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Charlotte Law Blog

Can I Get a DWI on a Bike?

On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in DUI/DWI, DWI on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

 

Many people are surprised to discover that you can be charged with DWI (driving while impaired), even if you’re not driving a car. A common question is whether you can be charged with DWI while riding a bike. If you’ve already been charged, the more pressing question is whether you can be convicted.

The Charlotte DWI lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC provide aggressive legal representation for people charged with drunk driving in the surrounding area. If you’ve been charged with DWI and would like to discuss your case with one of our attorneys, contact us today at (980) 237-4579 to schedule a free case consultation.

DWI Under North Carolina Law

You can be charged with DWI on a bike in North Carolina. However, it’s important to understand the law in order to determine whether you can avoid a conviction. North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 20-138.1 defines driving while impaired as operating “any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area” while:

  • Under the influence of a substance that appreciably impairs your physical faculties, mental faculties, or both;
  • While having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher; or
  • With any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your system.

Are Bicycles Considered a Vehicle Under North Carolina Law?

NCGS § 20-4.01 provides all of the definitions pertaining to DWI offenses and motor vehicles in North Carolina. Section 20-4.01(49) excepts “devices moved by human power” from the definition of a vehicle, but then states, “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.”

To summarize, human-powered vehicles are not considered vehicles under North Carolina law. However, bicycles do not fall under this exception. Furthermore, the definition specifies that all laws applying to motor vehicles also apply to bicycles. This includes all laws prohibiting impaired driving.

What Does It Mean to Drive a Bicycle?

NCGS § 20-4.01 notes that “driver” and “operator” are synonymous with one another. NC law defines operator of a motor vehicle as an individual who is “in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.”

A bicycle can’t have an engine running, so whether or not you can be convicted of DWI will depend on whether you are in “actual physical control” of the bike while it is in motion. Riding the bike down a street would qualify, but what if you’re just sitting on your bike seat, or walking your bicycle down the sidewalk?

Public Vehicular Areas or PVAs

NCGS § 20-4.01 (32) defines a public vehicular area as one that is “used by the public for vehicular traffic at any time.” This includes what you would commonly consider public streets and highways, but the statute goes on to include the following examples:

  • Alleys and parking lots located on public property
  • Parking lots and driveways located on retail property
  • Beach areas open to traffic
  • Non-public roadways located within residential communities

How a DWI Attorney Can Help

Facing drunk driving charges on a bike requires a close reading of specific statutes, and a thorough and technical understanding of the law. You may be able to identify some issues in their defense, but are likely to miss important distinctions. Hiring an experienced Charlotte DWI lawyer can help level the playing field. Some of the ways your attorney can help you avoid a conviction include:

  • Challenging that you were in actual physical control of your bike
  • Arguing that the prosecution has failed to prove that you were in a public vehicular area
  • Challenging the determination that you were riding the bike while impaired

Contact Us Today for Help With Your Charlotte DWI

If you’ve been charged with DWI, the best thing you can do is contact a criminal defense attorney right away. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we understand that your future is at stake. We provide an aggressive defense, and fight for you to get a fair result. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, call (980) 237-4579 today, or reach out through our online contact form.