Monday, January 16, 2017

Is Riding Under the Influence Against the Law?

In Pennsylvania, riding a bicycle while intoxicated is treated nearly the same as driving while intoxicated. So you can be pulled over on your bike and cited for riding while intoxicated. You might even be charged with public intox, disorderly conduct, and a host of fines.

The Motor Vehicle Code states that if you're riding a bicycle (with no engine) upon the roadway, you are considered to be operating a "pedacycle," and a pedacycle is a "vehicle." But note that a bicycle is NOT a MOTOR vehicle. The distinction between a “vehicle” and “motor vehicle” is important because the operator of a pedacycle is subject to prosecution for “driving under the influence” of alcohol or other controlled substances. However, because a pedacycle is not a “motor vehicle,” the implied consent law (under which motor vehicle operators are deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of blood) is not applicable to cyclists. Also, evidence of the consumption of alcohol by a cyclist is inadmissible at trial as unfairly prejudicial, unless the evidence reasonably establishes intoxication. Evidence of intoxication for a cyclist includes, but is not limited to, objective criteria such as staggering, stumbling, slurred speech, or erratic operation of the bike.

If you're going to have a few drinks, its probably best to leave the bike chained up and call an Uber.

But keep in mind that a horse is not a vehicle! In the case of Noel v. Travis, Justice Eakin took some liberty with his dissenting opinion, arguing that the appellant should have been found guilty for riding a horse while intoxicated. He explained:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse.
He’s always on a steady course. Talk to Mr. Ed.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce
its application from, perforce,
a steed, as my colleagues said.

“It’s not vague” I’ll say until I’m hoarse,
and whether a car, a truck or horse
this law applies with equal force,
and I’d reverse instead.
Because I cannot agree this statute is vague or ambiguous, I respectfully dissent.

Noel v. Travis, 857 A.2d 1283, 1289 (Pa. 2004).

Be safe out there and thanks for reading.

Matthew F. Dolfi, Esquire

Dolfi Law PC

1100 Washington Avenue, Suite 206
Carnegie, Pennsylvania 15106


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Important notice:
The information provided in this blog article is not legal advice.  The information and opinions provided herein are solely for the general interest of the visitors to this website.  The information contained herein is only applicable to general principles of law in Pennsylvania and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in various other jurisdictions.  Therefore, the information and opinions contained in this blog should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice.  No aspect of this blog article should be interpreted as establishing an attorney-client relationship between the reader and its author.  Anyone reviewing this article should not act upon any information contained herein without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.  

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