Summer is here, and as one famous old song reminds us “the time is right, for dancing in the street.” But whether it’s dancing, boating, fishing, golf, or bicycling, summer is absolutely the season for fun and recreation in southern California. Bicycling, of course, is one of the most popular recreational activities, and many of us in California enjoy it passionately. Moreover, for many Californians without automobiles, a bicycle is more than recreation – it’s their transportation. Bike riding is obviously less expensive, better for your health, and better for the environment than taking your automobile everywhere you go.
Moreover, for many Californians without automobiles, a bicycle is more than recreation – it’s their transportation. Bike riding is obviously less expensive, better for your health, and better for the environment than taking your automobile everywhere you go.
Some people in California also think that they can avoid a driving under the influence charge and drink as much as they like if they are bicycling rather than driving. Those people are mistaken. In California, if you are riding a bicycle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be arrested and charged with cycling under the influence – “CUI.” The California Vehicle Code states: “It is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.” Just to be clear, a “highway” means any public street in California.
The California Vehicle Code states: “It is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon a highway while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.” Just to be clear, a “highway” means any public street in California.
HOW IS CUI LEGALLY DISTINCT FROM DUI?
If your fun and recreation in Southern California this summer includes sharing some alcoholic beverages with friends, you do not want to drive under the influence, so you will need to arrange alternative transportation. Forget about using the bicycle, though. If you are going to drink any alcohol, you’ll need to leave the bike at home.
And unlike driving under the influence, there is no “legal limit” associated with cycling under the influence in this state. If a California law enforcement officer reasonably believes that you are riding a bicycle while you are intoxicated, that officer can make an arrest on the spot.
If you are arrested and charged with cycling under the influence in Southern California, you will need to speak about your case at once with an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. Although no one serves any time in jail for cycling under the influence, a conviction can be punished by a fine of up to $250, and you will have a misdemeanor conviction on your record that constitutes a prior criminal conviction if you are charged with another crime in the future.
However, no points are added to your driver’s license. But if you are under age 21, you could lose your driving privilege for up to a year as a result of a cycling under the influence conviction.
Along with the criminal penalties, if you injure anyone while cycling under the influence, you could wind up on the wrong end of a civil personal injury lawsuit. CUI charges in California are also often linked to other, related misdemeanor charges.
If a law officer reasonably believes that you are a risk to yourself and/or the public, or if you block a sidewalk or otherwise obstruct others, you may be charged with “drunk in public,” a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Most California municipalities also have their own local ordinances to penalize the obstruction of sidewalks and other public areas.
It is never a good idea to ride a bicycle after drinking any amount of alcohol. Bicycle riders already have far less safety protection than automobile drivers and passengers, so a bicyclist must stay vigilant, entirely focused, and always ready to react instantly.
Any impairment of a bicyclist’s thought processes or reaction times creates a genuine danger both for the bike rider as well as for anyone nearby. Everyone knows that alcohol reduces coordination and alertness. A bicyclist who has had too much to drink simply cannot operate a bicycle safely – no exceptions.
WHEN AND WHY DID LAWMAKERS ESTABLISH A DISTINCT CUI LAW?
In 1985, cycling under the influence was added to the California Vehicle Code as the state’s lawmakers reacted to research studies indicating that an increasing number of the bicyclists in California traffic crashes had been cycling under the influence.
In 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined that 23 percent of the bicyclists age 16 and above who are traffic accident fatalities – almost one in four – die with a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Anyone who is charged in Southern California with CUI, DUI, or BUI – boating under the influence – should speak to an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. It is always smart to have reliable legal advice and experienced defense representation because the laws governing alcohol in California are always complicated.
For example, cycling under the influence is distinct from DUI because California law does not define a bicycle as a “vehicle.” However, motorized devices like mopeds, tractors, and golf carts fall under the law’s definition of a vehicle, so those who operate such devices may be – and in fact have been – prosecuted for DUI in California.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO AVOID A CUI CHARGE?
Those who drive for a living in California and those who hold professional licenses in this state will have their jobs or careers negatively affected by any alcohol-related criminal conviction. Even though most people can afford the fine, anyone who is accused of cycling under the influence in Southern California should contest the charge. But an even better idea is to avoid a cycling under the influence charge entirely and use a rideshare service, a taxi, a designated driver, or – in a pinch – a friend’s sofa.
Rides-for-hire are everywhere in Southern California, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Of course, rides home are not cheap, but a rideshare service or a taxicab will still cost far, far less than a ride to the jail, to the emergency room, or to the morgue.
Every two minutes, someone is injured in an alcohol-related traffic accident in the United States, and every day, 28 more people in the U.S. die in alcohol-related traffic collisions. Thus, if you plan to share some drinks with friends, the best advice is simply this: Don’t drink and drive – or even ride a bicycle.