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Can You Get a DUI on a Bike in California?

Posted by John Campanella | Jul 27, 2023 | 0 Comments

Can You Get a DUI on a Bike in California

Driving Under Influence (DUI) laws exist to keep our roads safe. They govern the operation of vehicles—sometimes extending beyond just cars and trucks—while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. But what happens when we shift the focus from motorized vehicles to bikes? Specifically, can you get a DUI on a bike in California?

Understanding DUI Laws

What does DUI mean?

DUI stands for Driving Under Influence. This typically refers to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including those prescribed by physicians.

DUI versus DWI

You might have heard the terms DUI and DWI used interchangeably. While they essentially target the same issue, the specific definitions vary by state. DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired.

DUI in Various Contexts

DUI while operating motor vehicles

Most DUI charges stem from the operation of motor vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and motorcycles. The consequences can be severe, including hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time.

DUI on a bike

While it might seem unusual, DUI charges can extend to non-motorized vehicles, such as bicycles, in certain jurisdictions. The regulations and their enforcement may vary by state and even locality.

California DUI Laws

In California, the law explicitly defines DUI as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or while impaired by drugs.


Violating these laws can lead to severe consequences, including fines, mandatory education programs, license suspension, and in serious cases, imprisonment.

Can You Get a DUI on a Bike in California?

The Law

Surprisingly to some, the answer is, in most cases, no. The California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 only addresses "bicycling under the influence," which is a far lesser charge than a DUI.


However, riding a bike under the influence can still lead to legal trouble, such as fines, though they are generally less severe than motor vehicle DUI penalties.


Moreover, local laws and law enforcement attitudes may influence how these regulations are enforced, and outcomes can vary depending on the circumstances.

Consequences of a Bicycle DUI in California

Legal consequences

While not as severe as a motor vehicle DUI, a bicycle DUI can still carry fines, probation, and even jail time in extreme cases.

Long-term impacts

Moreover, a bicycle DUI can have lasting impacts on one's personal and professional life, including potential damage to reputation and career prospects.

Preventing Bicycle DUIs

Staying safe

The best way to avoid a bicycle DUI is simple: don't drink and bike. Always plan a safe way home if you've been drinking.

Knowing the law

Being informed about the law can also help you make better decisions and avoid potential legal trouble.

The Implications of DUI Laws on Cycling: State-by-State Analysis in the United States

In the United States, DUI (Driving Under the Influence) laws are primarily designed to prohibit and punish impaired driving of motor vehicles on public roads. However, can a person get a DUI while operating a non-motorized vehicle, such as a bicycle? This question, though seemingly simple, is shrouded in a layer of complexity due to the variations in state laws.

This article aims to shed light on this topic, giving a state-by-state overview of where you can get a DUI on a bicycle in the United States.

Understanding DUI

Before diving into state specifics, it is essential to understand what constitutes a DUI. DUI is a criminal offense that typically involves operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, it's not just limited to alcohol. Other substances, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs, can impair a person's ability to drive and may result in a DUI charge if caught by law enforcement.

Can You Get a DUI on a Bicycle?

While it's clear why DUI laws apply to cars, trucks, and motorcycles, it's less obvious when it comes to bicycles. Bicycles don't have a motor, and they're often considered more of a recreational tool than a vehicle. So, can you be charged with a DUI for riding a bicycle under the influence?

The answer to that depends on the state. Some states have DUI laws that explicitly include bicycles, while others do not.

Bicycles Explicitly Included in DUI Laws


California is one of the states where you can get a DUI on a bicycle. According to California Vehicle Code 21200.5, it's unlawful to ride a bicycle on a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under their combined influence. The term "highway" in this context includes any area publicly maintained and open to public use for vehicular travel, so it covers just about any street, road, or parking area.


In Colorado, the law states that any person who operates a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle may be subject to state DUI and DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) laws. This means that Colorado cyclists can face similar penalties to drivers if they're found to be under the influence.

Bicycles Not Explicitly Included in DUI Laws

New York

In contrast, New York does not apply its DUI laws to bicycles. According to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, DUI laws apply to "motor vehicles," and bicycles are not included in the definition of a motor vehicle.


Like New York, Illinois DUI laws do not include bicycles. According to Illinois law, the state's DUI laws apply to vehicles, and the law specifically excludes bicycles from its definition of vehicles.

Ambiguity in DUI Laws

In some states, it's not explicitly clear whether DUI laws apply to bicycles.


In Florida, for instance, the law prohibits operating a "vehicle" under the influence. While Florida law defines bicycles as vehicles, court decisions have ruled that DUI laws do not apply to bicycles.


Similarly, in Texas, the law prohibits operating a "motor vehicle" while intoxicated, and the law doesn't clearly define whether a bicycle falls under that category.

How Can a DUI Attorney Help?

Legal expertise

If you're facing a DUI or bicycle DUI charge, a skilled DUI attorney can help navigate the complex legal process, build a strong defense, and advocate on your behalf.

Defense strategies

An attorney can evaluate the evidence, challenge the prosecution's case, and potentially negotiate for reduced charges or penalties.

The Role of John Campanella's Law Office

Services provided

At the Law Office of John Campanella, we specialize in DUI defense. We understand the ins and outs of California DUI laws, including the nuances of bicycle DUI charges.

How to get in touch

If you're facing a DUI charge, don't hesitate to reach out. Call us today at (916) 498-8460.


In conclusion, while you typically can't get a DUI for riding a bike under the influence in California, you can still face legal consequences. It's important to understand the laws and potential penalties involved, and to seek professional legal assistance if you're facing charges. Remember, the best defense is to avoid drinking and biking altogether.


1. Can you get a DUI on a bike?

Yes, in some jurisdictions, you can get a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) on a bicycle. The definition of a vehicle under DUI laws varies from state to state, with some considering bicycles as vehicles and others not.

2. What states can you get a DUI on a bike?

States such as California, Montana, and Colorado have laws that can charge individuals with a DUI while riding a bicycle under the influence. Always check your local state laws to be sure.

3. Can you get a DUI on a bike in California?

Yes, in California, you can get a DUI on a bike. Under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on a highway while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.

4. What is the BAC limit for biking under the influence in California?

The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in California for operating a bicycle under the influence is 0.08%, the same as for driving a motor vehicle.

5. What are the penalties for getting a DUI on a bike in California?

A bike DUI in California is a misdemeanor and penalties may include a fine up to $250. Note that unlike motor vehicle DUIs, bike DUIs do not result in an automatic driver's license suspension.

6. How can police officers determine if a cyclist is under the influence?

Police officers may use various methods such as field sobriety tests, breathalyzers, and observed behavior to determine if a cyclist is under the influence.

7. Can a bicycle DUI in California affect my driving record?

Unlike a DUI in a motor vehicle, a bicycle DUI in California will not typically add points to your driving record or lead to a license suspension.

8. Can minors get a DUI on a bike in California?

Yes, minors can get a DUI on a bike in California. If a minor is found to be operating a bicycle under the influence, they may be charged under the state's "Zero Tolerance" laws for underage drinking and driving.

9. Is a bike DUI in California a criminal offense?

Yes, a bike DUI in California is considered a misdemeanor, which is a type of criminal offense.

10. Are the DUI laws the same for bikes and cars in California?

While the BAC limit is the same for bikes and cars in California, the consequences differ. DUIs on bikes are typically considered less severe and don't usually result in a driver's license suspension or points on your driving record.

11. How can I fight a bike DUI charge in California?

You may wish to consult with an experienced DUI attorney who can help you challenge the evidence, question the procedures used during your arrest, or negotiate for a lesser charge.

12. Are the penalties for a bike DUI the same across all California cities?

The penalties for a bike DUI are typically the same across California, as they are based on state laws. However, the way these laws are enforced can vary by city or county.

13. Can a bike DUI charge affect my employment?

While a bike DUI is a lesser charge than a motor vehicle DUI, it is still a criminal offense and could potentially impact employment opportunities, depending on your employer's policies.

14. What constitutes a “highway” under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC?

Under California law, a “highway” refers to any area publicly maintained and open to the public for vehicular travel, which includes most roads and streets.

15. What happens if I refuse a field sobriety test while on a bike in California?

The consequences for refusing a field sobriety test will depend on your specific situation, including your age, the nature of your refusal, and your BAC level. Always consult with a legal professional for advice on your particular case.

16. Can I get a DUI on an electric bike in California?

In California, electric bikes are treated similarly to traditional bicycles. Therefore, it is possible to receive a DUI while operating an electric bike under the influence.

17. Does a bike DUI require mandatory jail time in California?

No, a bike DUI in California typically does not require mandatory jail time. However, repeat offenses or other extenuating circumstances may influence sentencing.

18. Can I refuse a breathalyzer test if I'm stopped on a bike in California?

Refusing a breathalyzer test in any vehicle, including a bike, may lead to additional charges or complications in your case. It's important to seek legal advice in such situations.

19. Will a bike DUI show up on a background check in California?

Yes, as a misdemeanor, a bike DUI will likely show up on a criminal background check in California.

20. Can I be charged with a DUI on a bike if I'm on private property?

DUI laws typically apply to public roads and highways. However, in certain circumstances, you may be charged with a DUI on private property. Always check local laws and consult a legal professional.

21. Are the laws regarding DUIs on bikes the same in every state?

No, laws regarding DUIs on bicycles vary from state to state. Some states do not consider bicycles as vehicles under their DUI laws, while others do.

22. Can I be charged with a bike DUI if I'm not moving?

In some cases, yes. Even if you are not moving, being in control of a bicycle while intoxicated can lead to a DUI charge.

23. Can I be arrested for a DUI on a bike in California?

Yes, if a police officer has reason to believe you are biking under the influence, they can arrest you for a bike DUI in California.

24. Are DUI laws the same for regular and electric bikes in California?

Yes, both regular and electric bikes are subject to the same DUI laws in California.

25. What should I do if I'm charged with a bike DUI in California?

If you are charged with a bike DUI in California, it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced DUI attorney immediately to discuss your legal options and potential defenses.

For more information, please feel free to reach out to the Law Office of John Campanella at (916) 498-8460. Let's dive into some frequently asked questions about this topic.

About the Author

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I am active member of the National College of DUI Defense, a member of California DUI Lawyers Association, I am certified by the National Highway and Traffic Association for the administration of Field Sobriety Tests. I regularly attend DUI continuing education of the Bar, have tried over 35 Jury Trials, hundreds of pretrial motions and over 1000 DMV hearings all relating to DUI cases.


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