Can You Get a DUI on a Scooter in California?
Yes. Here’s how the state defines a vehicle in its drunk driving laws
on September 6, 2019
Updated on June 29, 2022
In the last several years, electric scooters have exploded in popularity all across the country. You can now find motorized scooters scattered along the sidewalks in virtually every major American city. If you are operating an e-scooter, it is important to be careful. For your safety and legal protection, you should be sure to comply with all relevant traffic rules and regulations—including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“California law says that anybody who rides a motorized scooter is subject to all the same rules as any other driver of a vehicle, including DUIs. So if you're riding an electric or a motorized scooter, you can get a DUI,” says Nafiz M. Ahmed, a DUI attorney with Ahmed & Sukaram in Redwood City.
Indeed, in 2018, the city of Los Angeles became the first jurisdiction in the United States to obtain a DUI conviction in a motorized scooter case.
California Law: The Term Vehicle is Defined ‘Broadly’
Many people are shocked to learn that you can get a DUI while on a motorized scooter. Under California law, the term “vehicle” is defined in a very broad manner. Among other types of vehicles, you can get a DUI in an automobile, on a motorcycle, in a boat, and even on an electric scooter. If you operate an e-scooter and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above 0.08, California police could potentially arrest you and charge you with an intoxicated driving offense.
Notably, you can get a DUI on an e-scooter even if your BAC is below 0.08. California has enacted a specialized motorized scooter statute. Under the California Vehicle Code, it is against the law for a person to operate an e-scooter on a public road while “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol. A person charged with a violation will typically be subject to a maximum $250 fine.
What to Do If You are Charged With an E-Scooter DUI in California
“Getting a private lawyer is usually going to get you great service from somebody who focuses a significant majority of their time just on DUI defense,” says Ahmed. “Let's say, for example, you get arrested for driving a scooter and you've got a blood alcohol level that's greater than .08. The attorney may try to plea bargain down to the offense that calls for a fine only.”
After being arrested and charged with a motorized scooter drunk driving offense, it is crucial that you take the time to understand the specific charges that were filed against you. Even if it appears that you are only facing a fine, it could be a serious mistake to simply plead guilty to the offense without first speaking to a legal professional.
“The police usually get to ask all their questions before the right to have an attorney present even attaches,” Ahmed says. Common questions include: ‘Where are you coming from?’ ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Have you been drinking?’ ‘When was your last drink?’ “But the only thing you're required to answer is the routine booking information after you're arrested. And before being arrested, you have to provide your driver's license, registration, and insurance. But you don't have to answer any of their questions or do any test that's not an implied consent test [which is commonly breath or blood].”
Once an officer has given you Miranda rights and placed you under arrest, you can request an attorney. You can choose to represent yourself, by Ahmed doesn’t advise it.
“In California, there's two different bodies that are going after you after a DUI,” he says. “One is the DMV; one is the court. The DMV says, ‘Hey, you've got 10 days to request a hearing. If you miss that 10 days, we're going to suspend your license.’ So it's just a hardline rule. You either get an attorney, or you don't, but you've got to figure it out within 10 days. The court is generally accommodating and will say, ‘We understand it's your first court appearance. If you want time to get a lawyer, we'll give you a reasonable amount of time.’ They usually give you two to three weeks to come back with an attorney.”
An experienced attorney will be able to review the case and help you assess the full extent of the consequences that you are facing. The last thing you want is to lose your license or your clean record because of a motorized scooter offense. If you or your loved one was arrested for intoxicated driving on an e-scooter, contact an experienced Northern California DUI defense lawyer right away. If you'd like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.