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Can I Get a DUI for Riding a Bicycle Drunk in WA?

A DUI conviction in Washington can result in serious criminal and administrative penalties, including fines worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, driver’s license suspension or revocation, and even a lengthy jail sentence. In order to avoid getting arrested for drunk driving, many people opt to ride their bicycles, rather than drive their cars. 

However, is it possible to be arrested for a DUI in Washington for biking while intoxicated? In short, cyclists cannot be charged with a DUI for riding a bike drunk. 

In a 1995 case (The City of Montesano v. Daniel Wells), the defendant was convicted of a DUI for riding his bicycle under the influence and later appealed the ruling. The Washington Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the defendant, stating that the DUI laws used the terms “motor vehicle” and “vehicle” interchangeably and implying that the DUI statute did not intend to address bicycling while intoxicated. 

Although it is unlikely you will be charged with a DUI for drunk cycling, the following are other criminal offenses you can face for committing such an act: 

  • Disorderly conduct – You can be arrested for disorderly conduct in Washington for intentionally obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority, whether you are drunk or sober. Therefore, if you drunkenly ride your bike on the road and impede traffic, you could be charged with disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum jail term of 90 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

  • Reckless endangerment – If you recklessly create a substantial risk of serious injury or death to another person, you could be charged with reckless endangerment, which is a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and/or a maximum fine of $5,000. For example, if you ride your bike in the middle of the road and cause a car to swerve and collide with another vehicle, you could be charged with reckless endangerment. 

  • Reckless driving – This traffic offense is defined as 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 like those in the case mentioned earlier, it is still possible to be charged with reckless driving, which is also a gross misdemeanor. 

Alas, if a police officer encounters an intoxicated cyclist who hasn’t committed any of the offenses mentioned above, he/she may offer to either transport the cyclist to a safe place or release the cyclist to a competent individual. 

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Tacoma, call Hester Law Group at (253) 300-3034 or complete our online contact form today to request a free consultation. Our legal team has more than 130 years of combined legal experience! 

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