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Can You Get a DUI on a Bike?

Key Takeaways

  • Some states treat cycling under the influence the same as motor vehicle DUIs
  • All states allow for certain penalties, including fines, even if DUI charges aren’t an option
  • You should behave the same during a cycling DUI stop as you would any other traffic stop
  • An attorney can help you if you’re charged with a DUI while on a bike
  • Cycling DUIs remain on your driving record for a long time and on your criminal record indefinitely

Can You Really Get a DUI on a Bike?

Yes. 

Many states charge people on bikes with driving under the influence (DUI) if they ride while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol. 

California is one of the strictest states for DUI penalties. It considers bikes as motor vehicles. This means general DUI laws apply to cyclists.

In all states, law enforcement can stop you on suspicion of DUI. This doesn’t guarantee a DUI arrest or that you’ll be charged with a crime.

Law enforcement can stop you if they notice symptoms of intoxication.

Even if a state does not allow the filing of DUI charges, they can stop you from riding if they believe it’s unsafe or if you are violating traffic laws. 

All states have a law prohibiting public intoxication or something similar, even if they can’t charge a DUI offense on a bike.

This means anyone in any state can face arrest for riding a bike while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Specific charges would be a criminal offense other than DUI.

What is the Definition of a DUI?

DUI is short for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some states call it driving while intoxicated (DWI), but it’s the same concept.

Laws regarding what qualifies as DUI or DWI vary from state to state. The maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) or drug content level allowed while operating a motor vehicle in any state is .08 percent. 

Some states have a lower legal BAC, which means someone can have fewer drinks and still be charged with DUI.

Law enforcement stops people when they notice signs of intoxication. They use various field tests to prove intoxication levels. 

If a person’s BAC test result is .08 or above, they can be charged with DUI. This is true even if there were no physical signs of intoxication.

All states have laws that allow law enforcement to take action if they believe someone is operating a bike while intoxicated. This is true even when DUI laws don’t apply to bikes.

Some states have tried to implement separate cycling DUI laws. But at the moment, drunk cycling is treated criminally as a DUI or non-criminally as a safety issue. In the latter case, someone can’t be charged with a crime. 

Instead, law enforcement might: 

  • Stop and question them
  • Transport them to a safe location
  • Confiscate their bike 

Bicycle DUI Laws (By State) 

State Can You Get a DUI While Riding a Bike?
Alabama Yes
Alaska No
Arizona No
Arkansas No
California No. However, California has other laws that make it illegal to ride a bike while under the influence. It might not result in a DUI charge, but it could get you into trouble.
Colorado Yes
Connecticut Yes
Delaware No. However, it’s illegal to ride a bike on the road while intoxicated if it creates a hazard.
District of Columbia Yes
Florida Yes
Georgia Yes
Hawaii Yes
Idaho Yes
Illinois No
Indiana Yes
Iowa No
Kansas No
Kentucky No. However, the law prohibits intoxicated people from operating non motorized vehicles.
Louisiana No (Court-ruled)
Maine No
Maryland Yes
Massachusetts No
Michigan No
Minnesota No
Mississippi Yes
Missouri No
Montana No
Nebraska No
Nevada No
New Hampshire Yes
New Jersey No
New Mexico No
New York No
North Carolina Yes
North Dakota Yes
Ohio Yes
Oklahoma No
Oregon Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
Rhode Island Yes
South Carolina No
South Dakota Yes and even specifies bikes
Tennessee No
Texas Technically yes. However, it’s rarely charged.
Utah Yes. But it’s rarely enforced.
Vermont No
Virginia No
Washington No. According to a court ruling, law enforcement can offer to take an intoxicated cyclist to a safe location and/or impound their bike if there’s a danger to the public. You can retrieve your bike later for free.
West Virginia No
Wisconsin No
Wyoming Yes

What to Do if You Get Pulled Over While Biking Impaired 

You should behave as you would driving a car if you’re pulled over while biking impaired. This is especially true if you are unsure of the laws regarding cycling and DUI laws in your state. 

Most cyclists suspected of impairment go through the same process and roadside testing as motor vehicle drivers. This includes field sobriety testing and questioning. 

It’s best to follow the instructions given to you by law enforcement during the stop. You can address any concerns later after you’ve contacted an attorney. 

If stopped, remain calm and address the officer(s) politely. Avoid sudden or aggressive movements. Say as little as possible and avoid admitting any wrongdoing. 

You have the legal right to refuse a field sobriety test. But you might be required to undergo a blood test.

If charges are a possibility, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

What Happens When You Get a DUI on a Bike?

What occurs following a cycling DUI varies from state to state. In some cases, you won’t even face DUI charges.

Law enforcement will escort you to a safe location to prevent you from harming yourself or other people. Your bike could be confiscated and later retrieved, but there will be no criminal charges.

In states that permit cycling DUI, a variety of consequences are possible.

Fines are one of the most common penalties. Fines typically range from $500 to $2,000.

This is the case even if you are not formally charged with DUI. Common alternative charges include public intoxication, endangerment, or something similar if DUI isn’t an option.

Jail time is possible for a cycling DUI in states that consider bikes motor vehicles. The length of time someone could spend in jail for a biking DUI varies based on whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony crime.

Someone with a cycling DUI could lose their driving privileges if their state’s laws restrict driving privileges due to conviction.

Factors affecting the severity of penalties associated with cycling DUIs include:

  • Number of previous offenses 
  • Whether or not anyone was injured or killed due to the incident
  • Severity of general DUI laws 

The more severe standard DUI laws are in a state, the more severe the penalties will be for cycling DUIs since they fall under the same umbrella in certain states.

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How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

A conviction for a DUI while driving a motor vehicle remains on your criminal record indefinitely. This is not the same as your driving record. 

Your driving record includes criminal and non-criminal moving and non-moving violations. Your criminal record includes only criminal misdemeanor and felony offenses. 

There is sometimes overlap, which is the case with DUI. However, a violation such as failing to stop at a stop sign would be on your driving record but not your criminal record. 

DUI remains on your driving record for 5 to 10 years or more. It varies from state to state. 

In states that treat bikes the same as other vehicles, a cycling DUI could remain on your driving record indefinitely.

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Updated on April 21, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. DUI & DWI Attorneys - LII Attorney Directory,” Cornell Law. 
  2. Airaksinen, Noora K., et al. “Cycling Injuries and Alcohol.” Injury, vol. 49, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 945–952, 10.1016/j.injury.2018.03.002.  
  3. Driving under the Influence.” California DMV. 
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. “Alcohol Abuse - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 5 Dec. 2014.
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) |.” 2017. 
  6. Driving under the Influence (DUI).” LII / Legal Information Institute, 2020.

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