Yes, You Can Be Arrested For Bicycle DUI

Vehicle Code 21200.5 VC

Most people are not aware that you can be arrested for riding a bike while over the legal alcohol limit for driving.

In fact:

California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC punishes a defendant for riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Below our DUI attorneys explain how this law is enforced.

What is Cycling Under the Influence?

Vehicle Code section 21200.5 defines this offense as follows: “…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.”

drinking alcohol on bicycyle

What Is The Penalty For Cycling Under The Influence?

A conviction of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $250.

drinking alcohol on bicycyle

However, as a result, the offender will have a misdemeanor on his/her record.

If you are under 21, but over 13, you may face additional penalties, such as a suspended driving privilege for a year, or delayed issuance of a license for a year.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove Cycling Under the Influence?

To prove that you are guilty of this offense, a prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements1

  • You were riding a bicycle2.
  • On a highway3. (This means a public road)
  • While under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both4.

How Is Biking Under The Influence and DUI Different?

The most important difference include the following:

  • There is no BAC limit for cycling under the influence the way there is for a DUI.
  • DUI is a priorable misdemeanor and CUI is an infraction with no risk of jail
  • A DUI will result in a license suspension and expensive fines and penalties including mandatory terms of probation.

Under the CUI laws, 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 requested, the arresting officer has to perform the test.

Will You Be Arrested For biking Under The Influence Or DUI If Your On An E-Bike?

California Cycling Under the Influence (CUI) laws under Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 apply only to bicycles propelled exclusively by human power. This includes electric bicycles or e-bikes.

How Can You Fight Cycling Under the Influence Charges?

CUI cases have a number of similar defenses that DUI cases have, including the following:

Erratic Driving Was Not Due to Being Under the Influence:

police officer has to be able to articulate reasons for having stopped you in the first place.  Usually, a police officer will testify that he/she saw you driving in an erratic fashion that closely resembled the behavior of a person who is driving under the influence of alcohol.

The officer can also claim that he/she observed other riding behavior that could indicate that the cyclist is under the influence, such as

  • Not being able to stay balanced while stopped at a red light;
  • Weaving;
  • Falling off the bicycle, or
  • failing to follow traffic laws.

However, this testimony can always be countered, because a person could be driving in an erratic fashion even though they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For example, riding could be erratic if the road is bumpy or slippery, or if you are riding with an injury that is not readily visible to an outsider.  You could also have been tired, sick, or have a medical condition that causes you to ride in an erratic fashion. 

Physical Appearance Was Not Due to Being Under the Influence:

Examples: 

  • you have allergies that cause your eyes to look red and watery
  • you were tired
  • you were ill
  • you experienced sleeplessness in the last week
  • the level of alcohol you consumed was so insignificant that would not affect your ability to cycle

Inaccurate Blood Test Results:

California’s Code of Regulations Title 17 governs the performance of blood and breath tests.

Title 17 requires that when a blood test is conducted the following procedures have to be followed:

  • The blood should be collected using sterile equipment
  • The draw site must be sterilized using a non-alcoholic non-volatile cleaning agent
  • The draw should be performed only by authorized personnel such as a specially trained technician
  • There should be a sufficient amount of coagulant and preservative in the vile
  • The blood should be mixed with the coagulant and preservative
  • The blood should be stored properly in a clean dry contained that is closed with an inert stopper

If any of these procedures are violated, the test results should be challenged as inaccurate, as the resulting BAC may be too high.

You Were No Cycling On A Public Road

The CUI laws only apply to highways, which includes streets that are publically maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of travel.

The CUI laws do not apply to driveways and private roads, because those are private and closed to the public.

Therefore, one of the arguments that can be made to challenge a CUI conviction is that you were not driving on a highway at the time you were cycling while intoxicated.

How We Can Help

The Los Angeles DUI attorneys at the Aizman Law Firm have the experience and knowledge necessary to fight your cycling under the influence case. We know the science. We know how to find the problems with the prosecution’s case.

Contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 

Footnotes

  1. California Vehicle Code 21200.5 – Bicycling Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs: 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. []
  2. The Vehicle Code defines “bicycle” as “a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels.”  California Vehicle Code Section 231 – Bicycle: A bicycle is a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels. Persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5. []
  3. The Vehicle Code defines “highway” as: “a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.  Highway includes street.”  California Vehicle Code Section 360 — “Highway” is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street. []
  4. The use of any drug (the law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs) which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal.  Many drugs have unexpected side effects when taken with alcohol. []

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