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State v. Tehan

Decided: December 23, 1982.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MICHAEL TEHAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Meredith, J.s.c.

Meredith

[190 NJSuper Page 349] This appeal from the Municipal Court of Bedminster Township presents the novel issue of the applicability of New Jersey's drunk driving statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, to operators of bicycles. The function of this court in hearing an appeal from a

municipal court is to try the case de novo on the record, and to exercise independent judgment in the matter of sentence. State v. States, 44 N.J. 285, 293 (1965).

The record reveals that defendant was leaving his place of employment after having worked a portion of the day at a horse show. He had visited the open bar on the premises and stipulates that he was intoxicated to such a degree that had he driven a motor vehicle, the drunk driving statute would apply. As he exited the driveway on his bicycle, he kicked over some traffic cones. The police officers stationed at the exit called to him to return and on his way back he belligerently kicked over another cone. The officers started to arrest defendant for disorderly conduct, but a scuffle broke out between defendant and the officers. They wrestled on the ground, and there was some indication that defendant may have bitten the hand of an officer and that he may have placed his hand on the officer's gun. Defendant was subdued, handcuffed, and taken to a patrol car.

Four charges against the defendant resulted from these events: simple assault, a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1 a(1); disorderly conduct, a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2; resisting arrest, a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2; and driving while under the influence of alcohol, a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. The assault charge was dropped and defendant entered pleas of guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. After a hearing defendant was found to be guilty of driving under the influence, and was fined $250.00. In addition, his driving privilege was revoked for a period of nine months, to run consecutively to his current revocation for another unidentified offense.

No case has been located dealing with the applicability of the drunk driving statute to operators of bicycles. A detailed analysis of the statutes regarding motor vehicles and bicycles is therefore necessary.

The definitional section of the motor vehicle laws defines the term "motor vehicle" to include "all vehicles propelled otherwise

than by muscular power, excepting such vehicles as run only upon rails or tracks and motorized vehicles." N.J.S.A. 39:1-1. The term "vehicle" is defined to include "every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles." Ibid. "Motorized bicycle" is also defined in the section, but the only definition of "bicycle" appears at N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.5, as part of an act requiring certain safety equipment on bicycles before rental or sale. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.4 et seq.

Bicycles are covered by the motor vehicle laws by virtue of the operation of Article 3 of Chapter 4, which is the Traffic Regulation chapter of Title 39. N.J.S.A. 39:4-10 et seq. The rights and duties of persons on bicycles are defined in N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.1 as follows:

Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by chapter four of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes and all supplements thereto except as to those provisions thereof which by their nature can have no application.

Regulations applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles subject to those exceptions stated herein.

In addition, N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.2 requires operators of bicycles to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable; to ride no more than two abreast; and to use bicycle paths where they are provided. The penalty provision cited by the defense as applicable here, that is, N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.8, is a part of the act requiring safety ...


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