The nuance of drunk driving laws often varies from region to region. States have different sentencing practices, penalties for repeat offenders and definitions of important legal terms. While it is never advisable to operate any kind of vehicle when under the influence of alcohol, the police's ability to arrest an individual for a DUI when riding a bicycle is entirely dependant on the laws of the state.
All motorized vehicles - including cars, trucks, scooters, motorcycles and golf carts - are illegal to operate under the influence of alcohol. In some states, a bicycle is considered a vehicle on par with a motor vehicle, and DUI laws are equally applicable to bicycle operation as they are to driving.
In urban areas where bicyclists are often required to adhere to the rules of the road just as autos are, DUI standards are likely to pertain to bicyclists, at least on the surface. Some DUI lawyers note that while the letter of the law may include bicycles in its definition of a "vehicle," the intent of the law is to require cyclists to stop at red lights, yield to pedestrians, and follow the flow of traffic. Additionally, the most common punishment for a DUI, the loss of license, doesn't pertain to cyclists because you don't need a license to ride a bike.
Sometimes this is a question of law enforcement's attitude toward intoxicated cycling, and it may largely be a question of safety and environment. In a busy city with a large student population, for instance, law enforcement may want to limit public intoxication as much as possible, and detain cyclists for DUI. In a rural area, it may be acceptable to cycle home following a few drinks at a party. Most laws allow for some leeway, and attitudes may be a product of risk assessment.
Despite the gray areas, in places where riding a bicycle while intoxicated may fall under the letter of the law, but is subject to interpretation, remember that a number of laws, including disturbing the peace and public intoxication will apply regardless of your mode of transportation, and it is best not to rely on a bicycle technicality.
Additionally, it is extremely dangerous to ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol. The levels of concentration required to navigate traffic in an exposed position can be extremely taxing, and any amount of diminished awareness or response puts the rider in danger.
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Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I am twenty years of age. I was arrested for a California DUI. I am wondering what will happen to me now and what steps I need to take. Do I need to talk to a DUI lawyer?”