.5 and other DUI laws include:
- No specific “legal limit” is given. In car DUIs, the legal limit for intoxication is .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), but in bicycle cases, intoxication is often proved through indirect evidence such as a flushed face, erratic cycling, or the smell of alcohol.
- No drivers license suspension. Most DUIs, even boating DUIs, affect your drivers license, but a cycling DUI does not. The only exception is if you are under 21 years of age, in which case your license will be suspended for 1 year (or delayed by 1 year, if you don’t have a license yet).
- Blood and breath tests. In most DUIs, police will ask you to do a preliminary breath test during the traffic stop, then require a second test after the arrest. This is uncommon in cycling DUIs. It’s so uncommon, in fact, that the law specifically says you have the right to request such a test—presumably so you can use it to prove you weren’t intoxicated. If you request this test, the officer must comply.
What are the penalties for cycling under the influence?
Aside from the $250 fine, there are no formal legal penalties for cycling under the influence in California. However, the charge is not just a traffic ticket; it’s a misdemeanor criminal offense. If you are convicted of cycling under the influence, you will have to report this crime on most job applications and college applications. And although the offense is minor, it looks bad because it involves alcohol. This is why many people choose to fight the charge. See our complete guide to beating a cycling DUI charge here.
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