California law states that it is illegal for anyone to drive a vehicle on public roads while impaired by any substance. However, vehicle is not the most straightforward term. Many Californians bike rather than drive because of convenience, affordability and the ability bikes provide to bypass notoriously bad traffic. Many Californians also may drink and bike as alternative to drinking and driving. While this isn't as dangerous as driving a car, biking while impaired can pose a risk to pedestrians, if riding on the sidewalk, and cars, if riding on the street. While riding a bike while impaired is certainly unsafe and not recommended, it will not result in a traditional DUI charge. California has its own charge given to those biking, or cycling, under the influence. This is called a CUI, or cycling under the influence, under California Vehicle Code 21200.5. Under this statute, it is illegal to bike on a public California road or sidewalk while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. It is important to note that this is not considered a regular DUI. You will not face the penalties someone with a DUI will face, however violating this code will is a criminal act and can result in a misdemeanor charge on your record. The punishments for this crime are minimal, just a fine of up to $250 and no jail time or probation period. If you are under 21 at the time of your charge, you will also lose your driver's license for one year or be prevented from obtaining one for one year, if you don't already have one. While this law does not set a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, limit as DUIs laws have, you can still be arrested if the officer has reason to believe you were impaired at the time you were biking and you can still be convicted. He or she may not require you to take a BAC test however you have the right to request a BAC test be done. Speak to an attorney if you are facing a CUI charge. While it may seem like just a nominal fine, it is nonetheless a criminal charge and will show up on any criminal background checks. It may be worth the investment in an attorney to avoid having a criminal charge on your record. Because no BAC limit is set, there may be room for a defensive argument, dependent upon the circumstances of the case and any BAC test you requested. If you were otherwise riding safely, you may be able to avoid a charge altogether. Apart from a CUI charge, you can also be cited for not following the rules of operating a bicycle as a result of cycling while impaired. These are just minor civil citations and are essentially the same as a traffic ticket. They are not criminal charges but will show up on your traffic violation record. Also, if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident with a car while biking impaired, you may have a fight ahead of you. Liability is often a hotly debated issue in car accident cases. Unfortunately, bicyclists tend to be discriminated against in these cases and are often accused of being at fault for the accident. If a police officer came to the scene of the accident and spoke to you, they may have noted that you had alcohol on your breath and could have asked you if you had been drinking. While they may not be trying to get this information to convict you of a CUI, they are trying to get all the facts of the incident on record. This record may come in to play later on with potential civil suits. Also, if you were injured in the accident, the emergency department may have run a BAC test on you, along with the standard set of emergency labs. The emergency room report will be part of your insurance claim and so you won't be able to hide the fact that you were biking while impaired. This may mean you are ruled partially at fault for the accident and you may not be able to have all your costs from the accident covered, even if not given a CUI.
If you were caught bicycling while impaired and are facing CUI charges in the Tulare, Kings or Fresno County area, contact experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens for expert counsel. The skilled legal team at The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can advise you on how to approach your case defense, ensuring you get the easiest sentence you can. Contact our offices in Hanford and Visalia at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.