City Desk

Drunk Bicyclists, Beware: Court Upholds DUI Conviction

Can you ride a bicycle while wasted? Practically, maybe, but legally, no, according to a D.C. Court of Appeals ruling issued today.

Police reportedly found Baker N. Everton yelling on a Petworth sidewalk on January 12, 2007. He was slurring his words and could "hardly stand," according to court papers. Then he went to his bike:

"The officers asked appellant to quiet down and move on, and told him not to ride his bicycle because he was so intoxicated. Appellant, however, proceeded to ride his bicycle. Officer Mahl repeated his warning not to ride the bicycle, but appellant rode away. As he crossed Otis Place, appellant almost hit a small child who was in the crosswalk. Appellant then lost control of the bicycle and fell on the ground."

Everton was allegedly trashed enough to nearly hit a kid, which earned him a DUI citation. However, his lawyer argued that since a bike isn't a car, he didn't deserve the DUI.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, basing its opinion on 1925's Traffic Act. The Act defines a vehicle as anything that can be moved over a highway, so Everton was out of luck.

Also in trouble: drunk farmers in town for a good time. The Traffic Act includes "draft animals" and "beasts of burden" as vehicles, too.

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  • Another David

    That is a disturbingly vague description of "vehicle." A skateboard can be moved over a highway, does that count? You can walk over a highway, does that mean drunk walking counts as DUI?

  • Native JD in DC

    You can get a DUI for riding a horse, so why not a bicycle?

  • TJ

    You can get a DUI for driving a tractor trailer drunk, and you can get in trouble for public intoxication for being drunk on your feet and the cops find you. So yes, walking over a highway drunk can get you in trouble, too.

    And I'm sure that if you were about to run someone over whilst on a skateboard and the police caught you, that would also land you in jail.

  • Martin

    Now the question is what the punishment is. Will he lose his drivers license? Because that would be a bunk punishment, since he wasn't driving a car. And yes, there is a huge difference -- a bike isn't 3,000 pounds worth of metal that can reach speeds of 120 mph.

  • JA

    "Because that would be a bunk punishment, since he wasn't driving a car"

    That presumes he had a driver's license. Most of the belligerent drunks on bikes in my 'hood are people who already lost it for driving drunk. Or alternatively hipsters who don't have a car in the first place.

    "a bike isn't 3,000 pounds worth of metal that can reach speeds of 120 mph."

    So if I agree to keep my speed to 20 MPH would it be OK with you if I drove drunk? What about riding a moped or motorcycle drunk, lower penalty? Higher penalty for Hummers? Maybe some formula of "vehicle weight x speed of travel observed?"

    Funny that you should point this out given that in this case, serious injury very nearly happened to a child.

  • Martin

    I only mentioned the weight and speed of a car given the danger that is posed by one versus the danger posed by a guy on a bicycle. In this case, I think there should either be a separate law for bicycling under the influence (I believe some states have them) or his punishment should be different than that of a normal drunk driver.

    Yes, we consider bikes "motorized vehicles" for the purposes of the rules of the road, but distinctions should still be made when it comes to situations like this.

  • Fritz

    I'm a diehard bikes'-rights guy, but this should stand. Too drunk to stand up? Almost hit a kid and fall over? DUI no matter what you're riding. Having a few beers and biking is fine, but not everything is ok just because we aren't 2-ton death machines.

  • Charlie

    1st Drunk Driving Conviction
    Jail – 90 Days Maximum
    Fine – From $300 to $1,000
    License – 6 Month Suspension

    2nd Drunk Driving Conviction
    Jail – 1 Year Maximum
    Fine – From $1,000 to $5,000
    License – 1 Year Suspension

    3rd Drunk Driving Conviction
    Jail – 1 Year Maximum
    Fine – From $2,000 to $10,000
    License – 2 Year Suspension

    While he may not loose his license, there are fines and jail time to consider. These can be incentives for people to deal with their alcoholism, which is often a factor involved.

  • One percenter

    based on the facts here, i applaud the court.

  • wd

    so the guy sounds like an idiot but whatever...

    so does this mean that I can ride my bike on the highway???

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  • Rick Mangus


  • generalist

    Bicycles can do major bodily harm if the person they hit goes down wrong. I seem to recall a local accident where a bicyclist hit a pedestrian on a sidewalk. The pedestrian spent several weeks in a coma.

  • Steve L.

    I agree with the court. The guy could cause a traffic accident and get himself or others hurt!