Many people are surprised to learn that in North Carolina, a person can be charged with a DWI while riding a bicycle. Riding a bicycle doesn’t exclude a person from being stopped for a DWI or DUI if an officer believes you are intoxicated. When a bicyclist is swerving between lanes, riding erratically, or appears not to be paying attention, a law enforcement officer may pull him or her over and require a breathalyzer test.
Discuss Your Bicycle DWI Case with a Carteret County Attorney
At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, our Carteret County bicycle DWI lawyers provide effective legal representation for people charged with a DWI. Being charged with a DWI while riding a bicycle may seem like it’s not a big deal, but the penalties are just as serious as other DWI charges. If you’ve been charged with a DWI while riding a bicycle, and would like to discuss your case with our attorneys, contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.
North Carolina Laws
In North Carolina, it is illegal to operate any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Bicycles are considered vehicles under North Carolina’s DWI laws, and law enforcement can rest bicyclists for driving while impaired. In North Carolina, there isn’t a separate law governing bicycle DWIs. Instead, the main DWI law uses language that includes bicyclists. It’s important to understand North Carolina’s DWI law to help determine whether you will be able to avoid being convicted for a DWI.
According to North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 20-138.1, it is illegal to drive while impaired. Driving while impaired means operating “any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area” while:
- Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, or
- Under the influence of a Substance that appreciably impairs your physical faculties, mental faculties, or both, or
- With any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in your system
You Can Be Charged with a DWI on a Bicycle in North Carolina
North Carolina’s DWI statute provides definitions related to DWI offenses and what constitutes a motor vehicle. Even though Section 20-4.01(49) provides an exemption for “devices moved by human power,” such as bicycles, the law goes on to state the following:
“For the purposes of this Chapter, bicycles and electric-assisted bicycles shall be deemed vehicles and every rider of a bicycle or an electric-assisted bicycle upon a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this Chapter applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those which by their nature can have no application.”
As a result, human-powered vehicles like bicycles are not considered “vehicles” under North Carolina law. However, the law states explicitly that bicycles do not fall under this exception. The definition of vehicles specifies that all laws that apply to drivers of motor vehicles also apply to bicyclists, including all laws prohibiting impaired driving.
The Definition of Riding a Bicycle
Under North Carolina law, the words driver and operator are synonymous. The law defines the operator of a motor vehicle as someone who is in actual physical control of the vehicle which has the engine running or is in motion. A typical bicycle doesn’t have an engine that is running. Whether or not you can be convicted of a DWI on a bicycle depends on whether you are physically controlling the bicycle while it is in motion.
Riding a bicycle down the street would constitute being an actual physical control of a moving bicycle. On the other hand, if you are sitting still on your bicycle seat or walking with your bicycle on your side, you may be able to argue that you were not in actual physical control of a bicycle in motion as part of your legal defense.
Public Vehicular Areas and Bicycle DWI Charges
You cannot be charged with a bicycle DWI for riding a bicycle while intoxicated on your property, such as in your backyard or on your fenced-in property. Prosecutors need to prove that you were in a public vehicular area to convict you of a DWI. According to NCGS § 20-4.01 (32), a public vehicular area is an area used by the public for vehicular traffic at any time. This definition includes public highways and streets and lists the following specific examples:
- Nonpublic roadways located within residential communities
- Beach areas open to traffic
- Parking lots and alleys located on public property
- Parking lots and driveways located on retail property
Why You Need an Experienced Bicycle DWI Attorney
Bicycle DWI charges are somewhat more complicated than typical DWI charges. If you’ve been charged with a bicycle DWI, you will benefit from an experienced attorney who has an in-depth understanding and technical knowledge of North Carolina DWI laws. Without the help of an experienced bicycle DWI attorney, you may miss important issues that can help with your legal defense.
Working with Hancock Law Firm, PLLC can help you obtain the best legal defense possible. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we will carefully review all of the facts in your case to determine the best way to avoid a conviction, using legal defenses that may include:
- Arguing that the prosecution failed to prove that you were in a public vehicular area
- Arguing that you were not in actual physical control of your bicycle
- Arguing that your bicycle was not in motion
- Challenging the determination that you were impaired or intoxicated
- Bringing forth constitutional arguments about your rights being violated
Contact a Carteret County Bicycle DWI Attorney Today
The consequences of a bicycle DWI are serious and could include jail time, the loss of your driver’s license, fines, and more. The best thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we understand that your future is at stake if convicted of a bicycle DWI. We will advocate for you to obtain the best results possible in your case. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, today to schedule your free initial consultation.