Biking under the influence is usually a gross misdemeanor, carrying a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or $2,000 in fines. But reckless endangerment becomes a category C felony if someone sustains substantial bodily harm, and penalties increase to one to five years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Is biking under the influence a DUI in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties for drunk cycling?
- 3. Can the charge be dismissed?
- 4. When can the record be sealed?
1. Is biking under the influence a DUI in Nevada?
Driving a bike while drunk or high is not a violation of Nevada DUI laws. The state’s drunk driving rules apply only to motor vehicles and motorcycles, not to bikes or electric bikes.1 Drunk biking is commonly abbreviated as CUI, for cycling under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.
However, intoxicated cyclists can still face criminal charges of reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment is when a person:
“performs any act or neglects any duty imposed by law in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property[.]”2
Therefore, reckless endangerment is an extremely broad crime that comprises any purposeful and dangerous act. Bicycling under the influence can be a type of reckless endangerment because erratic biking has a high chance of causing collisions with people or property.
Example: Jerome rides his Trek to Treasures, where he snorts cocaine. On the way home, a police officer observes him swerving in and out of the bike lane. Worried that he may cause a bicycle accident, the officer pulls him over and books him at the Clark County Detention Center for reckless endangerment for riding his bike under the influence of drugs.
In the above example, Jerome can be convicted of reckless endangerment even though no one got hurt and no property was destroyed. Merely the act of biking in an unsafe manner is illegal because of the increased risk of pedestrian knockdowns and car accidents with motorists. And it does not matter that Jerome thought he was being safer by biking rather than driving a car – his swerving still posed a safety risk to the people around him.
Other common examples of reckless endangerment that inebriated bicyclists commit include:
- cycling way over the speed limit
- repeatedly changing lanes without signaling
- repeatedly failing to yield right-of-way
- cycling far too closely to other vehicles or pedestrians
- repeatedly ignoring traffic signals like red lights
Note that unlike in DUI cases, police do not measure the CUI defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC).
2. What are the penalties for drunk cycling?
Under Nevada law, intoxicated bicycling is prosecuted as gross misdemeanor reckless endangerment as long as no one else died or sustained substantial bodily harm. The sentence is:
- Up to 364 days of jail time, and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines (though the judge may accept community service in lieu of fines)
But if the drunk biking incident caused another person to die or become seriously injured, then reckless endangerment is prosecuted as a category C felony. This carries:
- 1 – 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines (at the court’s discretion)3
Unlike DUI, reckless endangerment carries no driver’s license suspensions, and a first offense carries the same sentencing range as a subsequent offense.
Defendants could also face civil personal injury lawsuits by the victims to reimburse them for medical bills, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and/or wrongful death.
Note that drunk bikers often face additional traffic charges such as:
- failure to hand-signal before making a turn (NRS 484B.768),
- failure to stay in the right-most side of the road (NRS 484B.777), or
- failure to have working lamps, reflectors, and breaks (NRS 484B.783)
Most biking violations such as these are charged as misdemeanors. The penalties include:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.
3. Can the charge be dismissed?
The best ways to fight reckless endangerment charges in Nevada CUI cases depend on the specific facts. The most common defense strategy is arguing that the defendant was not acting “in willful and wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.”
Example: Sally rides her bike to a bar at Green Valley Ranch, where she orders one beer. Later a law enforcement officer sees Sally leaving the bar and beginning to bike home. Assuming Sally is drunk, the officer stops her and books her at Henderson Detention Center for reckless endangerment.
In the above example, Sally did nothing that posed a safety hazard. The officer wrongly presumed Sally was going to cause problems on the roadway simply because he saw her leave a bar. Meanwhile, the officer did not realize she had only one drink, and he did not care that she was otherwise riding the bike safely. If Sally’s defense attorney can show the D.A. that she was not acting in “willful and wanton” disregard of anyone else’s safety, the charge should be dismissed.
Common evidence in CUI cases includes surveillance video, eyewitness testimony, GPS records, and accident reconstruction expert testimony (if applicable).
4. When can the record be sealed?
A gross misdemeanor conviction of reckless endangerment in Nevada can be sealed two years after the case ends. And a category C conviction of reckless endangerment can be sealed five years after the case ends.
Note that there is no wait to petition for a record seal if the charge gets dismissed.4 Learn more about sealing criminal records.
If you were arrested for biking or driving under the influence, call our Nevada criminal defense attorneys for a consultation. We may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed without a trial. And we practice throughout the state, including Reno and Las Vegas, NV.
Also see our article on Nevada biking safety laws. Our personal injury attorneys fight for the largest settlement possible for victims of bike accidents. And our Las Vegas DUI lawyers defend people accused of driving under the influence.
Arrested in California? See our article on Vehicle Code 21200.5 VC.
Learn about other states’ CUI laws at Bikeleague.org.
- Nevada Revised Statute 484B.763. Application of traffic laws to person riding bicycle or electric bicycle. Every person riding a bicycle or an electric bicycle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle [“rules of the road”] except as otherwise provided in NRS 484B.767 to 484B.783, inclusive, and except as to those provisions of chapters 484A to 484E, inclusive, of NRS which by their nature can have no application.
- NRS 202.595. See also Desai v. State, (2017) 398 P.3d 889, 133 Nev. Adv. Rep. 48; see also Lakeman v. State, (2016) 132 Nev. 997.
- NRS 202.595.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.