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The State of Washington doesn’t have a statute that prohibits a bicycle rider from riding a bike while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. That’s because the state’s legislature doesn’t consider bicycles to be motor vehicles. What constitutes a motor vehicle in the state is generally thought to be a form of transportation that is propelled by an internal combustion engine.

Washington’s Criminal DUI Penalties Don’t Apply

Regardless of the fact that bicycles aren’t considered to be motor vehicles, they still share the road with motor vehicles, and they’re legally required to follow many of the same traffic laws that motorists are required to follow. The one major exception to this general rule is in the context of the state’s DUI laws. As there is no statutory prohibition against riding a bicycle while under the influence, state DUI laws don’t apply to bicyclists in Washington.

The Offer of Assistance

The fact that Washington’s criminal DUI penalties don’t apply to bicyclists doesn’t mean that a bicyclist can ride around as drunk as a hoot owl. Drunk bicyclists still present a risk to motorists and themselves. On that reasoning, overserved bicyclists can get stopped by the police too. They’ll just be sleeping it off somewhere other than the county jail. RCW 46.61.790 allows a police officer to stop a bicyclist on a public street, road or right-of-way who appears to be under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both. That person can be taken into protective custody. The police officer may then offer to transport that person to a safe place or to an otherwise competent person. The police officer is not allowed to provide assistance if the rider refuses to accept it.

The Refusal of Assistance

Should the bicyclist refuse assistance, the police officer can decide that impoundment at no cost to the drunk bicyclist is necessary in order to reduce a threat to public safety. Remember that bicyclists have the same duties and obligations on the road as motorists. The bicyclist shouldn’t be surprised if he or she gets at least one traffic ticket. At least it’s not going to be a DUI. After impoundment, the bike can be reclaimed when rider sobers up. If it’s not reclaimed within 30 days, it can be disposed of.

Washington court’s have consistently held that although riding a bicycle while being intoxicated might be dangerous, it’s not nearly as much of a risk to the public as operating a 3,500 pound motor vehicle at a high rate of speed on a public roadway. Being one of the most bicycle friendly states in the country, don’t expect Washington’s position on riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana to change in the foreseeable future. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in or around Spokane, it’s extremely important for you to speak with an experienced Spokane DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Our office has extensive experience in defending DUI defendants throughout the State of Washington. Contact us right away after any DUI arrest.

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