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Updated on July 31, 2023
5 min read

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 also stop you if they notice symptoms of intoxication.


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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. This means someone can have fewer drinks and still be charged with DUI.

When law enforcement notices signs of intoxication, they can stop you and perform field tests to prove intoxication levels. If your BAC test result is over .08 or above, they can still charge you with a DUI, even if you have no physical signs of intoxication.

Other Laws For Drunk Cycling

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. Common alternative charges include public intoxication, endangerment, or something similar if DUI isn’t an option.

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) 

StateCan You Get a DUI While Riding a Bike?
CaliforniaNo. 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.
DelawareNo. However, it’s illegal to ride a bike on the road while intoxicated if it creates a hazard.
District of ColumbiaYes
KentuckyNo. However, the law prohibits intoxicated people from operating non-motorized vehicles.
LouisianaNo (Court-ruled)
New HampshireYes
New JerseyNo
New MexicoNo
New YorkNo
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaYes
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaNo
South DakotaYes and even specifies bikes
TexasTechnically, yes. However, it’s rarely charged.
UtahYes, but it’s rarely enforced.
WashingtonNo. 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 VirginiaNo

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What to Do if You Get Pulled Over While Biking Impaired 

You should behave as you would driving a car if you get pulled over while drunk cycling. This is especially true if you are unsure of the laws regarding cycling and DUI laws in your state. Here are some things you can do if you get pulled over:

  • Follow instructions given to you by law enforcement during the stop
  • Remain calm and address the officer(s) politely
  • Avoid sudden or aggressive movements
  • Say as little as possible to avoid admitting to any wrongdoing
  • Contact an attorney if you think charges are possible or to address any concerns

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

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


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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 no criminal charges will occur.

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

  • A fine ranging from $500 to $2,000
  • Possible jail time based on whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony
  • Possible loss of your driving privileges

Factors that Affect Your Penalties

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
  • The severity of general DUI laws 

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

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record?

Although it can vary in some states, a DUI remains on your driving record for 5 to 10 years or more. In states that treat bikes the same as other vehicles, a cycling DUI could remain on your driving record indefinitely. On the other hand, a conviction for a DUI while driving a motor vehicle remains on your criminal record indefinitely.

Driving and criminal records are different. A driving record includes criminal and non-criminal moving and non-moving violations. Meanwhile, a 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, not your criminal record. 

Updated on July 31, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on July 31, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  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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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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