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Can I Be Charged With DUI While Riding a Bicycle in California?

Posted on in DUI

San Jose criminal defense attorney

Many California residents use bicycles as a primary mode of transportation due to the mild weather we enjoy throughout the year. The California Vehicle Code contains the state laws that specify where and how bikes are allowed to operate. Basically, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. This holds true for operating a bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Similar to a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), this is called a CUI (Cycling Under the Influence).

CUI Laws and Penalties

Some people may think riding a bicycle after drinking alcohol is different or safer than driving a car after consuming those types of beverages. However, it is still illegal to do so in California.  California Vehicle Code section 21200.5 prohibits riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The punishment is less severe than California's DUI penalties (a fine of $250 or less and no jail time), but a CUI is still a misdemeanor, and a conviction will remain on a person’s criminal record. Also, if you are convicted of a CUI, and you are under 21 years old, the court could suspend your driver’s license for one year.

As with a DUI, a police officer must have probable cause to stop someone on a bicycle, such as operating a bicycle erratically. While a driver cannot operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher, cycling does not have a legal blood alcohol level that proves someone is under the influence. If you are arrested for a CUI, you can request a blood or chemical test to show the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system.

To prove a CUI, a prosecutor must first show that the cyclist was riding on a “highway,” which is defined for these purposes as any public road within the state, including sidewalks. Private roads and driveways are excluded from this category.

It is sometimes more difficult to prove a CUI, since erratic cycling might be caused by bad weather or obstacles in the roadway. If you are a cyclist who is fatigued or not feeling well, this could cause you to swerve instead of traveling in a straight line. In the event you are arrested for a CUI, you can challenge the arrest if there were contributing factors unrelated to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. You may also have a right to challenge any field sobriety tests that were performed if the arresting officer made any mistakes.

Contact a San Jose DUI Lawyer

If you face DUI or CUI charges while riding your bicycle in California, the Law Offices of Erik Steven Johnson can help you understand your options for defense. We are ready to help you avoid a conviction and any other negative consequences that you may face. For a free initial consultation, call our San Francisco criminal defense attorney at 408-246-3004.


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