Georgia’s DUI Law Extends To All Moving Vehicles

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

DUI By Bicycle In Athens-Clarke County Georgia:

On Monday night, Athens-Clarke County Police arrested a man for riding a bicycle while intoxicated. The police report states that an officer tried to stop Edward Jerome Daniel Jr., 43, for riding a bicycle without a headlight. Daniel ignored the officer's commands and pedaled away. With the police chasing him, Daniel pulled into a parking lot and hid behind a tree.

Police say Daniel's breath had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage, and Daniel refused to take a roadside breath test. The officer arrested Daniels for DUI Less Safe on a Bicycle.

He was also charged with, Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer, and Riding A Bicycle At Night Without A Headlight.

Articulable Suspicion For The Police Interaction:

O.C.G.A § 40-6-296, Lights And Other Equipment On Bicycles, requires bicycles used at night to be equipped with a white light that is visible from 300 feet away. In Bolen v. State, 320 Ga. App. 3, 739 S.E.2d 11 (2013), the officers testified that they saw the defendant riding his bicycle at night without a headlight.  The court held that the stop was proper because the officers had articulable suspicion to believe that the defendant was operating his bicycle in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-296(a). Under this reasoning, if Daniel's bike did not comply with § 40-6-296, then the officer had a legal basis to make a stop in the first place.

This case illustrates yet another example of someone who made a bad situation worse by attempting to elude the police. Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer refers to when a person “knowingly and willfully obstructs or hinders” the officer when he is conducting his duties. Running from the police after receiving a lawful command to stop is the classic example of misdemeanor obstruction.

What About the DUI on a Bicycle?

In Georgia, you can be arrested for DUI while riding your bicycle. The reason for this is that Georgia classifies bicycles as vehicles. In Jones v. State, 206 Ga. App. 604, 426 S.E.2d 179 (1992), the Georgia Court of Appeals clarified that Georgia's DUI law, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391, refers to moving vehicles rather than motor vehicles. O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 (75) defines a “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. The court also noted that the scope of the DUI statute extends beyond highways, and it applies everywhere throughout the state. Under the court's reasoning in Jones v. State, Daniel could be convicted of DUI even though he was only riding a bike.

My Opinion:

Should bicycle riding really be subject to DUI law? On the one hand, Georgia has an interest in ensuring that its roadways are safe. On the other hand, operating a bicycle while intoxicated poses significantly fewer risks than operating a motor vehicle.  As always, I like to think about what is the legitimate government interest in regulating impaired biking?  It is hard to imagine why this police interaction served any purpose whatsoever.

Luckily for Daniel, O.C.G.A. 40-6-291 states that the DUI penalties shall not apply to persons riding bicycles. It will be treated as an ordinary misdemeanor offense, without the licensing consequences of a DUI in a motor vehicle.  The charge is nonetheless serious, and Daniel will need a top-rated DUI attorney.

As a side note, Athens-Clarke County has a very favorable jury pool of college students, recent graduates, and liberally minded persons.  I cannot see any jury finding Mr. Daniels guilty based on the reported facts.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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