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D.C. DUI Arrests Not Just for Motor Vehicle Drivers

by | Apr 8, 2013

There was a recent story about a truck driver in Virginia who was arrested for DUI after crashing his truck into a bicycle shop.

That likely didn’t surprise many.

But what about the Pennsylvania man arrested for being intoxicated while riding his bicycle on campus?

Our D.C DUI lawyers know that in Pennsylvania, just like in D.C. and many other places, operation of a bicycle while impaired can get you a DUI just as fast as operation of a motor vehicle.

This is an important message to drive home because most people consider bicycling a safer alternative to getting behind the wheel if you’re intoxicated.

In some ways, of course, it is. For example, you’re less likely on a bicycle to seriously harm or kill someone else or cause significant property damage than if you were in a motorized vehicle.

This would ultimately allow you to avoid some of the higher-level DUI charges.

But the reality is, it may actually very dangerous for the rider. The New York Times reported back in 2010 indicating that one-fifth of those cyclists who were killed in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. (However, we don’t know how many of those were actually at-fault in the incidents that led to their deaths.)

This message of DUI charges for cyclists is important, particularly as we are experiencing warmer weather and more people are choosing bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation.

D.C. was recently ranked 4th in the nation for its bicycle-friendliness. It has nearly 60 miles of marked bicycle lanes, has some 2,300 bicycle parking racks and recently launched the first bicycle sharing program in the country.

Annually, the D.C. Department of Transportation reports about 265 bicycle crashes each year.

But one need not be in a crash in order to be stopped or arrested for DUI on a bicycle.

The precedent has been in place since 2010, when the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled on a 2007 case in which an intoxicated man was reportedly arrested for getting onto a bicycle after police warned him not to. He then nearly struck a child, though no one was actually hurt.

He was convicted, but later appealed on the basis that a bicycle is not a vehicle. However, the court of appeals held that an intoxicated bicycle rider could face the same severity of DUI charges as any other motorist.

This of course seems inherently unfair, as the risk posed to others by a bicyclist compared to those of a motor vehicle operator are worlds apart.

It’s less likely for a law enforcement officer to stop a bicyclist for a minor infraction than a driver, particularly if he or she is posing no risk to others nearby. However, it is certainly possible.

In the Pennsylvania case, the student was reportedly stopped for riding his bicycle without a headlamp. His blood alcohol level was measured at 0.162 percent.

If you are arrested for intoxicated bicycling in D.C., call our experienced DUI lawyers.

Contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.