After a long and wild night with your high school friends, you’re about ready to call it a night and head home. But you know you can’t drive, you’ve had too much to drink at this point. Your friend offers you his bicycle to take home since you only live two miles away from his house. Is it safe? Or can you get a DUI for drunk biking?
To avoid a call to your personal injury attorney in Denver, or worse, it’s probably a better idea to call a cab or get a ride with a sober friend. But in this blog, we’re going to take a look at the potential legal ramifications of getting behind the handlebars while intoxicated.
DUIs are some of the worst career killers and people killers in the United States. Attached a DUI to your record can make it much more difficult to find a job, but that could be the least of your problems if you drive drunk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 32 people every day die of a drunk driving accident, which is one every 45 minutes. In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths.
So we know getting behind the wheel while drunk is deadly, but how much safer is getting on a bicycle?
What Are The Laws About Biking While Drunk?
Because a bicycle is technically categorized as a vehicle, you can get a DUI if you are operating a vehicle and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit to drive, which is .08 percent. Colorado’s DUI statute is found at C.R.S. § 42-4-1301 specifically lists bicycles under vehicles, so yes, if you choose to bike while drunk, you can find yourself with a DUI. Below are some more specifics laid out by Colorado Bike Law:
- A bike operator with a BAC between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent is presumed by law to be “driving while ability impaired”
- If the BAC is 0.08 percent or higher, they are presumed to be driving under the influence
- If the bike operator is under the age of 21, a BAC of 0.02 to be presumed a DUI as well
Short answer: Yes, you can get a DUI from riding a bicycle while legally considered impaired.
Are DUI Punishments The Same For Bike Riders?
Legally, you can still get a DUI on your record if you’re drunk while riding a bike. There won’t be an asterisk next to it that says “Don’t worry, I was just on my bike!”
In Colorado, biking under the influence, or a BUI, is treated like a DUI for cars or trucks: it’s a misdemeanor, with potential jail time, and a hefty fine. But according to Bicycle Colorado, “a DUI conviction while riding your bike does not result in a loss of the cyclist’s driver’s license.”
Also, the risk of causing substantial property damage or risking the lives of others is much smaller when on a bike than in a car, especially if you’re impaired. But you could put your own life at risk by biking on busy roads or not being sober while behind the handlebars. It’s not a good idea to get behind any vehicle while intoxicated, including bicycles.
Short answer: Legally and record-wise yes, but you have significantly less risk of causing major property damage or taking the lives of others when operating a bike versus a motor vehicle. This will save you potential fines and jail time.
Is It Less Likely I’ll Get a BUI Than A DUI?
Opting for a bike instead of getting behind the wheel is still not a good alternative for driving while drunk. That being said, the chances you’ll get stopped for operating a bike while impaired is much less than you driving a car or truck. Not only do you cause less attention on a bike, as your potential wrecks or swerves are much more likely to go unnoticed than a swerving or crashing car on the road, but you can also avoid the road altogether by using alleys and sidewalks.
It’s not a good idea to bike drunk. It’s just not. Don’t do it. But objectively, the overall risk—for yourself and for the lives of others around you—is less on a bike than in a car. The chances of being stopped and getting a sobriety test on a bike, particularly if you are not belligerent, are much smaller than in a car.
Short answer: Yes, but that’s not a good excuse.
Do BUI Laws Differ State To State?
Some states will only list motor vehicles in their DUI statutes, while others, like Colorado, designate all vehicles to fall under a DUI. This includes cars, trucks, bikes, electric scooters, and other vehicles.
Generally, these rules don’t apply to skateboards, razor scooters, roller blades, and similar applications. Be sure to check with your local and state laws about which vehicles fall under DUI laws in the area.
Short answer: Yes, it depends on which state you’re in if you can get a DUI on a bicycle or not.
Conclusion – Can You Get A DUI for Drunk Biking?
Getting behind any vehicle—including a bicycle—is not a smart or legal idea if you are impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Depending on the state you’re in, you can get slapped with a DUI, which can impact your career and overall life.
While you can avoid doing major damage on a bike that could happen behind the wheel—such as damage to other vehicles, other people’s property, or potentially ending innocent lives—your record can be permanently stained with a DUI. Think about your legal record the next time you leave a Navy Yard happy hour or a brewery in Denver, whether you’re on a bike or not.
The risk of getting a DUI on a bike versus a car or truck is significantly lower, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to operate a bike while drunk, even if you only live a few minutes away. Make sure you understand the local laws about DUIs in your area and take measures to avoid operating any vehicle while impaired. Get a ride, call a cab or an Uber, or walk. It’s simply not worth it.
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