Many Texas residents ride bicycles to get around town, exercise, or even commute to work. In addition, some of them bike to bars and restaurants to avoid getting a DWI. But can you still get arrested for impaired cycling in the Lone Star State?
Under Texas criminal law, if a person who is at least 21 years old has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher while operating a motor vehicle, he/she can be charged with driving while intoxicated. A “motor vehicle” is defined as, “a device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, except a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks.”
Although the name “motor vehicle” obviously suggests it must be motorized, the only exception mentioned is for trains. Therefore, it is possible—although highly unlikely—that a person can be charged with a DWI for riding a bike while under the influence.
Because a motor vehicle is vaguely defined, some prosecutors continue to argue that the current definition might include a bicycle. Fortunately, most courts interpret the law differently and only press charges against individuals who operate vehicles powered by a motor.
However, an intoxicated cyclist can be charged with public intoxication, which occurs when “a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”
For example, if a drunk cyclist erratically rides their bike on the road and a passing car avoids hitting him/her but ends up crashing into another vehicle instead, the cyclist’s reckless actions can lead to a public intoxication charge, which is a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $500 and other penalties – not including jail time.
Additionally, an impaired cyclist who causes a car accident can be held liable in civil court. Like drivers of motor vehicles, cyclists have a duty to ride their bikes in a reasonably safe manner and obey traffic laws. If a cyclist engages in negligent behaviors, like riding while intoxicated, and such actions result in a crash and injuries, he/she can be subject to a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have been arrested for a DWI in Denton, contact Derek A. Adame, Attorney at Law today to schedule a free initial consultation. Let a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of legal experience protect your rights, freedom, and future.