Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Electric Bicycles, Motorized Bicycles and DUI Provisions of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code

Last year I was contacted by an individual who had been charged with DUI in connection with his operation of an electric bicycle while under the influence of alcohol.  He thought the DUI might not be valid because he was riding a "bicycle" at the time of the violation.

In People V. Schaefer, the Illinois Appellate Court held that the DUI provisions of the Illinois motor vehicle code do not apply to human powered vehicles such as bicycles.  For a detailed discussion on this topic see the blog on my firm web page here.  While the Court recognized that the hazard posed by an intoxicated cyclist to be somewhat less imposing than that of an intoxicated motorist, they ultimately based their decision on the definition of a "vehicle."  The applicable provisions of the Illinois motor vehicle code indicate that a vehicle is, "every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway... except devices moved by human power.."

Since a bicycle is moved solely by human power bicyclists are not subject to the DUI provisions of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.  Having said that, they can be charged with public intoxication or open container violations.

An electric bicycle, on the other hand, is propelled in part or whole by electricity, and therefore it does meet the definition of a "vehicle" under the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.  Operators of motorized bicycles and electric bicycles should be careful to stay within the legal limits in Illinois or risk being charged and convicted of a DUI.