We’ve talked a lot about what is or is not a motor vehicle under the law for the purposes of driving under the influence charges, but with the increasing popularity of electric scooters available for rent and motorized skateboards being used on the street, it’s worth discussing these specifically. So will you get arrested if you are caught riding an electric scooter or motorized skateboard while drunk? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal either.
How does California Law Define a Motor Vehicle?
Overall, California law defines a motor vehicle as something that is not exclusively powered by a human. Under this definition, horses may qualify as a motor vehicle, but bikes, Razor scooters and skateboards all are not. That’s why California had to create a specific law to make it illegal to ride a bike while drunk. Oddly though, California vehicle code section 21224 specifically excludes motorized scooters and electric skateboards from the list of things considered a vehicle under the law, despite the fact that they are self-propelled.
Is it Legal to Skateboard or Ride a Scooter While Drunk?
No. While the law doesn’t consider any type of scooters or skateboards to be vehicles, there is another law outlawing their use while under the influence if they are powered by a motor. That being said, the law only makes it an infraction to ride an electric skateboard or scooter while drunk, punishable by no more than a $250 fine and there’s no risk of losing your license if you are charged with riding an electric scooter while under the influence of alcohol or another drug.
It’s worth noting that there is no legal limit for intoxication while riding a scooter, like there is while driving a vehicle. That means an officer can ticket you if he believes you are intoxicated without requesting you take a chemical test. You have the right to ask to be tested though, if you believe you are not actually intoxicated.
So I Won’t Get Arrested Then?
Of course, just because it’s normally an infraction doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested while riding a scooter under the influence. Because the standard definition of a vehicle would include a scooter, some officers are unaware the law exempts a scooter. As a result, at least one person has been arrested for operating a scooter while drunk. If you are arrested for scootering or skating under the influence, your attorney will probably be able to have the charges dropped since you should not be arrested for simply committing an infraction.
As electric scooters and skateboards become more and more popular, it’s also possible the legislature will reevaluate the laws defining their use. It is possible that these devices will be re-classified as motor vehicles or that the legislature will upgrade the crime from an infraction into a misdemeanor.
Only time will tell if riding a scooter or going skateboarding while drunk will eventually become a crime that can result in jail time, but for the time being, it is only supposed to involve a fine and only then if the device is motorized. If you have been arrested for any law similar to drunk driving, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.
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