You might think you’ll outsmart the police the next time you go out drinking by riding your ten-speed instead of driving your car. Well, here’s some news that’s going to put the kibosh on that idea quick. You can still get a DUI when riding your bike. In fact, you can get a DUI while operating anything that the law considers a vehicle. In California, that could be a bicycle, a tricycle, a unicycle, or even a horse! That’s right: There was a recent case in San Francisco that involved a man being charged with DUI after he mounted a horse and rode it a few blocks. He was also charged with animal cruelty and a laundry list of other infractions that stemmed from his actions while under the influence.
In California, there is a special law specifically for cycling under the influence (CUI), Cal. Veh. Code § 21200.5: “Notwithstanding Section 21200, 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 pursuant to Section 23612, and, if so requested, the arresting officer shall have the test performed. A conviction of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250). Violations of this section are subject to Section 13202.5.”
As mentioned before, this statute is applicable to all non-motorized vehicles and livestock. If you can ride it, the cycling law can be applied to it.
There are no specific limits in regard to blood alcohol content (BAC) level when it comes to a CUI. It is left completely to the discretion of the arresting officer. However, there are some protocols that must be adhered to for the CUI arrest to be deemed valid. These include watching you for an adequate amount of time before determining that you are indeed under the influence. Fifteen minutes is a standard that has been used in the court system in cases such as this. Since very few officers will observe a single subject for this length of time, it can be argued that there was not sufficient probable cause to pull over the cyclist. Of course, if you managed to crash your bike during that time, this 15-minute guide would not be applicable.
If you are apprehended for CUI, you can request that a BAC test be performed. This could be a very important piece of evidence for you to have should you wish to fight the infraction. This is another place where there are strict procedural guidelines outlined in Title 17. If any of the outlined procedures are not met, the blood alcohol test can be deemed inaccurate and the results removed from evidence.
If you or a loved one has been charged with CUI, document the incident in as much detail as you can remember and call an attorney right away. Because the arrest is discretionary, there is a good chance that a proficient lawyer can help.
By Ted Burgess