Monday, May 2, 2011

Can you get a DUI for bicycling while intoxicated?


by John Greenfield

[This article also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine, www.timeoutchicago.com.]

Q: When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law? Does it fall under the same blood-alcohol-content DUI regulations as operating a motor vehicle? —Easy Rider, Logan Square

A: Crocked Chicago cyclists can’t be charged with a DUI, says Brendan Kevenides, a lawyer who specializes in bike cases and calls himself the Chicago Bicycle Advocate.

In 1995, the Illinois Appellate Court decided this issue in People v. Schaefer, upholding the dismissal of criminal charges against a drunk bicyclist. Since state law doesn’t define a bike as a “vehicle,” the court found that Illinois’s DUI statute did not give cyclists fair warning they could face harsh penalties for pickled pedaling.

Kevenides notes that cyclists can be charged with public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but the penalties for such offenses are substantially less than those for a DUI.

Even so, Active Transportation Alliance’s Margo O’Hara says it’s “dangerous and irresponsible” to spin while sauced.

But Mark Cuneo, a manager at the bike-centric Handlebar Bar & Grill, recommends one reason to choose two wheels over four for a night of carousing. “Instead of driving home drunk or leaving your car overnight, you can always throw your bike in the trunk of a cab.”

9 comments:

Cameron said...

Darwin doesn't need cops...

Greg said...

This topic comes up frequently. As of now, as far as I know, South Dakota is the only state that specifically protects bicyclists, and horseback riders, from a DUI conviction. Arizona generally won't prosecute, but, that is by a judges directive, (citing an Illinois case), whereas South Dakota has enacted it as law. Interesting info here:
http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2010/8/7/Spokes--Tipsy-On-Two-Wheels
Greg Valent

Greg said...

Just a little more info for comparison, as population density would probably have an effect on such laws. The entire state of South Dakota had a 2009 population of 812,000. Arizona 2009, 6,595,000.
City of Chicago 2009, 2,800,000. Chicago Metro area 2009, (Kenosha - Gary arc), 9,100,000. 'Nuff said.
Greg Valent

Bobbie BS said...

Here's a similar question: I've been threatened with tickets for running red lights on my bike but never actually been given a citation. In all of these instances the police officer demanded my drivers license. Had I been ticketed would I get points on my record and be required to take defensive driving courses to avoid raising my automobile insurance rates?

Anonymous said...
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JN said...

California law does provide for penalties for BUI, though they are less severe than for DUI. CVC 21200.5 http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21200_5.htm

Scott said...

Fantastic photo btw...

T Charles said...

It all comes down to the definition of vehicle. In Florida, you can be charged with it.

Nichole Mercado said...

Actually it depends on the state. My friend who works as an assistant to an Arizona personal injury lawyer told me that in California there is such a thing as a BUI or Bicycling Under the Influence.