Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?


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Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?

Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?

Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?? As a DUI Lawyer in Orange County, I have been asked a few times in the past whether or not you can get a DUI on a bike.

The reasoning here in the question is that, since a bicycle or bike is a vehicle, and has to follow the same rules as a car, is it really considered just like a car for legal purposes involved with a DUI?

The law does have definitions, and limits on what it applies to.  While there have been cases in other jurisdictions where someone has been arrested for all of the following:

California law does make some distinctions. For example, in one Orange County DUI case that our Orange County DUI Defense firm handled, and which we ended up winning a dismissal on DUI charges for, our client was charged with a DUI on a scooter.  

We had our client’s DUI dismissed when we showed that she had a scooter with a motor below the horsepower required by law to be a “motorized vehicle”.


Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?  Not if it doesn’t have a motor. In California, a DUI is defined as operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway while under the influence or while above a .08 blood alcohol level.

However, some bicycles have a motor, or are motor assisted.

In California, the law only allows the charges for DUI to remain if the motor was above a specific horsepower.  Under California Vehicle Code VC §406(b), a bicycle must:

  • Have pedals and an electric motor that produces no more than 1,000 watts.
  • Be unable to propel itself more than 20 mph on level ground, including with assisted pedaling.

A motorized bicycle or moped classified under these requirements do not need a license plate, registration fee or insurance. They are not considered a “motorized vehicle”, and you cannot get a DUI if they meet the above requirements, or are under those requirements above. However, it’s important to note that you still must be 16 years old and wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet whenever you are riding.

Further, California Vehicle code VC 415 defines what a motor vehicle is and says:

(a) A “motor vehicle” is a vehicle that is self-propelled.

However, there is an exception for the following motorized vehicles:

(b) “Motor vehicle” does not include a self-propelled wheelchair, motorized tricycle, or motorized quadricycle, if operated by a person who, by reason of physical disability, is otherwise unable to move about as a pedestrian.

So can you get a DUI on a bicycle?  It depends. For purposes of a bike and a DUI, it doesn’t matter if the motor involved was an electric motor, or a gas motor.  If it is above the wattage or horsepower in the laws, it is considered a “motor vehicle”, and the DUI laws can be used to charge someone with a crime.  If is below those wattages or horsepower in the law, then they can’t charge you or someone else with DUI on a bicycle.

Contact us if you have questions for our Orange County DUI Lawyers regarding DUI and a bicycle, or if you need our services.

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