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Biking Under The Influence: Does DUI Law Apply?

Straddling your 10-speed after downing one too many pints may not be the safest way to get home, certainly not as safe as hailing a cab or getting a ride from a sober driver. But some may argue that it's much safer than driving a car and won't attract the attention of Chicago's finest.

Any Illinois DUI attorneys out there care to weigh in on this one?

Bicyclists are expected to adhere to the same laws and rules of the road as motorists, so why not DUI laws? Let's look at the Illinois Vehicle Code section governing DUI:

A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while... (2) Under the influence of alcohol.

It might appear that biking under the influence is clearly in violation of state law. But a 1995 Illinois appellate case (People v. Schaefer), discussed in a portion of the book Defending DUI and Related Cases made available at Google Books, arrived at the opposite conclusion.

Illinois Bicyclists are indeed subject to the same traffic laws that apply to motorists, according to a pamphlet provided by the League of Illinois Bicyclists (PDF). The Schaefer case does not dispute that, but it does spell out that bicycles technically are not vehicles. The offense of DUI pertains specifically to vehicles, which are defined in 625 ILCS 5/1-217 as follows:

Every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway or requiring a certificate of title ... except devices moved by  human power...

Bicycles are moved by human power, therefore the defendant in this case (and in all similar cases after) was not operating a vehicle while under the influence and his conviction was tossed.

Does that mean it's a great idea to get hammered and jump on your bike? Of course not; you may not get pulled over, but it's still dangerous.

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