As a defense attorney who often helps those charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington, it can be frustrating, seeing to what lengths law enforcement will go, in order to get a conviction for a crime in which no one was hurt. Advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) can argue as much as they want about how it puts the public in danger. But the reality is that nearly all DUI arrests come after traffic stops, not car accidents.
That's why Washington's bike DUI laws are like a breath of fresh air.
Other states, including neighboring Oregon, treat a bicycle just like a car, when it comes to DUI charges. If you're under the influence and riding your bike home, you can still get pulled over by a cop, pressed into sobriety and breath tests, and arrested and charged for DUI if you fail.
It's difficult to understand why Oregon does this. If DUI laws are in place to keep other drivers safe, then why hit bikers with the same DUI charge that you hit drivers with? Even if the biker gets into an accident, they're not going to do any damage to a car. Further, because there's no difference between biking and driving drunk, it pushes many people to elect to drive home while drunk, rather than bike home.
Washington does it so much better.
If a police officer sees a biker weaving on the road, and thinks that the biker is under the influence, he or she can still pull the biker over. But this traffic stop is not to perform sobriety testing, or to make an arrest.
Instead, in Washington, police who see a drunk biker can offer to take the biker into protective custody by either driving the biker to a safe place, or staying with the biker until a sober friend comes to help out.
If the officer thinks that it would reduce a threat to public safety, though, they can impound the bike, to make sure no one gets hurt. While this is an inconvenience, and does require that you pick up your bike within 30 days, the police cannot charge an impoundment fee.
After all of the politically charged DUI laws that fill the law books throughout the U.S., Washington's intoxicated biker law seems like such a reasonable alternative solution to the problem that everyone keeps over blowing. It even makes sense to the very people who keep pushing for stricter DUI laws, as it incentivizes an alternative to not getting behind the wheel after drinking.
Unfortunately, Washington's intoxicated biker law is a rare shining star in the state's DUI law books. If you've been charged for a DUI crime, you could still be facing strict penalties, including fines, license suspension, and possibly even jail time. Call Kevin Trombold to protect your interests in court, and prevent law enforcement from making you the victim of the state's strict DUI laws: 206-971-0067.