The question of whether you can get arrested for biking while intoxicated is more complicated than you might think. Read on to get answers.

Can You Get a DUI/OWI on a Bike in Wisconsin?

If you're wondering if it's against the law to operate a bicycle while drunk in Wisconsin, the short answer is: No.

Since there is no legal basis for a cycling or biking while intoxicated charge, any citation you’d receive from police would almost certainly be dropped or dismissed by a prosecutor.

However, bikes have evolved from the old Schwinn your grandparents had in their garage. Many are motorized. Operating a motorized bike is a different story under Wisconsin law.

This article will provide a concise, but thorough exploration of drinking while operating these different bicycles in Wisconsin and what you might expect if you injure someone while drunk biking.

Read Also: Boating Under the Influence in Wisconsin: What You Need to Know

Why Aren’t Bicycles Subject to OWI Laws in Wisconsin?

Whether or not the type of cycle you're operating is subject to Wisconsin drunk driving laws basically boils down to how our laws are worded.

According to Wisconsin Statute §346.63, no person may drive or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence or with a prohibited alcohol concentration. “Motor vehicle” is obviously the term that sets different bikes apart.

In order to get an OWI conviction here in Wisconsin, the prosecution must prove one of two things:

  1. That the person was operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner as a result of alcohol or an illegal controlled substance, or

  2. That the person was at or above .08 BAC at the time they were operating that vehicle

Read Also: Snowmobiling OWI Laws in Wisconsin: What You Need to Know

So, What Exactly is a Motor Vehicle According to Wisconsin Law?

The legal definition of a motor vehicle in Wisconsin can be found in Wisconsin Statue §340.01 as a “self-propelled vehicle” unless operated exclusively on a rail (such as a train or subway car). While “self-propelled” isn’t defined any further, there is a legal definition of a bicycle:

“Every vehicle propelled by the feet acting upon pedals and having wheels any 2 of which are not less than 14 inches in diameter.”

While it’s not explicitly stated in state statutes, the common meaning of self-propelled vehicle is one that can move by itself without the help of human power.

Read Also: Is it Illegal to Fly a Plane Drunk or Under the Influence in Wisconsin?

What About Bicycles with Motors?

That’s a different story. According to §340.01, a “motor bicycle” is defined as a bike that’s had a power unit or electric motor attached to it. 

Operating a motorized bike or moped under the influence can result in criminal charges, as they may be deemed legitimate motor vehicles and as such, will be subject to Wisconsin's OWI laws.

What if I Injure Someone While Biking Under the Influence in Wisconsin?

When it comes to injuring others, §940.25 does not specify the vehicle needs to be a “motor vehicle” for it to fall under the law.

In other words, if you cause great bodily harm to someone while riding your bike under the influence, you could be looking at a class F felony charge of a maximum of 12.5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

But Aren't “Vehicles” Self-Propelled by Definition?

Yes, like I said before, “vehicles” are legally defined as “self-propelled,” which a motor-less bike is not. However, since this statute states “vehicle” rather than “motor vehicle,” the chance of being charged is higher.

On top of this, §346.02 states that bicyclists are subject to the rules of the road except for rules that apply only to motor vehicles specifically.

If you’ve been charged with an OWI-related offense in Wisconsin, it’s crucially important to contact an experienced Madison OWI attorney as soon as possible to assess your situation and help determine the best path forward.

FREE 10-Minute Consultation

Madison OWI Lawyer Pat Stangl is a nationally-recognized OWI and criminal defense lawyer serving clients across Wisconsin. In practice since 1991, Attorney Stangl has built a solid reputation for his aggressive drunk driving defense.

If you're facing criminal charges related to operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, request a FREE consultation with Attorney Stangl to discuss your situation and explore your options. This 10 minute consultation is offered at no further obligation. Click the link below to request your consultation.

New Call-to-action


OWI and Drug Defense Success Stories

Victory - OWI Accident in Madison, Wisconsin

Attorney Stangl represented a client who had a vehicle accident in the City of Madison and registered a breath alcohol concentration of .14. Luckily, no one was hurt, but his client was subsequently charged with what is commonly called “drunk driving” but technically an OWI/PAC as a first offense in the State of Wisconsin, §346.63 (1) (a) and §346.63 (1) (b) Wis. Stats.

It appeared the City had a strong case and his client was willing to put the matter behind him, however Attorney Stangl continued to research and investigate the matter. Ultimately, he was able to discover that the arresting officer failed to comply with certain technical requirements of the law regarding the reading of the Informing the Accused which are rights that a suspected drunk driver must be informed of prior to the submission of any chemical test of their blood, breath or urine.

Ultimately, the case was successfully resolved and the OWI was amended to reckless driving and the PAC (above the legal limit charge) was dismissed.


State of Wisconsin v. G. B.

The client was charged with possession of two ounces of marijuana. The charges arose when law enforcement had responded to complaints about a lot of traffic coming and going from a particular apartment complex and they subsequently began surveillance of the property. Essentially, cars would pull into the apartment complex, go into the building, and leave shortly thereafter.

Suspecting that the client had purchased drugs, the client was stopped after he had exited the building and drove away. When stopped by the police the client admitted that he had just purchased the marijuana for his personal use and turned over the marijuana.

After he was charged his family hired Attorney Stangl to represent him and Attorney Stangl questioned whether law enforcement’s observations were in fact sufficient to establish a reasonable suspicion based solely on his entry into the apartment complex and his exit therefrom to legally stop the vehicle. After some legal wrangling and before filing a formal motion challenging the legality of the seizure, Attorney Stangl was able to convince the prosecutor that the criminal charges should be dismissed.

The prosecution agreed that under all the circumstances in the case it would not pursue the criminal prosecution.  The case was successfully resolved and the client was not convicted of any criminal offense.

New Call-to-action