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Can I Get a DUI on a Bicycle in Pennsylvania?


6/3/2019

Most DUIs are the result of a simple mistake or an error in judgment, and as a result, most people are shocked to find themselves charged with DUI. This is particularly the case if you were charged with DUI while riding a bicycle – you may have actually chosen not to drive in order to avoid driving while under the influence. Regardless, it’s important to remember that just because you’ve been charged, it doesn’t mean that you will be convicted.

If you’re facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer to help you get a fair result. At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we know that a conviction can do irreparable damage to your future, which is why we give our clients dedicated, aggressive legal representation every step of the way. Contact our DUI lawyers in Philadelphia today by calling 215-712-1212 or by contacting us online. We can schedule a free consultation and begin building your defense.

DUIs in Pennsylvania

It may be helpful to first review the basics of DUI law in Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to “drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle” while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. There are two ways that you can wind up charged with DUI:

  1. The officer determines that you are impaired to the extent that you are unable to safely operate the vehicle; or
  2. You have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher.

The first standard of impairment is somewhat subjective and will depend on the officer’s observations at the time of your arrest. The second standard requires the administration of a breathalyzer or blood test.

What Constitutes a Vehicle?

The specific language of the statute is critically important. In the language quoted above, note that it says “vehicle” and not “motor vehicle.” Pennsylvania law defines a vehicle as “Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks.” As you can see, the definition is extremely broad – every “device” that can go on a highway. In addition to railway vehicles, the statute also excludes self-propelled wheelchairs and other motorized mobility devices for people with physical disabilities. As a result, the term “vehicle” arguably includes scooters, motorcycles, segways, skateboards, and yes, bicycles. As a result, you can be charged with DUI while riding a bicycle.

You may be wondering, however, whether you can be charged with DUI if you don’t ride your bike on the highway. After all, the term “highway” as it is commonly used does not include neighborhood streets or other low-speed roads. Unfortunately, the statute defines highway to include any public road including roadways on colleges, school, or historical parks. Once again, the definition is much broader than you might think.

Therefore, to answer the original question, yes, you can be charged with DUI while riding a bicycle in the state of Pennsylvania.

Potential DUI Penalties

A bicycle-related DUI is handled exactly the same as any other DUI, and you face the same penalties if convicted. In Pennsylvania, the potential penalties you face depend on your level of intoxication and other circumstances surrounding your case.

General Impairment: BAC of .08% to .1%

  • Up to six months of probation
  • Fines of up to $300

High Impairment: BAC of .1% to .159%

  • Possible jail sentence anywhere from 48 hours to six months
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Fines of $500 to $5,000

Highest Impairment: BAC of .16% and higher or under the influence of any controlled substance

  • Possible jail sentence anywhere from 72 hours to six months
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Fines of $1,000 to $5,000

Note that your driver’s license may be suspended even though you weren’t driving a car. In addition, these are the penalties that apply if you have no prior DUIs – the penalties become increasingly severe if you have prior DUI convictions.

Special Considerations for Minors

High school and college students often use bicycles as their primary means of transportation to get to and from school. Unfortunately, minors are subject to harsher penalties than people who are of age. First, it’s important to understand that you are considered a minor in the state of Pennsylvania until you reach the age of 21.

More importantly, the threshold BAC for DUI for minors is .02% instead of .08%. And as noted above, you can be charged with DUI while riding your bicycle across a college campus – the fact that you were not on a public roadway is not relevant.

DUI Defenses

Every case is different, and the appropriate defense will depend on the facts in your case. However, here are some common defenses that are often successful in DUI cases that we handle:

Your constitutional rights were violated. If the officer did not have a legal basis to stop you, your charges may be dismissed. It’s more difficult to justify stopping someone who is riding a bicycle than it is to stop someone for a broken taillight. In addition, it’s possible for your constitutional rights were violated during the stop itself – perhaps the officer didn’t give you the appropriate Miranda warnings or coerced you to incriminate yourself.

The breathalyzer equipment was not properly calibrated or was functioning improperly. Breathalyzer equipment requires regular calibration and maintenance in order to yield accurate results.

The officer did not administer the tests correctly. Police officers have to be trained in the proper use of breathalyzer equipment. They also need to be trained in observing signs of intoxication, which are ultimately subjective observations.

There were other factors that yielded a false positive. For example, if you burped right before taking the breathalyzer test, the results may be inaccurate. Diabetics and people with chronic acid reflux can also yield inaccurate results. There are a number of factors that can result in a wrongful DUI charge.

In addition to those defenses, there are some issues specific to bicycle-related DUIs that can be raised:

  • Were you actually “operating” or in “actual physical control” of the bicycle?
  • Were you on a “highway” as defined by the statute?
  • Were you on private property, not governed by Pennsylvania law?

Unfortunately, these defenses and arguments are fairly difficult for non-lawyers to raise – you need to understand the law and which facts may be relevant. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help you formulate a successful DUI defense.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Lauren Wimmer Can Help You Face Your DUI Charge

Too many people think that their case is hopeless or that if they cooperate, they’ll get a more lenient sentence. You need someone on your side who will fight for your rights and make sure you get a fair result. We can help you face your DUI charge – call us today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.