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Washington Bicycle DUI Laws

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As summer approaches, many people in Washington are dusting off their bicycles and hitting the road. While it’s a great way to enjoy the sunshine and stay active, cycling while under the influence of alcohol is a different story. 

Alcohol can impair many of the functions necessary to operate a bike safely, including concentration, motor skills, and judgment. While Washington does not have any laws that explicitly outlaw biking under the influence, it is possible to be arrested for another crime, such as disorderly conduct or reckless endangerment. 

Can You Be Charged with a DUI on a Bike?

Many people wonder whether cyclists can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), a serious criminal offense that can result in jail and hefty fines. The short answer is no: Washington state law does not allow cyclists to be charged with a DUI for riding a bike under the influence.

This was established in a 1995 case, The City of Montesano v. Daniel Wells, where the defendant was initially convicted of a DUI for cycling while intoxicated. However, the Washington Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, citing that the DUI laws referred to “motor vehicle” and “vehicle” as interchangeable terms and did not explicitly address cycling while impaired.

Potential Penalties for Riding a Bicycle While Impaired

While it is unlikely that you will face a DUI charge for cycling under the influence, there are other criminal offenses that you can face for biking while impaired. These may include disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.

  • Disorderly conduct: This crime involves intentionally obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority. If you ride your bike while drunk and impede traffic, you could be charged with this misdemeanor offense, which carries a maximum jail term of 90 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Reckless endangerment: This crime is a gross misdemeanor offense that involves recklessly creating a substantial risk of serious injury or death to another person. If you ride your bike in a way that causes a car to swerve and collide with another vehicle, you could be charged with this offense, which carries a jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • Reckless driving: This offense involves driving a vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for other people’s safety or property. Although this type of charge may face similar legal challenges as The City of Montesano v. Daniel Wells, it is still possible to be charged with reckless driving. Like reckless endangerment, this crime is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

What to Do If You Are Arrested for Drunk Biking

If you are arrested for drunk biking, it’s essential to remain calm and not speak to the police. Comply with their orders, but exercise your right to remain silent and not answer any questions without an attorney present. 

A criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the legal system, review the evidence against you, and work to minimize the potential consequences of your arrest. Contact a Tacoma DUI lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest to discuss your case and plan your next steps.

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