DUI Applies to Cyclists
The D.C. Court of Appeals sent out a ruling that a person who is riding a bicycle is subject to DUI. Associate Judge Vanessa Ruiz cited the validity of this decision. “The traffic act defines ‘vehicle’ as ‘any appliance moved over a highway on wheels or traction tread, including street cars, draft animals and beasts of burden. Furthermore, a comprehensive interpretation of the term ‘vehicle’ is consistent with the intent of the traffic act to regulate traffic for the protection of public safety.”
The root cause of the decision came from a case in January 12, 2007. It was about Baker Everton who was found standing with his bicycle on Georgia Avenue, Northwest. Near Otis Place, the police found him yelling and screaming. He was obviously drunk due to the strong smell of alcohol on him.
The police advised the cyclist not to get on his bicycle but Everton did not heed their warning. Judge Ruiz wrote about the case in her eight-page decision. “As he crossed Otis Place, [Everton] almost hit a small child who was in the crosswalk. Everton then lost control of the bicycle and fell on the ground.”
Everton appealed when he was convicted for driving under the influence. He argued that cyclists should not be tried for drunken driving since it could lead to absurd situations like convicting a drunken pedestrian for DUI even if he is only holding on to his bicycle.
In response, Judge Ruiz wrote, “We conclude otherwise. Everton was not a pedestrian as he was neither walking next to his bicycle nor holding on to it, … Therefore, he has no standing to challenge the statute based on a hypothetical application to a different situation.”
John Townsende of AAA Mid-Atlantic agrees with the D.C. Court of Appeals ruling, “Whether you’re walking, or riding a bike, or riding a skateboard, if you’ve been drinking, it’s probably better to catch a cab or take Metro. You better have a designated bicyclist.”