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Can I get arrested for biking while intoxicated?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2019 | criminal defense, DWI/DUI

We all know you will be arrested if you drive your car with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater. We know you will be arrested if you are over the limit and are driving a motorcycle, ATV or boat.

But what if you are in control of a bicycle and you are over the limit? Can you be arrested for Driving While Bicycling?

In North Carolina, the answer is yes.

A danger to yourself or others

The question police officers must ask is if you are a danger to yourself or others. If the answer is yes, then they will stop you and, if your BAC is over the legal limit, you could face charges.

Different states have different laws. Some states specify that DWI charges must apply to the use of motorized vehicles. Others require that you simply be operating a vehicle.

In North Carolina, the law exempts human-powered vehicles from DWI laws but then specifically states that bicycles are included in the law.

It does, however, exempt devices used by people with a mobility impairment, can be used both inside and outside a building, and is limited to traveling no more than 15 miles per hour – think motorized wheelchair or Segway.

It also exempts people riding on a horse, so you can plan ahead for that eventuality.

The law is written broadly. Besides bicycles, here are some other vehicles that will cause you problems if you operate them while over the legal limit:

  • Golf carts
  • ATVs
  • Boats
  • Lawnmowers
  • Mopeds

What constitutes ‘operating’ a vehicle?

North Carolina law says someone is in operation of the vehicle if it is in motion or if the engine is running. “Driver” and “operator” are synonymous.

That means if you are sitting in a car with the engine running, you are operating – aka driving – the car. If you are in the driver’s seat and the car is in motion, you are driving the car.

As you can see, in both the type of vehicle and the operation of a vehicle there exists gray areas. This is where a qualified, experienced attorney can help you. If you or a loved one has been arrested for DWI, contact an attorney to get competent advice.