Its springtime and Daylight Saving Time is back on the clocks — time to take the bikes out of the garage and head down to the beach. One of the joys of living in California is cruising on the many bike paths, stopping along the way for a beer or two. Be careful! You can get arrested for riding a bike under the influence.
Under California Vehicle Code section 21200.5, it is illegal to ride a bike on a public road, path, or sidewalk while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although the statute does not specify a threshold blood alcohol level, the level applied to motorist (0.8% BAC) is the presumed threshold level for biking as well since the vehicle code provides that cyclists are subject to the same responsibilities as are drivers. (It is possible, however, to be considered under the influence at less than .08% BAC.)
When an officer stops a cyclist suspecting that the cyclist is under the influence, the officer will usually ask the cyclist to perform a field sobriety test (just like the tests used when a driver is suspected of being under the influence.) You should know that the law does not require you to submit to a field sobriety test when you are stopped on your bicycle or driving your car. In DUI cases, even without the field sobriety test, if the officer has reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence, he or she will arrest you and conduct a chemical test, to which the law provides the driver must submit. However, section 21200.5 does not require the police officer to conduct any chemical tests for drugs or alcohol. Curiously enough, section 21200.5 does permit the person arrested for cycling under the influence to request a chemical test, which must then be performed if requested. Since an officer can arrest the cyclist simply on probable cause to believe the cyclist is under the influence, this provision in the statute provides the cyclist with an immediate defense (presuming he or she is not under the influence).
A conviction for cycling under the influence carries a maximum $250 fine and no more. While the penalties for cycling under the influence are not as severe as those for a driving under the influence conviction, the conviction will still result in a misdemeanor, which will forever remain on your criminal record. Furthermore, the cyclist may be charged with other crimes such as public intoxication. The penalties are harsher if the cyclist is under the age of 21. In such a case, the court may suspend the cyclist’s driving privileges for one year or if the cyclist does not yet have a driver’s license, the court may delay for one year the time in which the cyclist would be eligible for a driver’s license.
If you are arrested for cycling under the influence, you might decide to pay the $250 fine and be done with it. That could be a mistake. Cycling under the influence is not an infraction; it is a misdemeanor that shows up on your criminal record and your driving record. In some cases, this charge is easily defeated and may well be worth fighting. If you have any questions concerning an under the influence matter, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-474-8008.