California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC: Riding A Bicycle Under The Influence

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimedrunk riding defense

While most people know that operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC and California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC, many are surprised to learn that it is also illegal to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol. Under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC, cycling under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a misdemeanor offense.

To prove that a defendant was riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant was riding a bicycle
  2. On a highway
  3. And was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both while riding the bicycle.

The term highway would refer to any public road or street, and not a freeway (which generally prohibits bicycle traffic). California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC would not apply to private roads or driveways.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
  2. Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 or HigherCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC
  3. Drunk in PublicCalifornia Penal Code Section 647(f) PC
3. Examples

A man spends the evening drinking at a bar and knows that he is too drunk to drive. He does not want to be charged with DUI under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC or California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC, so he decides to bicycle home instead of driving. While biking home, a police officer observes him cycling erratically by swerving, running stop signs and crossing into traffic. The officer stops him and has the cyclist conduct a series of field sobriety tests, which he fails. The man later submits to chemical testing of his breath which reveals a BAC of over 0.20 percent. The man could be charged with cycling under the influence in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC.

In another example, after spending an afternoon drinking with friends at home a man wants to show off his new stunt bicycle. The man gets on the bicycle while intoxicated and rides in circles on his driveway while executing various tricks. This man would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 VC because he was not cycling on a public highway.

4. Defenses to Riding a Bicycle While Under the Influence

As described above, one can only be charged with cycling under the influence if he or she was cycling on a public highway. Thus, a person can legally ride a bicycle under the influence on private roads or private driveways.

In addition, there may be reasons why someone was cycling erratically unrelated to being intoxicated. For example, they may have been trying out different tricks and jumps which are perfectly legal. In these instances just as with car drivers, an effective attorney can challenge the probable cause of the police officer’s stop and detention of the cyclist. If there was no reasonable cause to stop the cyclist, all subsequent evidence would be suppressed and the case would likely be dismissed.

5. Penalties

Riding a bicycle while under the influence is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum $250 court fine. However, this offense would still be a criminal conviction that would go on someone’s criminal record and would be visible to future landlords, employers or anyone else conducting a criminal background check. In addition, defendants who are over 13 but under 21 would face a yearlong driver’s license suspension (or yearlong delay in driver’s license eligibility) if convicted of this offense.

6. Criminal Defense for Riding a Bicycle While Under the Influence

If you or a loved one have been charged criminally with cycling under the influence, it is important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut knows how to effectively defend cases such as this. Mr. Kraut is well-known throughout the court system as a hardworking litigator who possesses an in-depth knowledge of the criminal law.

For more information about cycling under the influence, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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