Many of you are aware that it is illegal to drink and drive a motor vehicle. But did you know that you can also be held criminally liable for operating (pedaling) a bicycle while you are under the influence of alcohol in North Dakota? Yes, a bicycle, as in that old Huffy you occasionally take out for a test run before you realize the tires are too flat and then decide you don't want to ride it bad enough to fill the tires up with air. While not too common of an occurrence, bicycle DUI arrests do occur in our state, and I know with all too much familiarity that some have even been taken to trial.
This is because a bicycle (or ridden animal) is deemed a vehicle for the purposes of the DUI statute in North Dakota. That means that if you are biking under the influence of alcohol on a highway or in a private area to which the public has a right of access for vehicular use, you can be arrested and charged with biking under the influence. But it isn't that black and white, and there is more to it.
For instance, in North Dakota, there are typically two sides to your run of the mill car DUI: the criminal side in court, as well as the administrative side with the Department of Transportation addressing whether or not your license should be suspended. In the case of biking under the influence, the DOT has authority to suspend your driving privileges only if you are convicted of the offense. This is because The DOT only has the ability to suspend an individual's driver's license for DUI in a motor vehicle, of which your Schwinn is not. However, the law in North Dakota does not differentiate between a bicycle and a car DUI if you are convicted or plead guilty to DUI, even if the allegations were that you were on a bike. Because of this, the DOT, even if your license is not suspended administratively, has the ability to suspend your motor vehicle driving privileges for your biking under the influence criminal conviction.
So, what is important for you to know is that if you are arrested for biking under the influence, and the officer provides you with what is called a Report and Notice form, i.e. notice that your driving privileges will be suspended based on the arrest, it is critical for you to request an administrative hearing within ten (10) days of the date of issuance of the Report and Notice form to challenge the suspension of your license.
Finally, it is important that you also know that the implied consent laws in North Dakota only govern motor vehicles as well, and not bicycles (or ridden animals). Based on this, if you are arrested for DUI on a bicycle, and are read what is referred to as the "implied consent advisory" by the officer, advising you that it is a crime to refuse the chemical breath test, and that your license can be revoked for a minimum of 180 days and potentially up to three (3) years, that isn't true. Because a bicycle is only a "vehicle" under state law, the implied consent penalties do not apply to you, and with that your license cannot be revoked, and it is not a crime to refuse to submit to a warrantless chemical test.
I know. I just bored you with the law about drinking and biking. But, I bet you will think twice next time you want to take your bike out for an inebriated journey around town.
Luke Heck is a criminal defense attorney at Vogel Law Firm, and can be reached at 701-237-6983 if you, a friend, or a loved one, has questions regarding a criminal issue in North Dakota or Minnesota, including DUI. This article is only meant to provide general information and does not in any way constitute legal advice.