DWI for Walking a Bicycle

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Jeff Brown of Columbus, Ohio was arrested for DWI, spent four days in jail, and had his license suspended for six months when he refused to take a breath test after an officer confronted him on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Brown was walking his bicycle across his own front yard. Brown has since made a YouTube video detailing his ordeal.

Via Lawrence Taylor, who notes that in 2005, a woman in Florida was arrested for DWI for operating her own wheelchair while intoxicated. That case, fortunately, was thrown out.

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35 Responses to “DWI for Walking a Bicycle”

  1. #1 |  Zeb | 

    Wait, you can get DWI on private property? Seems to me you ought to be able to do shitfaced donuts in your own yard if you want to.

  2. #2 |  claude | 

    Ridiculous.

  3. #3 |  Deoxy | 

    Um, if he wasn’t driving (and wasn’t even accused of driving), how could he possibly be charged with “DRIVING While” anything?

    And the issue of being on his own property should make it moot anyway (though that line has become very blurry on many issues in recent years, unfortunately).

    “Seems to me you ought to be able to do shitfaced donuts in your own yard if you want to.”

    Can’t disagree with that, really. You can drive on your own property without a license (both ethically AND legally).

  4. #4 |  jeff | 

    reading the appealate decision it seems mr brown was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk not walking it on his front lawn. he also pled no contest to the charges and that is why he was convicted. while i agree that a lot of our dwi anddrug laws are stupid in this case is appears that mr brown was guilty and is just bitching to bitch now (2 1/2 years after the case)

    heres a link to the appeal decision
    http://www.dui1.com/DuiCaseLawDetail61222/Page1.htm

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    Actually, it says:

    The record contains scant details of the underlying facts of this case, but it appears appellant was riding a bicycle on a sidewalk on December 18, 2004, when he was detained by a police officer.

    So it looks like the court isn’t even exactly sure what happened.

  6. #6 |  Chris | 

    This is like J.D.’s DWI on his scooter on Scrubs. Probably not a flattering comparison for law enforcement.

  7. #7 |  dan | 

    Well, it doesn’t really surprise me. Here in Florida people routinely get arrested riding bicycles while drunk.

    It always seemed really stupid to me because it seems to encourage driving drunk

  8. #8 |  dsmallwood | 

    well, i can’t say that i’m surprised that even Mr Brown’s own “eye-witness testimony” leaves the case murky. personal movtives make everything touchy. but, i LOVE this video.

    these are the kinds of facts and reasoned-argruments that make people on the ‘MADD’ side (seriously, ‘like a hatter’ is all i see when i read that) say stuff like “OH YEAH?!?!” and if “IF YOU LET HIM RIDE HIS BIKE DRUNK, THEN THE TERRORISTS WIN”

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I especially like the part where he loses his license for 6 months for refusing to participate, unpaid, in in the process of gathering evidence to make the state’s case against him.

    Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before states will be sending out random summons by mail (or email) requiring you to go down to the local clinic within 48 hours and submit a sample of your blood to prove you haven’t been taking drugs or letting your cholesterol get out of hand. Not to worry, though. This will probably be limited to only a few times per year if you don’t have any criminal record (not that there will be much distinction by then between a criminal and non-criminal record).

    Failure of the test will simply result in your not being allowed to leave. Staff lawyers will be provided automatically. On the bright side, excess cholesterol will be a misdemeanor, so you’ll definitely be out within a year.

  10. #10 |  Against Stupidity | 

    The appellate courts do everything they can to avoid ruling on the legitimacy of the law.

    The potential harm caused by driving a motor vehicle impaired is the same potential harm caused by riding a bicycle impaired, regardless of the frequency at which such harm may result from each activity.

    The appellate courts decision to ignore the statistical evidence about an activity is logically flawed. A significant body of statistical evidence does in fact indicate the risk and therefore the potential to do harm. The statement that the potential to due harm while operating a bicycle is equivalent to operating a motor vehicle is blatantly false.

    This argument could be extrapolated to the fact that any activity is inherently more dangerous while intoxicated, therefore in the interests of public safety it should be illegal to drink.

    The statutes were enacted to protect the general public from death and injury.

    This is only legitimate while their enforcement prevents a significant risk of one individual from harming another. Apparently the risk is not very significant.

  11. #11 |  Greg | 

    Well this is Columbus. Ohio. I will have to watch out for this happening to me. They didn’t bother helping when I was robbed, but they might be keeping an eye on my driveway cycling. My 6 year son rides his bike a little wobbly also. Maybe they will search us for Mike’s Hard.

  12. #12 |  tde | 

    What a putz this guy is.

    He dismisses the 13,000 annual drunk driving deaths just by saying “that is an incredibly small amount in a country of 300 million.

    I guess, in his mind, the right to drive while drunk is such a cherished right that it outweighs 13,000 deaths.

  13. #13 |  dsmallwood | 

    wait, he may be a putz (he DOES seem to have a lot of free time) but he has a valid point. the 13K are STATISTICALLY insignificant. not to the 13K people and their families.

    if your logic holds up, then we should ban cars entirely, because “even one death would be significant”.

  14. #14 |  David Z | 

    A few years ago, someone was arrested for OUIL on horseback. I think it was also in ohio, but I could be mistaken. The statute stipulated that pretty much *any* means of conveyance constitutes a “vehicle” under the law.

    And AFAIK, there are very few things you can be pulled over for on private property, wreckless driving is one of them, and DUI/OUIL is probably one, too.

  15. #15 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    I’m waiting for cops to bust someone’s door down in a wrong house no knock raid and arrest someone for sleeping while intoxicated…

  16. #16 |  Rex | 

    21,000 people die each year from prescription drugs–a number that has more than doubled since Big Pharma was allowed to start advertising on television. That number dwarfs the deaths by drunk driving–when are we going to bring the guilty parties to justice for this trend? Off topic, I know, but not by that far.

  17. #17 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #16 Rex
    21,000 people die each year from prescription drugs–a number that has more than doubled since Big Pharma was allowed to start advertising on television. That number dwarfs the deaths by drunk driving–when are we going to bring the guilty parties to justice for this trend?

    By guilty party you mean the First Amendment?

  18. #18 |  maxnnr | 

    You are missing the point of these kinds of laws; they are there to raise $$ for the govt and to give govt a way to criminalize everyone thereby increasing their control.

  19. #19 |  Chance | 

    The 13000 deaths seems to ignore those injured but not killed. While there are several different estimates out there, the lowest number I’ve found so far is 400,000+ alcohol related accident injuries. I’m no statistician, but that sounds statistically significant to me.

  20. #20 |  F4GIB | 

    “21,000 people die each year from prescription drugs–”

    REX, do you have a citable source for this number?

  21. #21 |  Nick T | 

    This is a solid video.

    As a legal argument, the statistical likelhood of an event happening is completely meaningless in terms of whether the government has a rational basis to outlaw it. Protecting one person from dying from a certain activity (even if no one has ever died from it) is always going to be a rational basis. But from a political standpoint, it does make a lot of sense to ask why all the check-points and task-forces and penalties when this is just not a very big problem.

    Arresting people for beng drunk while driving a bike reveals that the government cares more baout raising money than saving lives, as people should be encouraged to use bikes if they’ve been drinking.

  22. #22 |  supercat | 

    //But from a political standpoint, it does make a lot of sense to ask why all the check-points and task-forces and penalties when this is just not a very big problem.//

    A bigger issue in my mind is the extent to which the checkpoints actually serve their stated purpose. If revenue officers set up some “DUI checkpoint” which, over the course of a week, net fifty citations for driving without insurance, thirty citations for expired registration, etc. along with one actual DUI arrest, is it really a “DUI checkpoint”?

  23. #23 |  Dan Z | 

    I guess what im confused about is how you can lose your license for operating a vehicle (a bike) that i’ve been operating since I was about 5 years old. Seems to me a license doesnt even have anything to do with a bike.

  24. #24 |  Mikestermike | 

    Walk a bike, go to jail.

  25. #25 |  Jerry | 

    What happens if he didn’t have a license, what would they have done? You don’t need a license to ride a bicycle.

    The 13,000 deaths attributed to alcohol, are done so acfcording to alcohol-related, which throws anyone in the net who has had anything to drink at all (<.01) and doesn’t necessarily mean they were driving. And the deaths that are alcohol-related does not mean alcohol caused. In fact the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency also includes drunk pedestrians/bicyclists who wander out into the street and get killed as alcohol-related which further inflates the number. Plus approximlatey 55% of all a-r deaths are single car crashes which kill only the driver. So when you gt down to the real numbers and not the b.s. that is spewed by MADD, there are really onlyabout 1500 deaths that can really be attributed to a true drunk driver.

    Further increasing the number the NHTSA also guesses that there are more a-r deaths than there really are. They run an algorithm on the results and find deaths which occur late at night, males 21-35 (if I remember correctly) and if any hits come up, they assume that these people were really drinking and the police didn’t check the box correctly and add that in.

    So I would take all of the crappy drinking statistics as what they are, not worth the paper they are printed on. It’s just a way of snowingthe sheeple in this country into giving up their rights to protect them from the phantom menance which is a DUI. And thus a joke that the police have become.

  26. #26 |  Dave Krueger | 

    While not speaking to this particular case, it’s hard to be sympathetic toward people who become concerned only after they’ve been burned. Where was their concern when these laws were routinely burning other people?

    Not only that, but even after their transformation, they usually can’t see past the one issue, so they rarely apply their indignation to other encroachments on liberty that haven’t affected them (yet).

    I don’t care much for single-issue libertarians.

  27. #27 |  perlhaqr | 

    Dave saith: [I]t’s hard to be sympathetic toward people who become concerned only after they’ve been burned. [...] I don’t care much for single-issue libertarians.

    Everybody has to start somewhere.

    What’s the saying? “A Conservative is a Liberal who has been mugged. A Libertarian is a Conservative who has been mugged by the government.” ?

  28. #28 |  La Rana | 

    Nick T is either not a lawyer or not a very good one. The statistical likelihood of an event happening can be and frequently is used as the heart of a rational basis challenge. Most courts won’t take it, but a lot of them will, and SCOTUS has made nods in that direction for at least 20 years.

  29. #29 |  Reb | 

    I’m glad to see that the laws of physics no longer apply in Ohio:

    The potential harm caused by driving a motor vehicle impaired is the same potential harm caused by riding a bicycle impaired, regardless of the frequency at which such harm may result from each activity.

    Given that according to physics, potential harm is a product of the mass and the square of the velocity (f=1/2 mv2) the potential harm is only equivalent if (1) the bicycle had the mass of a car and (2) the velocity of the bicycle is the same as a car.

    I, for one, would be much happier had a drunk bicyclist — or ten — struck my late sister, rather than a drunk automobile driver.

  30. #30 |  Bronwyn | 

    The actual number is more like 100,000 deaths annually from adverse drug reactions and 2.2 million hospitalizations.
    For the citations hounds, here y’ go:
    JAMA 1997; 2797(4):301-306.
    Ann Pharmacother 2000; 34:1373-1379.

    But that has absolutely shit-zero to do with the eeevil drug companies and absolutely everything to do with physicians’ (unintentional) ignorance about problems of drug-drug interactions and the information that can be gleaned from pharmacogenetics.

    In other words, those of you harping on “drug companies are worse! WAAAAH” can stfd and stfu until they know what they’re talking about.

    Back on topic, in 1986, my 14 year-old cousin was killed by an underage drunk driver. Not a blessed thing happened to that driver because he was underage and the laws hadn’t caught up yet to the problem. I will never understand why something like “aggravated vehicular homicide” couldn’t have applied (IANAL). Now, of course, the laws have gone far far FAR beyond the ridiculous.

    It still seems to me that ye olde laws of yesteryear would have been perfectly sufficient, had they been applied properly.

    Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

  31. #31 |  Nick T | 

    Well, La Rana, I am a lawyer, though not a constitutional one by practice. But I am correct in what I said.

    Indeed one should always include statistical analysis in their “challenges” (which is the word you used), but of course a challeneg is very different from a “successful challenge” aka “the law.” Rational basis is the lowest level of scrutiny, and is often viewed by courts as “just state a single reason and you win.” Statistical likelihood will almost always be viewed by courts as meaningless because inherent to a rational basis test is that the individual liberty is not particularly important. So the government will be justified in preventing in a single significatn harm. For example, state governments that outlaw organized dog-fighting will always be able to sustain the law against rational basis challenges even where one could argue that a state has not had a documented case of dog-fighting in 50 years. The government will easily win just by saying they have a legitimate interest in protecting dogs from this harm. Moreover, courts will often laugh at statistical analysis because it may just be evidence that the law is working if it has been on the books.

    Statistical analysis may work in cases of higher scrutiny, where the liberty interest is greater, but a basic logical connection will almost always work in rational basis (such as “bikes can be dangerous, don’t ride them while drunk. The end.”)

    If you think that this guy’s argument based on statistical analysis has a snowball’s chance in hell, then you should refrain from questioning other people’s legal prowess.

  32. #32 |  Dave Krueger | 

    “…can stfd and stfu until they know what they’re talking about….”

    I now have a postit note stuck to my monitor that says Don’t fuck with Bronwyn.

  33. #33 |  Bronwyn | 

    I rarely type this anymore, but LOL!!!

    kisses,
    B

  34. #34 |  “DWI for walking a bicycle” | 

    [...] this isn’t new, it’s a year old in fact, but I must have somehow overlooked Radley Balko’s account of it: Jeff Brown of Columbus, Ohio, was arrested and convicted for operating a vehicle [...]

  35. #35 |  Cash Cow, er, DUI Checkpoint fails to net a single DUI. « The Carbon Fibber | 

    [...] FL over the holiday weekend failed to net a single DUI.  After watching the videos that The Agitator posted about a man given a DUI for riding his bicycle (something I’ve done), the brainwashing I [...]

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