Currently there is a nationwide trend for people to commute to work by bicycle. As cities create bike lanes for the many people embracing this trend, the number of impaired bike riding offenses has increased. This increase has a lot to do with bikers going to happy hour after work with the mistaken belief that they will be immune from a DUI arrest because they are not driving a car or other motor vehicle. In fact, most people think that driving under the influence offenses only occur when driving a car or other motor vehicles. Few people are aware of the fact that in California, a person can be convicted of a DUI or DUI related crime when operating a bicycle.
California prosecutes cyclists who ride impaired by way of criminal prosecutions and administratively through Department of Motor Vehicle suspensions – or both. Individuals are treated very similarly to those arrested for a DUI in a motor vehicle. For instance, a person driving his car may be initially detained by law enforcement for committing some sort of public offense, like failing to maintain proper working lights on his vehicle. The detaining officer requests the individual to submit to a chemical test. Because of implied consent laws, the driver is required to submit to a chemical test or risk a suspension of his license for a period of one to three years. Based on the test results or the refusal to submit to a chemical test, the officer may possibly arrest that individual for DUI.
Like DUI’s involving automobiles, police typically will detain an impaired cyclist for BUI or reckless driving. For instance, they might stop the cyclist for crashing the bicycle into another individual. If the officer believes that the cyclist appears impaired, the officer can choose to request the person submit to a chemical test. However, due to the implied consent law, the cyclist has the right to request a chemical test in order to show lack of impairment. If an individual requests the chemical test, the officer is required to provide the test to the cyclist. (Notice the distinction between the implied consent rules for DUI cars versus the implied consent rules for DUI bicycles. For DUI cars, the driver must submit to a chemical test if one is requested of him. However, for DUI bicycles, the officer must provide the chemical test if requested of the cyclist.)
So, today’s blog entry informs you that California has a vested interest in prosecuting anything that combines being impaired and a set of wheels. Additionally, choosing to ride a bike after drinking a few drinks, instead of driving a car, will not necessarily avoid a DUI arrest. If detained by an officer for impaired driving on a bicycle, you have the right to request a chemical test in order to prove your innocence.