In the ACT, riding a bike while drunk is a criminal offence and is treated in the same manner as drink or drug driving.
The default position for a first time offender with a low reading (.05-.08 BAC) is disqualification from driving a motor vehicle for 6 months and a maximum fine of $750.00. However a person who has a prior drink driving conviction, and a high reading (ie in excess of 0.15BAC) could be facing a maximum 5 year disqualification from driving, a fine of $3,000.00, and/or a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment.
An example of a prosecuted ‘drink riding’ offence includes 19 year old Canberra man who was caught and charged while riding a bicycle drunk at 3.00am.1 Even though he protested he didn’t know ‘drink-riding’ was a crime, he was still convicted of the offence, fined $400.00, and banned from driving a motor vehicle for six months. In this situation, the offender at the time was wearing all black, not wearing a helmet, and was subsequently arrested and held in overnight lock-up. Clearly the matter was taken seriously by all involved, with Magistrate Boss later stating the cyclist presented a danger to the public and was fortunate that he had not been hit by a car.
Based on the above conviction, it would also be completely within reach for a person to be charged with ‘drug driving’ while riding a bike. Motor vehicle drivers are frequently caught by the offence of drug driving, even when they are not seemingly under the influence.2 Another example of such circumstances include when a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident and are required to provide a blood sample upon admittance to hospital, even if they are not at fault in the accident. A person need not be under the influence of any banned substance, but only have it in their blood system at the time.
Recent court cases include persons who smoked marijuana several days prior to an accident or driving,3 or were found to have ingested drugs inadvertently by taking protein powder use have been caught by this legislation and successfully charged. The minimum penalty provision for drug driving comes with a six month minimum license disqualification, for a first time offender. The default position for a repeat offender is up to a 5 year licence suspension, with a 12 months minimum license suspension, and a maximum 3 month imprisonment.
Interestingly, is also an offence to ride animals, which legislation identifies as “horse, cattle or sheep” while intoxicated, and extends to “animal-drawn vehicles.”
Arguably, the loss of license to drive, would not affect a person who solely rides a push bike, as there is no bike license requirement, however repeat offences could attract a term of imprisonment.
Should you be caught drink driving or need assistance with a matter, please contact our Criminal Law team.