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Bicycling Under the Influence in Washington State

In general, Washington DUI laws apply to motorized vehicles, but there are times when courts need to decide cases that are a little extraordinary. DUI cases come in all colors, as humans can operate a number of machines while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. From boats to lawn mowers, there are few unconventional methods of transportation that have not been tried for DUI. But what about one of the state’s more common methods of transportation that doesn’t involve a motor? Washington Bicycling Laws The state of Washington defines bicycle as “every device propelled solely by human power upon which a person or persons may ride,” therefore, a bike doesn’t count as a “motor vehicle.” There are a number of laws defined by the Washington State Department of Transportation that aim to keep cyclists safe, but surprisingly, none defines BUI, or “biking under the influence.” The only statute that references traffic laws is RCW 46.61.755. This law grants every person who rides a bicycle the same rights as drivers, and states they are subject to the same responsibilities that are applicable.

What Happens if I’m Caught Cycling under the Influence?

Under RCW 46.61.790, intoxicated bicyclists encountered by police may be offered transportation by the police officer if it is evident he is intoxicated. The police officer may also offer to release the intoxicated cyclist to a competent person other than the officer himself. The officer is not required to force assistance; on the contrary, any law enforcement officer who encounters an intoxicated cyclist in Washington who does not wish to be helped must not provide assistance that isn’t accepted. With this being said, the most that can happen when you encounter law enforcement in this situation is that the officer will offer to take you home or somewhere safe. He may also ask if you have any family members or friends who could pick you up. In the worst case scenario, the officer can impound your bike if he feels that you are a threat to yourself or others and there is no further option. In this case, you can reclaim your bike when you reach sobriety. This picture is strikingly different from the same situation in California, where cyclists are treated exactly as any other driver. Intoxicated cyclists in California can be charged with DUI/ DWI. If convicted, cyclists face penalties of being charged with a misdemeanor and a fine of $250.00. This does not count as a motorized DUI charge, which is more severe Cyclists in Washington are safe from criminal charges for biking under the influence. The key to all this is the state’s definition of a motor vehicle. In City of Montesano v. Wells, a cyclist’s DUI conviction was overturned due to the state’s recognition that a motor vehicle means “every vehicle which is self-propelled.” A vehicle that is self-propelled can go on its own because it has a motor, while a bicycle is powered by your own force. If you face DUI charges in Washington, a skilled attorney can help you by developing a strong legal defense. Discuss your case today at no charge by consulting with Murphy’s Law Offices. Call (253) 312-6122 today.

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King County Office
33515 10th Place South, #17
Federal Way, WA 98063



Pierce County Office
506 S. 11th St.
Tacoma, WA 98402



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  • DUI Cases
  • Criminal Defense
  • Auto Accidents
  • Personal Injury
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Murphy’s Law Offices
506 S. 11th St.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone: (253) 312-6122

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