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Did You Hear about Bicycling under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol in Washington State? That's Another Time & Another Place

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Mar 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

The holidays are upon us, and maybe you want to have a glass of wine or two with a friend or share a joint at the local pot cafe and are now on your way home... by bicycle. It's a popular form of commute in Washington. In fact, Washington is honored with the title as the country's number one "Bicycle Friendly State" by the League of American Bicyclists since 2008. So, it's not crazy to think that someone who just smoked a joint or sipped on an alcoholic beverage may then hop on his or her bike to cycle home or to wherever the next destination is. It never occurred to you that it could be illegal until a friend asks you about it. Now you're wondering: can I legally have a drink of alcohol or smoke a joint and then get on my bicycle to go home, or do I need to call Uber?

According to Washington state law, bicycles are technically vehicles, and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. What does this mean for bicyclists? Not much.

Bicycles may technically be vehicles, but they are not vehicles in the meaning of the law when it comes to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Washington's Supreme Court made sure of the same in its decision in City of Montesano v. Wells. Daniel Wells was convicted of a DUI emanating from an incident while riding his bicycle. After his conviction, his appeals made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which found that the law applied only to "motor" vehicles and that there was no intention of it applying to a bicycle, a non-motor vehicle.

Safety on a Bike

Just because operating a bicycle after having a drink will not get you arrested, you should still practice safety. That said, there are laws related to bicycling, though some are local, not applicable state-wide:

A BUI Stands only for Boating Under the Influence in Washington State

You may have heard by way of rumor or a whisper that if you get on your bike after having a drink, you could be arrested. Even police officers still think the law applies and will charge someone of it. That rule no longer applies, and any such charge today will be dismissed. If, however, you visit our neighbors to the south of us in Oregon or California, then yes, you can be cited and arrested, for bicycling while under the influence of alchol or drugs, even if the drugs are legal for medical or recreational purposes.

Today, in Washington state, operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs only applies to automobiles and boats. If that happens to you, then contact an experienced DUI lawyer to help you with your case. But for now, you can still ride your bike.

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 16 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.

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