Politics & Government

What’s the penalty for bicycling while drinking in Wichita?

Biking under the influence will be treated with a lighter hand than driving a motor vehicle under the influence under a new ordinance approved by the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.

The new ordinance is designed to separate the two offenses to make it easier for prosecutors to count up prior DUI convictions when calculating sentences for repeat drunken drivers.

Under current city ordinances, drunken bike riding is treated the same as drunken driving. That conflicts with state law, which doesn’t have a crime for operating a human-powered vehicle under the influence.

That legal difference has caused some problems in calculating penalties for drunken drivers in court and “defense attorneys have argued that every city of Wichita DUI is tainted due to inconsistencies in definition,” said a staff report by the city attorney’s office.

The new ordinance will make it a crime to operate a human-powered vehicle drunk if the rider causes a traffic or safety hazard.

“The intent of this new ordinance is to hold them (drunken bikers) accountable for that action,” said Wichita police Capt. Jose Salcido.

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Police could bring a charge without a blood-alcohol test, although a person being arrested for biking under the influence would have the option to request a test.

The penalty for BUI would be a maximum $500 and six months in jail. A judge could also ordered restitution if someone were injured by a drunken rider.

Unlike the current law that treats BUI as a DUI, there would be no mandatory minimum jail sentence and a violation would not count as a DUI conviction against the offender’s state driving record.

The City Council approved the new ordinance on a vote of 7-0.