Can You Get a DUI Riding a Bike?

It’s never a good idea to get on your bike or behind the wheel of your car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, the consequences vary depending on which state you live in.

If you’ve had a few drinks, save the cycling for your commute to work or for your weekend (daytime) adventures. Ride-sharing costs a lot less than losing your driver’s license or crashing your bike into someone’s mailbox.

Cyclists mill around outside a pub at night

Can you get a DUI on a bike?

DUI laws vary from state to state. Not all states charge bicyclists with a DUI if they are caught riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It depends on how the state classifies bicycles. In states where bicycles are classified the same way as cars and trucks, you are more likely to receive a DUI.

Even in states without bicycle-specific DUI/DWI laws, you might get a fine or other penalty for an offence that results from cycling under the influence. For example, you can still be arrested for public drunkenness. Watching other people stumble their way from the bar to their car or bike may cause you to chuckle, but consider the consequences before you do this yourself.

Cyclist taking a nap in the grass beside his bike
If Uber isn’t an option, maybe it’s better to just sleep it off. (© Phil Gradwell | CreativeCommons)

How the law defines DUI

Driving under the influence refers to operating a vehicle while intoxicated following the use of alcohol, recreational drugs or prescription drugs. While laws vary from state to state, operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 per cent, based on your weight, qualifies as a DUI.

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is impacted by your weight, how much you drank and how much time has elapsed since you stopped drinking.

For cyclists, if you cannot manage to put on your helmet, that’s probably a sign that you should get another ride home. If you can’t find your bike, do you really think you should pedal home?

Laws by state

Some states include bicycles, skateboards and scooters in their DUI laws while others do not. Refer to the chart below for an overview of bicycle DUI laws by state.

StateDo DUI Laws Apply to Bikes?Comments
AlaskaDo Not Apply 
ArizonaDo Not Apply 
CaliforniaDo Not ApplyDUI laws don't mention bicycles. However, other laws prohibit riding while under the influence on highways, streets and sidewalks. 
DelawareDo Not ApplyDelaware law prohibits riding a bike under the influence when it creates a hazard.
District of ColumbiaApply 
IllinoisDo Not Apply 
IowaDo Not Apply 
KansasDo Not Apply 
KentuckyDo Not ApplyKY law prohibits operating an unmotorized vehicle while under the influence.
LouisianaDo Not Apply, by court ruling 
MaineDo Not Apply 
MassachusettsDo Not Apply 
MichiganDo Not Apply 
MinnesotaDo Not Apply 
MissouriDo Not Apply 
MontanaDo Not Apply 
NebraskaDo Not Apply 
NevadaDo Not Apply 
New HampshireApply 
New JerseyDo Not Apply 
New MexicoDo Not Apply 
New YorkDo Not Apply 
North CarolinaApply 
North DakotaApply 
OklahomaDo Not Apply 
Rhode IslandApply 
South CarolinaDo Not Apply 
South DakotaApply, specifically naming bicycles 
TennesseeDo Not Apply 
TexasArguably, highly unlikely 
UtahApply, rarely enforced Utah law is unclear. It allows DUI/DWI laws for bicyclists but excludes bycyclists from driver's license penalties.
VermontDo Not Apply 
VirginiaDo Not Apply 
WashingtonDo Not Apply, by court rulingPolice may take intoxicated cyclists to a safe location. Bikes can be impounded and retrieved later without charge.
West VirginiaDo Not Apply 
WisconsinDo Not Apply 

Other potential charges

Even in states that do not include bicycles in their DUI laws, you can still receive fines and jail time depending on the circumstances. For example, public intoxication is generally considered a misdemeanor and may carry fines of $500 or more. These charges could make it difficult to get a job or find a place to live. Also, your insurance premiums are likely to go up if you’re charged with endangering others as a result of your actions. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk to have a few extra drinks.

If you avoid criminal charges, you still may face civil liability for any damage or bodily injury you cause while weaving your way home on your bicycle. If you do get hit by a motor vehicle, you could face civil penalties for causing the crash.

What are the penalties for DUI while biking?

Getting your first DUI conviction typically counts as a misdemeanor. In Texas, you may face DUI charges and a fine of $500 for public intoxication. In Illinois, you won’t receive a DUI charge, but you could still end up paying fines for civil violations, depending on the circumstances of your arrest.

In states that include bicycles in their DUI laws, you will typically face the same penalties for operating a bike as you do for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. A conviction can result in jail time, community service, license suspension, and/or court-ordered substance abuse evaluation.

Dangers of cycling under the influence

You probably wouldn’t put on a pair of ice skates and hit the local pond in the middle of winter after drinking a six-pack. Similarly, riding your bike after drinking or using drugs has the following effect on your coordination and brainpower:

  • Slow reaction time
  • Confusion
  • Impaired vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor balance

Approximately 25 per cent of cycling deaths involve an intoxicated rider. Doesn’t a warm, safe Uber sound better than breaking your arm or wrapping your bike around a stop sign?

Can you get a DUI on a bike? The answer is it depends—but why would you want to?

Image at top: © John Englart | Creative Commons