In 2018, 28-year-old Nicholas Kauffroath stood in front of a judge in a Los Angeles courtroom and was found guilty of scooting under the influence. The misdemeanor conviction came after Kauffroath rode a Bird scooter down a West L.A. sidewalk and plowed into a pedestrian, knocking them to the ground, thereby becoming the first person convicted of driving a scooter under the influence.
If you were recently charged with a DUI in California, you need to reach out to a Los Angeles DUI lawyer. An attorney can review the case and find the best route forward in contesting the DUI charge.
How Scooters Fit in California’s DUI Laws
In 2019, the California roadways saw more than 120,000 arrests for driving under the influence. Most of these DUI cases are considered normal, involving the drivers of motor vehicles like cars, trucks, and motorcycles. However, in California, DUI laws also apply to operators of bicycles and, yes, even scooters.
Over the last ten years, thousands of Bird and Lime scooters have appeared on Los Angeles’ streets. Before unlocking and using the scooter, the app requires a confirmation that the rider will not operate them under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication.
Around the L.A. basin, these scooters can be seen scattered along the streets. With this increase in popularity, more of these scooters are colliding with motor vehicles and pedestrians. So many scooter accidents have occurred that the LAPD has created a code to statistically tally and track these scooter collisions.
Defining a Vehicle Under California Law
California’s DUI laws prohibit people from driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A person is considered impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or more. There are other tests to determine if someone is substantially affected by drugs.
The term “vehicle” is traditionally seen as automobiles, motorcycles, or boats. Electric and motorized scooters have also been deemed as vehicles because, under California law, vehicles are defined as a device that is moved or propelled by anything other than human power. These scooters are self-propelled, qualifying them as a vehicle
Recently, a special and more specific statute was added to the vehicle codes to include operating motorized scooters while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Under this more specific code, the penalty after a conviction is far less severe than a normal DUI. The usual penalties/sanctions for a first misdemeanor DUI without injury or damage can include:
- A $1,000 Fine
- A six-month suspension of driver’s license
- A sentence of six months imprisonment in the county jail
- Probation for up to five years
- Attending a drunk driving education program for three to 12 months
- A mandatory ignition interlock device (IID)
- Attending a victim-impact panel for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
- Attending a Hospital and Morgue program (HAM)
- Performing community service
The penalties for DUI on a scooter or bicycle or scooter will not result in driver’s license suspension because these are not recognized as the same type of motor vehicle as automobiles or motorcycles. Because it is such a relatively new phenomenon, penalties and sanctions for DUI convictions while operating a motorized scooter are a bit milder, including:
- A maximum fine of $250 per offense
- A prohibition on riding scooters for a certain time
- Restitution for any damage or injuries caused
Defending a Scooter DUI
Because scooters are somewhat different than other vehicles, these types of DUI cases are handled differently. For the most part, charges originate the same way:
- The operator is suspected of DUI.
- The operator is arrested.
- The DUI charge results in a hearing.
But scooter DUI cases contain subtle differences that dictate how to legally defend them.
Officers assess operators to be intoxicated if they observe impaired behavior or driving abilities. But if a scooter operator is suspected of driving under the influence and stopped by the police, they do not have to submit to a breathalyzer or any sort of lab test, like blood or urine. By refusing these tests, the arrest record will not have any data to determine whether the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher.
If there were no scientific sobriety tests administered supporting an arresting officer’s assessment, individual observations must be relied on to prove the case. If strong supporting data was not documented during the arrest, the case becomes especially hard to prosecute.
As long as it is not compounded with other charges, a scooter DUI conviction is only a misdemeanor. Even though the punishments are less costly and life-changing than other DUI cases, there is still no need for these cases to result in a criminal record if they can be avoided.
Contact a DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles Today
Operating any sort of vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous but also illegal. It does not matter if the vehicle is a commercial truck or a scooter. Paying for an Uber or Lyft can save you the hassle and expense of being caught riding a scooter while intoxicated.
Regardless of vehicle type, anyone charged with operating a vehicle under the influence should reach out and make a connection with a DUI attorney in Los Angeles as soon as possible. DUI attorneys are better equipped to navigate the tough terrain of California’s DUI laws and can explain California’s DUI penalties in detail. These details will be essential in crafting an effective legal strategy.
A Los Angeles DUI lawyer is available to help you at any time. For more information or to speak with an attorney, please contact us online or call us.