Many bicyclists are unaware that riding a bike under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in California. A bicyclist convicted for cycling under the influence faces a fine of $250 – considerably less than the punishment for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. However, there’s no reason not to fight a CUI charge. An experienced DUI / DUI lawyer can successfully challenge a cycling under the influence case on a number of issues.
In order to convict someone of drunk driving, a prosecutor must prove that the individual was driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Although bicycles aren’t considered vehicles in California, and therefore are not covered by the usual laws governing drunk driving, the California Vehicle Code has a separate provision covering bicycles that states that it is unlawful to ride a bicycle on a highway while intoxicated.
Police who suspect a bicyclist of CUI may ask the cyclist to complete a field sobriety test such as the walk and turn test. Although field sobriety tests are optional, many police officers fail to advise drivers and cyclists of this fact. These tests are designed to be failed, and the results serve only to justify an arrest and provide evidence in a court case.
Just as in a DUI / DWI case, any bicycle rider arrested for cycling under the influence must submit to a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). Unlike drunk driving laws governing vehicles, which set a “per se” limit of .08 percent BAC, there is no magic number in a CUI case.
There are several ways to attack a CUI charge, one of which is to challenge whether the cyclist was in fact riding on a “highway”. Although the definition of highway includes public streets, it excludes driveways and private roads.
Another approach is to challenge the results of a chemical test. Because most chemical tests are administered at least an hour after an arrest, the results can be skewed if the individual’s body has continued to absorb alcohol between the time of arrest and the time the test is administered. It’s important to remember that it’s not against the law to be under the influence at the police station, only when actually riding a bicycle.
The bottom line is that cycling under the influence cases can be successfully challenged. A California attorney with experience fighting CUI cases can aggressively fight the charges and keep negative consequences to a minimum.