The matter of whether a DUI applies to operating a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle while intoxicated depends on the definition of a “vehicle” as determined by state laws as well as by the court and the presiding judge. In many states, DUI laws specify that the operation of motor vehicles while intoxicated is prohibited while saying very little about human-powered or non-motorized vehicles such as bikes or horses. However, some state legislation indicates that the operation of any vehicle is prohibited while intoxicated, leaving it to the courts to determine whether the term “vehicle” applies depending on the incident.
In states where the DUI legislation specifies motorized vehicles, it is highly likely that the operation of a bicycle while intoxicated will not result in a DUI conviction since bikes are man-powered. However, there may be other related laws that can turn an infraction into a misdemeanor, such as public drunkenness laws or laws involving injury and damage to people and property if an accident occurs. In states where the laws simply state that operating a vehicle while intoxicated is illegal, the definition of “vehicle” is more reliant on the court, the judge and the particulars of the incident. Local and regional laws can also factor into the decision of the courts, and riding a bicycle while intoxicated could, in some areas, even result in the suspension of a driver’s license just like a drunk driving charge.
Because of the wide variance in state and local laws regarding DUI charges while riding a bicycle, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you are facing a DUI charge involving a bike or other non-motorized vehicle, it’s important to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can help you navigate the sometimes vague and interpretable local laws as well as protect your rights and formulate a solid legal defense.