Most people are familiar with the crime of driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. But they do not know that California has another law in place that prohibits bicycling while drunk or on drugs. Whereas the consequences of cycling under the influence aren’t as severe as those of a DUI, a conviction may subject you to a fine and criminal record that can result in several collateral consequences. If you’ve been charged with bicycling while intoxicated, you want to reach out to an experienced drunk driving attorney to help you fight your case.
At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we are familiar with cycling while intoxicated cases. If you’ve been charged in Los Angeles, CA, or the surrounding cities, we’re conversant with the State and local cycling while intoxicated and DUI laws and how the local officers and courts operate. With decades of DUI experience, we understand the law and the science required to fight driving and cycling while intoxicated charges. We will evaluate your case and scrutinize each of its facts before developing a solid defense strategy that will achieve the best possible results for your case. Call us as soon as you’ve been arrested for a free case evaluation.
Understanding the California Crime of Bicycling Under the Influence
The crime of bicycling while intoxicated is described under Vehicle Code (VC) 21200.5. Per this law, it’s unlawful to cycle on a highway when intoxicated with drugs, alcohol, or both. The crime is also known as DUI on a bike or riding a bicycle drunk. California legislatures effected the law on cycling while drunk or on drugs in 1985.
Elements of the Crime
For the judge to find you guilty of VC 21200.5 violation, the DA must prove beyond any reasonable doubt:
You Rode on a Bicycle
Riding a bike is the first fact the DA needs to prove to be convicted under VC 21200.5. A bicycle under this law is any transportation device on which a person can ride, propelled by human power through gears, a chain, or belt, and has wheels (one or multiple). This definition doesn’t include motorized bikes. Mopeds and motorized bikes are considered motor vehicles. Thus, they’re charged under DUI statutes. Riding a motorized scooter while intoxicated is prosecuted under a different law, which is VC 21221.5.
On a Highway
Another element that the DA must demonstrate for a cycling-while-intoxicated conviction to occur is you were cycling on a highway. Per this law, a highway means a publicly maintained or natural space open for public travel by cars and other vehicles. This excludes driveways and private roads. A highway definition also doesn’t include freeways since bicycles are generally forbidden on freeways. However, note that you could also face cycling while intoxicated charges if you cycled on a sidewalk while drunk.
While Under the Influence of/Intoxicated With Alcohol, a Controlled Substance, or Both
California law dictates that you’re intoxicated with drugs or alcohol if your physical/mental capabilities are too impaired in that you are no longer capable of driving with caution as a sober individual would. A jury/judge establishes if you’re intoxicated by evaluating all the circumstances and facts of your case.
The Difference Between DUI and Cycling While Drunk Laws
Notable differences between other DUI statutes and Vehicle Code 21200.5 include:
There’s no Stipulated Legal BAC Limit in Cycling While Intoxicated Cases
In DUI cases, the stipulated legal BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit is .08%. On the contrary, VC 21200.5 doesn’t have a precise BAC limit that’d lead to a cycling-while-drunk arrest. But it’s recommended that bicyclists don’t cycle with a blood alcohol concentration level higher than .08%. In these cases, the prosecution often proves intoxication through indirect proof like erratic cycling, alcoholic odor, slurred speech, a flushed face, and bloodshot eyes.
Breath and Blood Tests Aren’t So Common in Cycling While Intoxicated Cases.
In most drunk-driving cases, the arresting officer will require you to undergo preliminary breath testing after pulling you over, then request another test after placing you under arrest. This isn’t common in cycling while drunk cases. If an arresting officer suspects you’re cycling while intoxicated, they will only request you to do various field sobriety tests (FSTs) as part of the investigation.
However, VC 21200.5 gives you the legal right to demand a urine, breath, or blood test when stopped on suspicions of cycling while intoxicated to establish your blood alcohol concentration level to show you weren’t intoxicated. When you make this request, the arresting officer has to comply.
There’s No Driver’s License Suspension in Cycling While Drunk Cases
Most DUI convictions, even boating while intoxicated, affect your driving privilege, but a bicycling-while-drunk conviction doesn’t. The only exception is if you’re below twenty-one years old. In this case, your privilege to drive will be suspended for a year (or delayed by a year if you do not have a driver’s license yet).
The Penalties of VC 21200.5 Violation
Cycling while intoxicated is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. A conviction is punishable by a fine not exceeding $250. No jail sentence is imposed. Contrary to popular belief, bicycling while intoxicated isn’t an infraction, and a misdemeanor conviction will reflect on your criminal record. Having a criminal record could negatively affect your employment prospects and life. Thus, you want to have a skilled lawyer helping you to beat these charges,
And as we mentioned, your license can be suspended for 12 months if you are below 21 years old and are convicted of cycling while intoxicated. If you’re yet to acquire a license, you’ll be subject to a delay in qualifying to apply for a license for one year.
Legal Defenses Against Vehicle Code 21200.5 Violation
You can successfully challenge cycling while drunk accusations with help from an expert attorney. Your lawyer can develop a solid defense strategy which may include arguing that:
You Weren’t Intoxicated
You’re only guilty of VC 21200.5 violation if you were cycling while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. And whether you were intoxicated is an element established by all the facts surrounding the case. By this, it means it’s a legal defense for you to utilize the circumstances and facts of your case to prove that you were sober at the time you were bicycling.
The Police Didn’t Have Any Probable Cause to Stop You.
Often, the police can charge individuals under this law after stopping them without any suspicion of being under the influence. However, the police should have probable cause before arresting or stopping a suspect for an offense. If you were arrested or stopped for breaking this law and there wasn’t any probable cause, any prof acquired after the improper arrest/stop could be excluded. The exclusion could lead to a charge reduction or case dismissal altogether.
You Weren’t Cycling on a Highway.
Remember that you must have been cycling on a highway for you to be convicted under Vehicle Code 21200.5. Thus, it’s a legal defense for your lawyer to argue that you weren’t bicycling on a public street or road. It could be you were on someone’s driveway or a private roadway.
FSTs are Often Unreliable and Subjective
If the police stopped you on suspicions of cycling while drunk, you might have agreed to do field sobriety tests since you felt you weren’t intoxicated. However, it’s the officer’s discretion to decide whether you fail or pass the tests. You might think you performed excellently in the tests, but the arresting officer might testify otherwise.
Your lawyer can also assess the area where the tests were administered. Based on the time and date of the tests, there could’ve been distracting vehicle and foot traffic. The spot where the tests were conducted could’ve been uneven. Alternatively, your legs could’ve been sore since you’d just cycled a longer distance. These situations could’ve placed you at a disadvantage.
The Police Officer Didn’t Follow Proper Procedures When Administering a Breath or Blood Test.
If you requested to undergo blood or breath testing, you might use this defense. If an arresting officer doesn’t follow proper procedures when giving a blood/breath test, there’s a high chance that the reliability of the test results will be compromised.
Erratic Driving Wasn’t Because of Being Intoxicated.
An arresting officer must articulate valid reasons for stopping you, to begin with. Usually, an officer will testify they noticed you driving erratically, which resembles the conduct of an individual who is under the influence. The officer could also claim they observed other cycling behavior that could prove you were intoxicated, for instance:
Failing to obey traffic rules
Falling off the bike
Being incapable of staying balanced while stopped at a red light
Nevertheless, your lawyer could always counter this testimony since an individual could be cycling erratically even though they’re not intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. For instance, riding can be erratic if the roadway is slippery or bumpy or if you’re cycling with an injury that’s not readily visible to another person. Perhaps you were also sick, tired, or suffer from a medical condition that makes you ride erratically.
Expungement of a Conviction Record
You can have your conviction record expunged if found guilty of cycling while drunk. The court will grant your expungement request provided you pay the imposed fine. A record expungement will favor you since it eliminates most of the challenges that come with a conviction. For instance, after you’ve had your record deleted, you can comfortably answer ‘no’ if your current or prospective employer asks whether you’ve been convicted before.
Cycling While Intoxicated and Related Crimes
Related crimes are those the DA can charge along with or instead of the primary crimes you’ve been accused of because they have similar elements. We have three offenses closely related to bicycling while intoxicated. They are:
PC (Penal Code) 647f- Public Intoxication
PC 647f is the law that criminalizes being drunk when in public. Under this law, public intoxication can be due to either drug or alcohol use. A PC 647f is considered a misdemeanor punished by a maximum jail term of six months and $1,000 in fines. If you’re below 21 years old, you’ll also be subject to driver’s license suspension for a year under PC 13202.5. And if you’re yet to acquire a license, you’ll be subject to a one-year suspension delaying your eligibility to acquire one.
DUI - VC 23152(a)
VC 23152(a) is one of the many California DUI statutes. This law illegalizes operating a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol. Remember that ‘intoxicated’ or ‘under the influence’ under this law and Vehicle Code 21200.5 mean the same thing. DUI under 23152(a) is a misdemeanor offense punishable by six months in jail, informal probation, DUI classes, license suspension, and up to $1,000 in fines.
BUI (Boating Under the Influence) - Harbors and Navigation Code (HNC) 655
HNC 655 makes boating while intoxicated a criminal offense. The law illegalizes doing any of these:
Operating a boat while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
Operating a boat when you have a blood alcohol concentration level of .08% or higher
Operating any commercial vessel when you have a blood alcohol concentration level of .04% or more
Operating a boat while intoxicated and, in the process, act negligently, leading to someone else sustaining bodily injury.
The punishments for boating under the influence vary based on the section of the law you’ve violated. However, it’s mostly a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. BUI causing injury is a wobbler, meaning the DA can charge it either as a felony or misdemeanor. A felony conviction is punished by sixteen months, three or two years in prison.
Find a Skilled Bicycling Under the Influence Attorney Near Me
If you’ve been accused of bicycling while intoxicated, you want to consult with a skilled lawyer. Even though this crime does carry harsh penalties, you can’t shake it off so easily, and a conviction could still negatively impact your life. At Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney, we are prepared to fight any cycling under the influence charges against you. Our attorneys are highly qualified to challenge any proof the prosecution has against you and negotiate on your behalf to obtain the best possible resolution for your case. We understand what’s at stake, and we’re devoted to helping our clients overcome this overwhelming situation and resume their normal lives. We’ll evaluate all the facts surrounding your case thoroughly and take the time to explain your rights and legal options. Call us now at 323-464-6700 for a cost-free case evaluation. We serve clients facing cycling under the influence, DUI, and other criminal charges in Los Angeles, CA, and the surrounding areas.