Florida Statutes §316.003(75) defines “vehicle” as “every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Under this definition, the State of Florida considers a bicycle a “vehicle” and therefore cyclists, like the operators of cars, motorcycles and trucks, must observe all Florida traffic statutes, including DUI laws. Floridians have been convicted of DUI while on bicycles, lawnmowers and golf carts, to name just a few examples. A few months ago, in North Dakota, a Zamboni operator was arrested for allegedly driving drunk.
According to the Florida courts, it is clear that bicycles are “vehicles” under Florida law. The court in State v. Howard, 510 So.2d 612 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1987) reasoned that since the §316.003(21) statutory definition of a motor vehicle excludes bicycles, the Florida legislature purposely chose to make section 316.193 apply to all vehicles, rather than just “motor vehicles.”
The penalties upon conviction for DUI are the same in Florida, regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven. In order to be charged with DUI it is necessary that the prosecution proves either that a defendant was:
1. riding a bicycle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher with evidence in the form of breath or blood testing results; or
2. riding a bicycle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to the extent normal faculties were impaired with evidence in the form of seized drugs, urine testing, and statements or testimony in the form of a police officer’s observations and the defendant’s admissions.
One difference between motor vehicle DUIs and bicycle DUIs is that a bicycle defendant’s driving privileges cannot be administratively suspended for refusing a breathalyzer test. Florida Statute §316.1932(1)(a) and Florida Statute §322.2615 both use the term “motor vehicle,” which a bicycle is thereby clearly not. So while a driver’s license may be suspended for 1 year by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles for refusing a take a breathalyzer test when stopped while driving a car, it cannot be suspended for refusing the same test while stopped for riding a bicycle or other device which is not defined as a “motor vehicle”.
Under F.S. §316.193(6), the court may impound or immobilize vehicles even on a first conviction for DUI. Thus, since the statute uses the term “vehicles” rather than “motor vehicles,” this includes bicycles.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, Florida was second in the nation in total bicycle rider fatalities in 2013 but led the country in deaths per million population. Also in 2013, one-fifth of the cyclists killed nationally had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% (grams per deciliter) or higher which is over the legal limit in Florida.
If you have been charged with DUI under Florida law while operating a bicycle or any other “vehicle,” call Alan Fowler, an experienced Florida Keys criminal defense attorney for a consultation at 305.417.9378.