Drinking and Riding Has Serious Legal Consequences

Jun 01, 2012 View Comments by

Alcohol affects the skills that are essential to riding a motorcycle—balance, coordination, and responsiveness. Evidence suggests that it plays a significant role in fatal motorcycle crashes. In fact, research has shown that in fatal crashes a larger proportion of motorcyclists had been drinking prior to an accident than operators of any other type of vehicle.

But when impaired riders attempt to operate their motorcycles, they aren’t just risking their own safety and the safety of others on the road. They are also setting themselves up for serious legal consequences.

Drunk driving laws vary from state to state. However, if one is convicted, each state typically imposes a combination of fines, jail time, license suspension, or community service. To give you an idea of some of the legal consequences of getting on a motorcycle while impaired, here’s a list of the DUI laws and penalties in states with the largest number of registered motorcyclists.

  • In California, a person convicted of a first DUI faces imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, a fine of $390 to $1,000, and a six-month license suspension. Furthermore, if a motorcyclist’s drunk driving causes serious bodily injury or death, they face even stiffer consequences.
  • In Texas, first time offenders face up to 18 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a 90-day license suspension.
  • In Florida, if you are convicted of a DUI for the first time, you could be imprisoned for up to six months, issued a fine ranging from $250 to $500, placed on probation for up to a year, and ordered to participate in 50 hours of community service. Your motorcycle license could also be suspended for up to one year, and your vehicle may be impounded for 10 days.
  • Additionally, there are a number of states that order repeat offenders and those with very high BAC levels to install and use a breath alcohol ignition interlock device on their motorcycle. However, some of the states that do require the use of an ignition interlock system do not allow those individuals to ride a motorcycle while the device is required.
  • If anyone over the age of 21 has a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or more and operates any vehicle, they are considered legally drunk in all states.

As the weather gets warmer and the riding season picks up, it’s important that all motorists, including bikers, recognize the importance of staying off the road after drinking. Visit these links for more information on drunk driving laws and motorcycle safety.

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About the author

I have over 45 years of experience helping injury victims. My Pennsylvania-based law firm, Edgar Snyder & Associates, has represented hundreds of bikers and am active in the biker community. The Edgar Snyder & Associates’ Harley-Davidson makes appearances at bike nights and rallies throughout the riding season.