The Legality of “DUI Scooters”
The combination of Florida’s warm weather and increased gas prices has meant that more people are purchasing gopeds, mopeds, and motorized scooters for their travel needs. Recently added to this list is the DUI Scooter. Those persons suffering driver’s license suspensions as a result of a DUI conviction are also often drawn to use these types of inexpensive vehicles. Many times they are led astray by an unscrupulous moped or scooter salesman who incorrectly assures them, “You don’t need a driver’s license if it’s under 50 cc’s.” This advice is simply not true. Rather it is simply a tactic to sell as many mopeds or scooters as possible. Pursuant to Florida Statutes 322.01(26) and 322.03(1), if you operate any motor vehicle on the public streets or highways of Florida, you must have a driver’s license.
There is a great deal of misinformation circulating about the legal requirements associated with operating gopeds, mopeds, and motorized scooters in Pinellas County.
DUI Scooters – Are Gopeds, Mopeds or Electric Scooters Street Legal in Florida? Do I Need a Driver’s License?
In Florida, gopeds, mopeds and motorized scooters clearly fall within the legal definition of “Motor Vehicle.” However, gopeds and motorized scooters can never be operated on a public street or highway, regardless of driver’s license status. This is because they cannot be lawfully registered and assigned a tag due to the requirements of Florida Statute section 320.02(9) and the manufacturing safety standards of the federal “Motor Vehicle Safety Act.” (See the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.) Therefore, in Florida gopeds and motorized scooters can only be lawfully operated on private property (and with documented permission from the property owner). To operate a moped on public streets, you must be at least 16 years of age and have a valid Class E driver’s license.
Motorized scooter (cannot be operated on a public street or highway) – is defined as any vehicle not having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels, and not capable of propelling the vehicle of a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground. Florida Statute section 316.003(82).
Moped (requires a driver’s license) – is defined as any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels; with a motor rated not in excess of two brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle greater than 30 miles per hour level ground; and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimers. Florida Statutes 316.003(77).
What Types of Vehicles Do Not Require a Driver’s License?
- You don’t need a driver’s license to operate a traditional human-powered bike.
- A driver’s license is not needed to operate an “electric helper motor” bicycle. This is a bike that is powered by a human (pedals) along with an electric motor that can make the bike go no more than 20 miles per hour. However, the user has to be at least 16 years old. Be aware that this definition of electric helper motorized bicycle applies to such vehicles only when the seat height of the vehicle is more than 25 inches from the ground.
- Florida Statute 322.01(27) specifically excludes motorized wheelchairs from having any driver’s license requirement.
We routinely represent Pinellas County clients charged with suspended license offenses associated with gopeds, mopeds, and motorized scooters. In these cases, we seek to build our defense on the following potential arguments:
- Although a driver’s license is required to operate these motor vehicles, your conduct was less serious then driving an automobile or motorcycle without a license;
- You may have been induced to purchase the vehicle based on misrepresentations by an unscrupulous salesman;
- Alcohol was not involved in the operation of the vehicle;
- Your conduct did not result in any accident, injury or property damage, nor was there any erratic driving involved; and
- Your conduct was a misunderstanding of the law and lacked criminal intent;
Was Your Driver’s License Suspended for DUI?
— Avoiding a Potential Jail Sentence —
You should know that the charge of Driving While License Suspended is considered an even more serious offense when the underlying basis of your driver’s license suspension is DUI related. Prosecutors will typically ask the judge to impose a jail sentence. Under such circumstances it is imperative that you have the assistance and advice of an experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater attorney. We can craft an appropriate strategy designed to achieve probation, and if necessary, a jail alternative.