Article written by Nathan J. Mammarella, Esq
Can you be Charged with DUI/DWI while Riding a Bicycle?
Drinking and “riding” (a bike) is illegal, but does not result in a license suspension.
New Jersey’s case law is clear: it is illegal to not just operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, but a bicycle as well. The laws that regulate the use of bicycles on public roads are within Title 39 of the Motor Motor Vehicles & Traffic Regulation laws of NJ. The seminal case on the issue, State v. Tehan, was decided by the Somerset County Law Division in 1982.
There, the defendant was charged with Driving Under the Influence after leaving his place of employment while intoxicated. After a Municipal Court Bench Trial, and subsequent appeal to the Law Division, the Court found that bicycles were covered by the statute prohibiting driving while under the influence. Specifically, the Court defended this decision by ruling that:
The presence on the roadways of intoxicated persons on bicycles may not entail the same degree of danger as the presence of drunken drivers of automobiles or other motor vehicles. However, the drunken operator of a bicycle may create situations endangering both himself and others on the roads. He might, for example, swerve into traffic, cross the line into oncoming traffic, or fall in the path of traffic. Therefore, the operator of a bicycle is under an obligation to stay off the roads when intoxicated.
Importantly, if convicted of New Jersey’s drunk driving statute while on a bicycle, the Court cannot suspend your motor vehicle license or require the installation of an ignition interlock device.
Additionally, even if you are not charged with a DUI for riding a bicycle while drunk you may still be subject to other charges such as Disorderly Conduct or Public Intoxication.
In December 2019, New Jersey’s new DWI law went into effect. Under current New Jersey law, for a first offense violation of the drunk driving statute, an individual can face a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device or a license forfeiture for up to twelve (12) months. This is not the case for convictions arising from the use and operation of bicycles. The Court can only a fine, community service, or jail time.
Contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates
Regardless of whether you are operating a bicycle or a car, a conviction for Driving Under the Influence in New Jersey has serious penalties. If you have questions about New Jersey’s laws regarding drunk driving, contact Rosenberg | Perry & Associates.
Learn more about defenses for DUI/DWI by watching this video: