Bicycling Under the Influence

California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5

While many people are aware that driving under the influence is illegal, not all people are aware that cycling or bicycling under the influence (CUI) is also against the law. California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 prohibits riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The legal definition of this offense states that: "…it is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug." The law also provides punishment for a defendant convicted for riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Because bicycles aren't considered vehicles in California, they are not covered by the usual laws governing drunk driving, and are covered under a separate provision, formally titled "Riding Bicycle Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs."

In the minds of some cyclists, the definition of bicycles and other two wheel vehicles may somewhat overlap, so the law strictly defines what constitutes a bicycle. Thus, in order to prove a CUI case, the prosecution must show that the person was riding a bicycle. Any form of motorized bicycle or moped will not fall under the CUI statute; however, they could be subject to other DUI laws.

The CUI statute does not have a blood alcohol content level

Like those arrested for driving under the influence, any cyclist arrested for cycling under the influence must submit to a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). While California DUI laws governing vehicles set a limit of 0.08 percent BAC, the CUI statute does not have a blood alcohol content level that presumes a person to be under the influence. If an accused bicyclist requests a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining their actual blood alcohol content, the arresting office must conduct it. Field sobriety tests are optional, though cyclists suspected of CUI may be asked to complete a field sobriety test such as the walk and turn test.

A conviction of a violation of Vehicle Code Section 21200.5 shall be punished by a fine of not more than $250 and no jail time. Although the punishment for a CUI is less severe than California's DUI penalties, a CUI is still a misdemeanor and constitutes a criminal conviction. A minor (under 21) convicted of CUI may have their driver's license suspended.

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