DUI is commonly associated with motor vehicles such as cars and trucks, but cycling under the influence (CUI) is also a chargeable violation. California treats cycling under the influence differently from 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.
There are important consequences of being charged with a cycling DUI that can affect your freedoms, even though it may seem like a simple offense. Having an experienced California cycling DUI attorney on your side could make the difference in whether you have a criminal record or not.
How a Cycling DUI is Different from a Regular DUI
California Vehicle Code §21200.5 governs cycling DUIs and varies slightly from other DUI laws in three main ways:
- No specific “legal limit” is given: In automobile 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 driver’s license suspension: Most DUIs, even boating DUIs, affect your driver’s 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 do not have a license yet).
- Rarely conducted 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 so uncommon in cycling DUIs that the law specifically states you have the right to request such a test.
Penalties for Cycling Under the Influence
Most cyclists ride for exercise or as a climate-friendly way to run errands and commute to work. If you decide to use your bike as a means of avoiding the risks of drinking and driving, you can still cause injury or damage. You can also be subject to a cycling DUI charge if you are drunk and ride your bike home after a night at a bar.
Likewise, using illegal drugs and bicycling could impair your judgment enough that you swerve through neighborhood streets or forget to obey traffic signs. Regardless of the circumstances, cycling DUIs are less serious than when driving a car, but are still considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. California law requires payment of a $250 fine for cycling DUI but does not impose any other formal legal penalties.
Because it is recorded as a criminal offense, you will have to report this crime on most job applications and college applications if you are convicted. Although the offense is minor, it can reflect poorly on you because it involves alcohol or drugs. Depending on the circumstances, the police officer may also decide to add further charges, such as public intoxication. This is why many people choose to fight the charge.
Bike Share Programs, Electric Bikes, and DUIs
The advent of bike-sharing programs in California, such as Gobike and Lime, means people may be tempted to use a bicycle instead of driving home from a night out drinking. Bike shares are usually less expensive than calling a cab or ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft. However, being drunk and in charge of a bicycle can still lead to injury or arrest.
While there are no current specific laws about DUI while using an electric bicycle, it stands to reason that most police officers would apply the bicycle DUI code since electric bikes are predominantly human-powered. However, in the case of more powerful electric bicycles or gas-powered scooters, there is a risk the prosecutor could decide to pursue a standard DUI charge. This would result in greater fines and penalties equivalent to what a driver would face having driven an automobile.
Knowing what your rights are and how to interpret the law to your advantage can be confusing. That is when you will need the help of a qualified California cycling DUI attorney.
Defenses Against a Cycling DUI Charge
For many riders, an arrest for a DUI while cycling may not be a concern. It may be tempting to simply pay the $250 fine, but what is more serious is the fact that you will then have a criminal record. Cycling under the influence can sometimes affect your driving history when you are back behind the wheel of your car.
Fighting the charge is well worth the effort since it can usually be defeated. Some common defenses used against a cycling DUI include:
- Showing proof that you were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Demonstrating that you were not riding on a public street or road.
- Arguing that the police officer did not have probable cause to stop you.
- Providing evidence that a field sobriety test was improperly administered.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are designed for the driver to fail them. There can be other means of arguing against the validity of a walk-and-turn test result. Some examples are: if you have impaired vision or a balance disorder, if the test was administered at night with little ambient light, or if you had been cycling a long time and were physically exhausted.
Remember, you can request a chemical breath, blood, or urine test as proof that you were not intoxicated. Additionally, if you request a blood or urine test, those will be conducted at the police station. Since your body will continue to absorb alcohol while you are transported there, it is possible that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be undetectable by the time a sample is taken.
Further, you can attempt to avoid the legal requirement that you be on a highway during the cycling DUI. A highway is any public road or street, so the code would not apply if you are riding on a private road or driveway.
You Can Beat Your Cycling DUI
Have you been charged with CUI? It can be worth your while to fight the charge by hiring an experienced Los Angeles cycling DUI lawyer. Contact us using our online form and get your free consultation today.