In addition to being prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may also face DUI charges for operating other types of vehicles when you have been drinking. It is even possible for you to be convicted of a DUI offense while you are operating a non-motorized vehicle such as a bicycle in Pennsylvania. Bicyclists who are charged with DUI offenses must go through the same criminal processes as people who are charged with DUI offenses while they are operating motor vehicles. If you are facing a drunk bicycling charge, contact an attorney at DiCindio Law.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided a case in 2014 that involved a DUI on a bicycle in the case of Bilka v. Commonwealth Department of Transportation Bureau of Driver Licensing, 92 A.3d 1253 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014). The decision in this case confirmed that the DUI laws in Pennsylvania cover bicycles and that bicyclists who are arrested for DUI offenses are not treated any differently than motorists. The court also found that bicyclists must submit to chemical testing under the state’s implied consent law or be subjected to penalties.
The Bilka case
James Bilka was stopped by the police on Sept. 15, 2011, after he rode his bicycle through a red light in front of a police officer. The officer said that Bilka’s speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, and he smelled of alcohol. The officer confirmed with the local prosecutor’s office that Bilka could be charged with a DUI, and he was placed under arrest. After his arrest, Bilka refused chemical testing of his blood.
His driver’s license was suspended for 18 months under the state’s implied consent law because he refused to submit to chemical testing. He filed an appeal of his driver’s license suspension, arguing that bicyclists do not have to get a license to ride bicycles and shouldn’t be subject to the implied consent law.
The Commonwealth Court found that the state’s DUI laws do cover bicyclists and that bicyclists must face the same types of penalties when they are charged with drunk biking. The court also found that cyclists are covered under the state’s implied consent laws, so they must submit to chemical testing after they have been arrested on suspicion of DUI or face the loss of their driving privileges.
Pennsylvania DUI laws
In Pennsylvania, you are not supposed to drive, be in actual physical control, or operate a vehicle after you drink alcohol. As the Bilka case demonstrates, a vehicle also includes bicycles in addition to motorized vehicles. In 2004, the state legislature changed the statute from motor vehicle to vehicle with the intent to extend the DUI law to all types of vehicles.
Pennsylvania’s implied consent law
When you ride a bicycle or drive a vehicle in Pennsylvania, you are considered to have implicitly agreed to the implied consent law. This law says that you implicitly agree to chemical testing when you drive, operate, or are in actual physical control of a vehicle.
After you are arrested on suspicion that you were driving or riding while drunk, you must submit to testing. If you refuse to take a chemical test, you will face a mandatory suspension of your driving privileges.
You can refuse a test either implicitly or expressly. If you expressly refuse a test, this means that you say no when an officer asks you to take a chemical test. An implicit refusal will depend on the circumstances. In those cases, the officers decide that you refused even though you did not say no. For example, you may have been too intoxicated to take the test, or you might have a medical issue that keeps you from doing so.
Police do not have to offer you an alternative test. While you are able to appeal a determination of an implied refusal to PennDOT, you will have the burden of proving that your medical condition prevented you from being able to complete the test.
If you refuse a chemical test either expressly or implicitly, you will have your driving privileges suspended for either 12 or 18 months. The length of your suspension will depend on whether it was your first refusal or first DUI.
Should you refuse a test or submit to it?
In most cases, you should submit to a chemical test instead of refusing. If you refuse, you will not be able to drive for 12 to 18 months no matter what happens with the DUI case. Even without the results of a chemical test, it is still possible for you to be convicted of a DUI based on other evidence in your case such as witnesses and police observations. If you refuse and are subsequently convicted of the DUI charge, you will have the suspension of your license in addition to all of the other penalties for your DUI conviction.
If you submit to the chemical test, your lawyer can challenge how the test was administered and the results of the test. If your attorney can show that the police officer who administered your test did not do so properly or that the machine was not correctly calibrated, the test results may be suppressed so that the prosecution can’t use it as evidence against you. By contrast, evidence of a refusal can be used against you in a DUI case.
Get help from an experienced DUI lawyer
It is possible for you to be charged and arrested for a DUI when you are riding a bicycle. If you ride while you are under the influence of alcohol, you may face severe penalties for the DUI as well as the requirement to submit to chemical testing. An experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law may be able to successfully defend you against your charges. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form.