Can You Get a DWI on a Bicycle in Texas?

You ride your bike to meet up with friends at the bar. You’ve had a few too many, but you are on your bicycle, so you don’t have to worry about a DWI, or do you?

In addition to a DWI, have you considered the other personal and legal risks of riding a bike while under the influence?  The personal risk is in the statistics. Travis County had 1,112 bike accidents and 11 fatalities between 2009 to 2014.

Read on to learn the answer to “Can you get a DWI on a bicycle?” and other legal ramifications of pedaling drunk.

Can You Get a DWI on a Bicycle in TexasTexas DWI Laws

Driving while intoxicated is a charge for operating a motor vehicle in a public location while drunk. In Austin, the punishment for a misdemeanor offense is serious, including jail time for up to six months.

In Texas, you are considered to be under the influence with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Texas law states it is illegal for an intoxicated person to operate a motor vehicle, watercraft, amusement ride, or mobile amusement ride in a public place. It further defines a motor vehicle as a device by which a person or property may be transported or drawn on a highway.

For a prosecutor to meet the elements of a DWI charge, they must prove seven elements: 1) a person 2) on a particular date 3) operated 4) a motor vehicle 5) in the county of prosecution 6) in a public place 7) while intoxicated. If the prosecutor cannot prove those elements than the person is not guilty.

The law for DWI does not explicitly apply to bicycles, so a conviction will be difficult. That does not mean that a prosecutor won’t try to argue that a bike meets the terms of the law if you happen to have a motorized pedal bike.

The police may be unable to charge you with DWI on a bike, but they may arrest you for public intoxication.

Public Intoxication

In the state of Texas, 58,865 people were arrested in 2018 for being drunk. This does not include the 73,978 who were caught drunk driving.

Even though the law is on your side when it comes to riding a bicycle under the influence, you may be placed under arrest for public intoxication. Public Intoxication is defined under Texas Penal Code § 49.02 as a person who appears in a public place intoxicated to the extent that they may endanger either themselves or another.

The public intoxication laws do not require field sobriety testing for you to be arrested. The officer may make an arrest based on probable cause. This means if you are slurring your words, have bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol on your breath you may be subject to arrest.

The description of a public place is far-reaching and includes porches, the hallways of buildings, parking lots, and any place that has a license to sell alcoholic beverages.  If you are riding your bike weaving in and out of traffic or are riding in a manner where you may hit pedestrians, causing them injury, you may incur a charge of public intoxication.

Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor and has fines of up to $500. There is no jail time for this offense, but it will appear on your criminal record. This can affect your ability to obtain employment and will enhance penalties if you incur future alcohol charges.

If you are charged with public intoxication Do not try to navigate the criminal law system alone. You need an attorney who has the experience of successful litigation on alcohol-related charges.


You are riding home from the bar and wobble on your bike enough that you hit and injure a pedestrian walking down the street. Maybe you lose control of your bike, running through a garden and destroy prize-winning rose bushes. In both cases, you may find yourself the defendant in a negligence lawsuit.

Civil law is more lenient than criminal law when it comes to interpreting a person’s liability. If the Plaintiff proves that your behavior is the cause of their suffering damages, you may be found responsible for payment of medical bills, property damage, and more.

The four elements of negligence are that 1) the person had a duty, 2) that they breached that duty, 3) that their breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of 4) damages suffered.

Under the law, you have a duty of care to operate your bicycle in a safe manner. Riding drunk may result in you failing to follow rules. This may cause you to be found legally liable for damages resulting from your behavior.

Your negligence in failing to ride responsibly can also inhibit your ability to receive compensation for your own injuries in an accident.

Reasons to Hire a DWI or Criminal Defense Lawyer

Regardless of how minor the charges may seem, even a misdemeanor will remain on your permanent criminal record. To successfully navigate the legal system you need to be familiar with criminal law, intoxication law, and understand the criminal process.

Your DWI criminal attorney will look at all evidence, look for errors in the prosecution’s case, and seek to obtain either a dismissal, reduction in charges, or prepare for trial. Each case is different and what factors are pursued will depend on the circumstances of your particular case.

Can You Get a DWI on a Bicycle?

With Texas experiencing 2,433 bicycle accidents in 2018 the risk of suffering injury or incurring a negligence charge is possible, even if you are sober.

The answer to “Can you get a DWI on a bicycle?” is most likely no, but there is still the risk of a pushy prosecutor, public intoxication charges, or a lawsuit. If you find yourself facing any of these legal issues you need an attorney with experience in DWI and criminal defense.

Located in Austin, Texas, Hamilton & Grant, Attorneys at Law have the experience and knowledge to give you a positive outcome.  Contact us today at (512) 279-6600 to schedule a consultation.

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