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Manhattan Beach, DUI on a Bike (VC 21200.5), Case Dismissed

Our client, age 59, was riding his bike southbound along Manhattan Avenue near the intersection with 8th Street at about 5:15 p.m.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  It just past July 4, so it was fully light out at 5:15 p.m.  

At that time, a police officer was “flagged down” by a motorist driving a black Range Rover who told the police that there was a man riding his bike southbound on Manhattan Avenue behind the motorist and kicking parked cars.  The Range Rover driver commented that he suspected the bicyclist was drunk.

The police then saw our client riding his bike southbound “in an aggressive manner.”  The officer saw our client pass by his car and noticed that our client was weaving right and left as he was pushing hard on the pedals while pulling back “forcefully” on the handlebars, as if trying to accelerate.  The “weaving” motion caused our client to drift into southbound traffic and then back into the bike lane.

The officer regarded the weaving motion as our client having difficulty maintaining his balance, but if anyone has ridden his or her bike like our client, the weaving actually demonstrates control of balance.

The police officer, no doubt feeling obligated to stop and maybe arrest someone based on the Range Rover driver’s concern, stepped out into the roadway and stopped our client before our client could pass the officer.  The officer immediately accused our client of being drunk, although he could not see our client’s eyes because he was wearing dark sunglasses.  The officer claimed that he could detect the odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from our client.

The officer accused our client of kicking parked cars.  Our client denied this.  The officer then asked our client to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, which our client refused.

The officer then placed our client under arrest for violation of Vehicle Code § 21200.5, “riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both.”  This is known as DUI on a bike, although it has its own code section which is punishable only with a fine of $250.  The offense is a misdemeanor, but it is not punishable with any jail time.

The offense is subject to Vehicle Code § 13202.5, which permits a judge to order a driver’s license suspension of a minor for one year if convicted of this crime.  Luckily, our client was not a minor.

The client was held for a few hours and released upon signing a promise to appear in the Torrance Superior Court in about three months.  He was really mad at the police for accusing him of kicking parked cars, which he did not, and of being drunk, however, our client really should have submitted to a breath or blood test to prove this.

Regardless, the Torrance District Attorney’s Office was assigned to the case and seemed to sympathize with our client’s predicament.  Our client, an accountant with two children in college (Michigan State and Penn State), had no criminal history except an arrest for public intoxication fifteen years ago in Redondo Beach.  He was a runner himself in college and kept himself in good shape. 

Greg spoke with the District Attorney assigned to the case, who seemed to understand the rather thin set of facts.  After all, the police officer never recorded the name of the motorist in the black Land Rover and the officer made quite a few assumptions.  Our client, on the other hand, may have been intoxicated, but it did not appear that he was unsafe to himself or others.

The District Attorney knew that DUI, even if on a bike, was excluded from judicial diversion, so he offered DA Diversion for our client: attend 52 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and the case would be dismissed.

While our client was outraged still about the nature of the traffic stop and the power the police seemed to abuse, he also was prudent enough to know he could avoid a conviction by this resolution and agreed to the diversion. 

He also appreciated the DA’s kindness in this regard, as the case could have been charged as a straight DUI under Vehicle Code § 23152 with an accompanying series of financially punishing minimum terms (a $390 fine plus penalties and assessments (total of about $2,000), a three-month DUI class (costing about $600)), the most painful of which is the driver’s license suspension.  The client avoided all of this and, moreover, AA meetings are free.

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