It’s a well-known fact that here in Washington State you can get a DUI while driving a motorized vehicle or operating a motorized boat if you are under the influence of alcohol, but can you also be charged with a DUI if your riding your bicycle while intoxicated?
The answer is NO, you can not be charged with a DUI in Washington State if you are riding your bike while drunk. However, every state has their own laws pertaining to DUI bike riding. For example, if you were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs on a public road in California, you could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a $250.00 fine (separate from a motorized DUI charge). Contrasting California’s DUI bike laws, are states such as South Dakota who encourage individuals to ride their bike if they are intoxicated rather than getting behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle.
Here in Washington State, a law enforcement officer cannot arrest an individual for riding their bicycle while under the influence. The officer does have the authority to stop the bicyclist and ask them if they would voluntarily like to be transported somewhere or if they would like to have another competent individual escort them home. If the bicyclist refuses help, the officer must let them proceed without any further action. Lastly, the officer may impound the bike if they feel the bicyclist is a threat to public safety and there is no alternative to impounding the bike. Luckily for the bicyclist, once they are no longer intoxicated they can reclaim their bike without paying an impound fee.
So Seattle and Washington State bikers, enjoy the summer winds, stop and indulge in some happy hour, and hit the roads again without the fear of being charged with biking DUI. Bike safely and know your legal rights!
Here is RCW 46.61.790, Intoxicated bicyclists. (Derived from apps.leg.wa.gov)
(1) A law enforcement officer may offer to transport a bicycle rider who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or any drug and who is walking or moving along or within the right-of-way of a public roadway, unless the bicycle rider is to be taken into protective custody under RCW 70.96A.120. The law enforcement officer offering to transport an intoxicated bicycle rider under this section shall:
(a) Transport the intoxicated bicycle rider to a safe place; or
(b) Release the intoxicated bicycle rider to a competent person.
(2) The law enforcement officer shall not provide the assistance offered if the bicycle rider refuses to accept it. No suit or action may be commenced or prosecuted against the law enforcement officer, law enforcement agency, the state of Washington, or any political subdivision of the state for any act resulting from the refusal of the bicycle rider to accept this assistance.
(3) The law enforcement officer may impound the bicycle operated by an intoxicated bicycle rider if the officer determines that impoundment is necessary to reduce a threat to public safety, and there are no reasonable alternatives to impoundment. The bicyclist will be given a written notice of when and where the impounded bicycle may be reclaimed. The bicycle may be reclaimed by the bicycle rider when the bicycle rider no longer appears to be intoxicated, or by an individual who can establish ownership of the bicycle. The bicycle must be returned without payment of a fee. If the bicycle is not reclaimed within thirty days, it will be subject to sale or disposal consistent with agency procedures.
Written by Senior DUI Defense Attorney David O
Co-Written by SAO