Tennessee Tourist Charged with DUI on a Bike in Florida
April 27, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving/DUI Social Share
In Florida, the laws on operating a vehicle expand further than a car. Specifically, you can be charged with driving under the influence for almost all types of vehicles. A driving under the influence (DUI) offense is when a person operates a vehicle after consuming alcohol or other unlawful substances.
Some may not realize just how extensive Florida’s DUI laws stretch. In Florida, a person can be charged with a DUI offense for unlawfully operating a bicycle. Florida law considers a bike a vehicle, and riding a bike under the influence of alcohol is considered a DUI offense.
The penalties for a DUI remain the same despite the type of vehicle used. That means a person charged with a DUI on a bike can face consequences such as expensive fines, imprisonment, license suspension, along with other repercussions. This also means that the requirements for prosecuting a DUI must still be met and any applicable defenses may still apply.
This article will provide a recent example case in Florida of a bicycle DUI, along with information on Florida’s DUI Statute and data on bike DUIs.
Sanibel Island Police arrested Richard Ballard, 56, after allegedly operating a bicycle under the influence of alcohol. According to the report, Ballard was visiting Florida from Maryville, Tennessee. The tourist was spotted operating the bike without front or rear lights.
The report states that upon further investigation, police had reason to believe the cyclist was operating the bike while under the influence of alcohol. Ballard was arrested and transported to Lee County Jail. Ballard’s breath alcohol content (BAC) level was recorded as twice the State’s legal limit.
Ballard has since been charged with a DUI for unlawfully operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol. He has since been released on a $1,500 bond.
The following is a statement from People Powered Movement, a biking advocacy organization:
“Florida Statute 316.2065 is the overarching state law that applies to bicycles. The key part of this law to point out in this context is that bicycles have ‘all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any vehicle under this chapter,’ with some exceptions. Notably, none of those exceptions apply to DUI. This means that as a bicycle rider…you generally have the same obligations to follow the law as drivers of cars do.”
In Florida, any person who knowingly and willfully operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher can be charged with a DUI offense. Florida Statute Section 316.193 lays out the definitions and penalties for each DUI offense. The penalties for a DUI will vary depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history.
A first-time DUI offense can result in a fine between $500 and $1,000 and possible imprisonment for up to six months.
A second DUI offense can result in a fine between $1,000 and $2,000 and possible imprisonment for up to nine months. In addition, a second DUI conviction results in a mandatory one-year placement of an ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles that are individually or jointly leased or owned by the convicted person.
An IID is a device placed in a vehicle to prevent it from starting if the driver has a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The device has a tube or mouthpiece that measures the driver’s breath alcohol concentration (BAC) before starting. IIDs are typically required from a court-ordered sentencing after a repeat DUI conviction. IIDs are meant to prevent any future drunk driving while ensuring public safety.
Important: Defendants convicted of a DUI offense who are required to install an IID typically are required to bear the cost of the installation and maintenance on their own.
Data on Bike DUIs
Riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances is extremely dangerous. Alcohol can impair a person’s judgement, coordination, reaction time, and balance. All these things are required when riding a bike, making it difficult to avoid obstacles or hazards on the road while operating a bike under the influence. A bike rider who is intoxicated has a higher risk of disregarding traffic laws, increasing the risk of accidents, injuries, or even fatalities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that alcohol impairment is a contributing factor in many cycling fatalities. In 2019, 31% of cyclists who were killed in motor vehicle accidents had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, which is the legal limit for driving under the influence in Florida.
Another study from the NHTSA indicated that the risk of a fatal crash for a cyclist with a BAC level of .08% or higher is greater than for a driver with the same or similar BAC level. In addition, a cyclist with a BAC level over the legal limit is six times more likely at risk for a fatal crash than a sober cyclist. On the other hand, the risk of a fatal crash for a driver with the same BAC was only four times greater than for a sober driver.
Bicycles are not as well protected as a car, which is why cyclists are at such a high risk of danger if driving under the influence. Cyclists are more vulnerable to serious injuries in a crash than motorists, due to the lack of barriers and safety features.
Overall, choosing to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or other substances is not only dangerous, but also illegal. Not only can you face serious injuries, but you can also face criminal charges and penalties for not abiding by the law. If you are facing charges for a bicycle DUI, contact a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.
Defending a DUI Charge
While bicyclists have the same duties as those operating regular motor vehicles, they also have the same rights and opportunities to present a defense in criminal prosecution. Even if it seems like the police have gathered irrefutable evidence against a DUI driver, there are many available options that may be applicable based on the facts of the case.
- Insufficient Evidence; Even if you think that the police have gathered lots of evidence, it may not prove that you were under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Inadmissible Evidence; Just like the citizens of Florida must follow the rules, so do the people who enforce them. If the police violated any of your rights while conducting their investigation, a skilled defense attorney may have the judge find the evidence inadmissible against you.
- Officer Error; Similar to the reason above, if the Officer administering one of the field sobriety exercises fails to follow the proper procedures, the judge may find the evidence insufficient to prove you were intoxicated.
To learn more about why you should hire a DUI defense attorney, read our informative page here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for a DUI, you should immediately seek out legal representation. DUI charges in Florida have harsh penalties such as paying expensive fines, possible imprisonment, an ignition interlock device (IID) installment, license suspension, or all the above. A skilled DUI attorney will be able to review the details of your case and help build a tough defense.
Don Pumphrey has years of experience representing those accused of DUI offenses in Florida. Our firm understands the nuances of the law and will put in the work and effort to get your charges lessened or dismissed completely. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and receive a free consultation regarding your case. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key