In California, most people arrested for Driving Under the Influence were arrested for driving a car. However, it is also unlawful in California to operate many different kinds of vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5, it is a misdemeanor to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Charges under this section are rare and are often difficult to prove. Importantly, there is NO obligation to provide a breath or blood sample to determine the presence or quantity of alcohol or drugs in a person's symptoms. Therefore, the police are frequently left with only their physical observations and, possibly, results of dubious field sobriety tests.
In a typical DUI case, the strongest evidence of guilt is the result of the chemical test of the driver's breath or blood. In most cases, a breath or blood sample is obtained via California's “implied consent” law. (In California, if you are arrested for an automobile DUI, your drivers license can be suspended for refusing to take a chemical test. Therefore, most people submit to the test, even though it can provide evidence of their guilt.) However, there is no such “implied consent” law for riding a bicycle. As such, there is no legal requirement to submit to such a test.
A conviction for a bicycle DUI in California does not typically trigger any suspension of a drivers license. However, if you are under 21 years old, the DMV will suspend your license. Otherwise, a bicycle DUI conviction would not result in any lost driving privileges.
Technically, a violation of Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 is a misdemeanor. However, unlike most misdemeanors, the punishment is strictly limited to a maximum fine of $250 (plus penalties and court fees). You cannot be sentenced to jail for this offense. Of course, any misdemeanor conviction could have a significant impact on collateral issues such as applying for a job or a license. Therefore, even though the punishment imposed by the court is minimal, there are still plenty of reasons to fight the charge.
If you have been arrested or cited for a DUI while riding your bike, call The Crawford Law Firm today for a free consultation.