With the economy still faltering and many people in counties like Atlantic, Middlesex and Monmouth have been seeking cheaper means of transportation, from public transportation to more personal modes of getting around, those motorists arrested or already convicted of driving while intoxicated have an added hurdle. As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, I and my legal staff understand the implications of a drunk driving arrest, not to mention a potential conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI).
With the approach of winter weather, it’s difficult to imagine riding a bicycle or motorcycle to school or work, but for some there is little alternative, save walking. Anyone caught driving while impaired by alcohol, doctor-prescribed medication or even illicit drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, have the added complication of being barred from driving a motor vehicle for months or even years.
Weather conditions not withstanding, some may think that a bike would be the perfect alternative, and it sometimes is, though much slower than a car or bus. Because of this, some people have turned to a quicker although slightly more expense alternative to the typical bike.
For a percent of the population, motor-assisted bicycles can be a boon, especially for someone who is not necessarily in tip-top shape. But if an article from the Sunshine State is any indication, convicted DWI offenders could be violating term of their court-imposed sentence if they ride on a motorized bike on public roads.
According to a news article last month, a man with a DWI-related suspended driver’s license in Brevard County was arrested for violating the law by riding what police say constitutes a motor vehicle. Based on reports, although Florida law does not “specifically” refer to bicycles powered either electrically or by an internal combustion engine, the confusion has led to some issues for at least one individual.
Without getting into the specific’s of state law regarding when a bicycle is or isn’t a motor vehicle, part of the problem apparently is that local police arrested 51-year-old Ricky Hastings for riding a converted Wal-mart “beach cruiser” into a gas powered bike. Being a mechanic who currently is on a suspended driver’s license as a result of a DWI, Hastings figured that this was a more or less effortless way to commute, considering that the man has a heart condition as well.
In his part of the country, gas- and electric-powered bikes have apparently become quite popular, but local laws vary and many people who are commuting via powered bikes could be breaking the law. In Hasting’s case, police claim that his gas-powered bicycle is a motor vehicle and as such, he allegedly broke the law by operating it while under a license suspension for drunken driving.
News reports indicate that the man was stripped of his driver’s license four years ago, as well as being sentenced to jail time due to a DWI. Hastings was arrested in September after a state police officer found him riding along a public road. As of the date of the article, he apparently faced charges that included operating an unlicensed/unregistered motorized vehicle as well as violation of his DWI-related probation.
Another man in a similar situation was arrested for riding a motorized bicycle under “full electric power,” meaning he wasn’t pedaling at the time. That individual also was in a position where he decided to rely on a powered bicycle to get around due to a couple of drunk driving convictions, according to reports.
Appearing in court, the judge told the man that his bicycle was a motor vehicle, which required a license and a registration. But in a kind of catch-22, bicycles cannot be registered under that state’s law, which made the mere use of the bike on a public roadway strictly against the law. That individual lost his case, as well as his appeal.
Some motorized bicycles can land you in legal trouble, FloridaToday.com, October 13, 2011