Bicycle DUI: Is It a Legal Offense?


Many Illinois citizens use bicycles as their primary mode of transport. Riding a bike is better for the environment, cheaper, and sometimes faster, depending on where you live. People often go for a beer with their friends after work and decide to cycle home or bicycle drunk because getting an Uber or car sharing is not an option.

Many states in the US criminalize intoxicated bike riding and apply the same laws as drunk driving in a vehicle. Illinois, thankfully, is not one of these states, and you cannot be charged with a DUI for riding a regular bike while drunk. However, there are some traffic violations and other criminal offenses that can be used against drunk biking, and you could face a DUI on a bike powered by a battery or electricity.


Bicycle DUI Defense Strategies With an Attorney in Illinois

If you are facing criminal charges or traffic offenses in Illinois for riding a bike while under the influence, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney from Hirsch Law Group as soon as possible. The consequences of a criminal offense or traffic violation can be severe and quite expensive. You could have hefty fines, license suspension, a traffic or criminal record, and even jail time.

At Hirsch Law Group, we have over 20 years of experience helping Illinois citizens with traffic and criminal offenses. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of DUI laws, traffic laws, and criminal state laws. We treat every case that comes through our doors equally and provide each client with a tailored defense experience.

Our priority is protecting your future against a criminal or traffic record. We care about your future and will do everything we can to protect it. Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation at 815-880-1134.


What Are Illinois DUI Laws For Bikes?


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Illinois is unlawful and results in criminal penalties. If you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level higher than 0.08% or 0.04% for commercial motor vehicle drivers, you can be charged with a DUI. If you are an underage driver, you could face DUI charges for any amount of alcohol in your system.


Actual Physical Control

The law requires that drivers be in actual physical control (APC) of a vehicle to get a DUI. Actual physical control can mean driving the vehicle, sitting in the vehicle with the ignition key, attempting to drive the vehicle, or a level of control that the prosecutor deems sufficient. This means that you could be charged with a DUI without having actually driven the vehicle in question.


Definition of a Motor Vehicle


The definition of a motor vehicle under traffic law is what separates drunk driving on a bicycle from drunk driving in a motor vehicle. Section § 85.1703 of the Illinois state laws defines a motor vehicle as:

“a vehicle which is self-propelled and capable of transporting a person or persons or any material or any permanently or temporarily affixed apparatus…”

As per this definition, the vehicle must be self-propelled and can carry a person or multiple people. As most bikes are not self-propelled and require human assistance to get moving, a bike is not considered a motor vehicle under this definition.

The Illinois Combined Statutes also defines motor vehicles for Illinois DUI laws, which prosecutors often rely on in courts. Section § 625 defines a vehicle as:

“Every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway or requiring a certificate of title under Section 3-101(d) of this Code, except devices moved by human power…”

Similar to the other definition of motor vehicles, devices or vehicles operated using human power or assistance will not be considered a vehicle under the law. By definition, a traditional bicycle is not a motor vehicle under the law. Because of this, you cannot be charged with a DUI for riding a bike drunk in Illinois.


Vehicles Included Under The Definition of Motor Vehicles

A DUI offense can only be brought against a person operating a vehicle that moves itself and drives faster than 25 miles per hour on a paved surface. The types of vehicles that are covered in these definitions include:

  • Cars

  • Trucks

  • Motorcycles

  • Golf cars

  • Boats

  • Mopeds

  • Snowmobiles

  • Motorized bicycles and scooters

  • Tractors and trailers

Bicycles are clearly not on that list. The law clearly states that a motor vehicle must be self-propelled and capable of carrying passengers or materials. There are no provisions in the Illinois DUI laws that cover bicycles.


Do DUI Laws Apply To Electric Bikes in Illinois?


Recently, electric bikes, e-scooters, and bikes with battery-powered engines have become more popular, particularly in cities like Chicago. People are often confused about whether they can get a DUI for riding an electric bike or e-scooter because they differ from traditional bikes.

This confusion often leads to DUI convictions because you can, in fact, get a DUI for riding an electric bike or e-scooter. The Illinois DUI statute provides that any vehicle not controlled by human power that can go faster than 25 miles per hour is considered a vehicle under DUI and traffic rules.

Based on this, you could face serious DUI charges for driving an electric bike while under the influence. If your e-bike or scooter goes slower than 25 miles per hour, you may avoid a DUI conviction. Speak with an experienced DUI defense lawyer if you are facing DUI charges related to an electric bike.


Penalties For Intoxicated Bike Riding in Illinois


Separate from Illinois DUI laws, bike riders can be charged with other offenses for riding a bicycle drunk under both traffic laws and criminal laws.


Disorderly Conduct

Although you cannot be charged for a DUI on a regular bike, you may be charged with disorderly conduct. Police officers and prosecutors often use this crime to get around biking DUI laws and convict those who ride a bike while under the influence.

Disorderly conduct is a broad area of law that can include false fire alarms, false reports to police, and breaches of the peace. A breach of the peace can consist of public intoxication, which is what police officers often use to arrest people for a DUI on a bike.

To prove disorderly conduct, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • Knowingly committed the act (drunk biking);

  • In an unreasonable manner;

  • That it caused alarm to or disturbed another person;

  • It provoked a breach of the peace.

Because this law is so broad, a police officer can easily use this to arrest you for biking drunk and ensure that you receive a criminal conviction. However, an experienced attorney will defend against the evidence presented by the prosecutor and argue they cannot prove you breached the peace beyond a reasonable doubt. By doing this, a lawyer may get your charges dropped altogether.


Traffic Violations

Although a traditional bike is not a vehicle under the law, cyclists must adhere to the same traffic laws as other drivers. These traffic laws include obeying traffic signs, stopping at a traffic stop, stopping at pedestrian crosswalks, and riding in the same direction as other vehicles.

You could be subject to a traffic stop if you violate these rules while riding a bike. If a police or traffic officer has serious concerns that you cannot ride your bike because you are intoxicated, you could be stopped for failing to adhere to traffic laws.

The consequences of violating traffic rules depend on your situation. Regardless of how serious the traffic violation is, however, it will be added to your record. You may also face fines and have to attend traffic school. The penalties may be more severe if you already have previous traffic violations.


Public Intoxication

Another possible charge for drunk biking is public intoxication. This charge is separate from DUI and traffic offenses, but it can still result in a criminal conviction.

Public intoxication occurs when an individual appears drunk in public, and the defendant was:

  • A risk to themselves or others;

  • Unable to care for their safety or

  • In danger of causing substantial harm to themselves or others.

To be charged with public intoxication while riding a bike, the officer must reasonably assume that you were in danger of causing harm to yourself or others. They may use testimony and evidence from witnesses, including their observations of your riding behavior.


Can You Get a DUI While Riding a Bike in Illinois?


DUI convictions cannot be brought against people driving a standard bike while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or another controlled substance. However, if you were driving an e-scooter, electric bike, or another bike with battery-powered engines, you could be convicted of a DUI.

DUI convictions carry severe penalties, including jail time, huge fines, and a permanent criminal record. A DUI can cause you serious financial difficulty and license suspension and affect your future with a permanent criminal record.

The same applies to the criminal offense of disorderly conduct, often brought against those riding a bike while under the influence. The penalties for this offense vary, and you will receive a criminal record if convicted, which will cause you significant hardships in your life.


Contact an Attorney At Hirsch Law Group Today!


The only way to avoid the harsh consequences of being caught riding a bike while under the influence is to hire an experienced attorney. The lawyers at Hirsch Law Group have the experience necessary to fight against an intoxicated bike riding charge.

We have worked as former prosecutors, so we know how to poke holes in their theory to prevent the charge from succeeding. Our lawyers have won multiple awards for our experience and dedication and have won hundreds of cases at trial. We care about your future and want to do everything we can to protect it.

Call our law firm today for a free consultation at 815-880-1134.