Driver’s License for a Motorized Bicycle
Do you need a driver’s license to drive a “motorized bicycle” in Florida? The question depends on whether the motorized bicycle is categorized as:
- a bicycle which doesn’t require a driver’s license; or
- a moped that does require a driver’s license.
Under Florida law, the term “motor vehicle” means any vehicle which is self-propelled, including a “moped,” but not any vehicle moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchair, or motorized bicycle.
When looking at the statutes, the jury instructions, and the case law, one could conclude that a motorized bicycle can be defined as:
- having two tandem wheels;
- being capable of being propelled by both human power as well as an electric motor;
- having a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour on level ground; and
- having a seat that reaches at least 26 inches from the ground when extended.
Although you don’t necessarily need a driver’s license to ride this type of motorized bike in Florida, you do need to be at least 16 years old.
Attorney for DWLS on a Motorized Bicycle in Florida
If you were accused of the driving while license suspended without knowledge (a civil infraction) or driving while license suspended with knowledge (a criminal offense) then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm.
Some types of motorized bicycles do not qualify as a “motor vehicle” or even a “vehicle” as those terms are defined in Florida. If a law enforcement officer accuses you of DWLS when the facts of the case do not support that accusation, then a criminal defense attorney can help you file a motion to dismiss.
A motion filed under Rule 3.190(c)(4) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure (often called the “c4” motion to dismiss) requests that the court to dismiss the charging document if there are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the Defendant.
Call 813-250-0500 today.
Non-criminal DWLS Charges Require Driving a “Vehicle”
Noncriminal DWLS charges require that the defendant is driving a “vehicle,” but not necessarily a “motor vehicle.” Under Fla. Stat. 322.01(44), the term “vehicle” means “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway or operated upon rails or guideway, except a bicycle, motorized wheelchair, or motorized bicycle.”
A regular bicycle is not classified as a “motor vehicle” for purposes of requiring a license for its operation pursuant to Chapter 322. However, 322.34(1) also makes it a non-criminal, moving violation to operate any vehicle upon the highways of this state while having their license or privilege to drive canceled, suspended, or revoked.
Luckily, 322.01(44) exempts a bicycle, motorized wheelchair, or motorized bicycle from the definition of what constitutes a vehicle.
Criminal DWLS Charges Require Driving a “Motor Vehicle”
Under Fla. Stat. 322.01, the term “motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle, including a motor vehicle combination, not operated upon rails or guideway, excluding vehicles moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchairs, and motorized bicycles as defined in s. 316.003.
Although the statute itself does not specifically include the word “moped” in the definition, the jury instruction definition specifically include the word moped. The jury instructions provide:
“Motor vehicle” means any vehicle which is self-propelled, including a “moped,” but not any vehicle moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchair or motorized bicycle.
Under Fla. Stat. 316.003(4), “bicycle” includes every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels.
The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle.
Cases on Driver’s License Requirements for Operating a Bicycle
A moped is a “motor vehicle,” which requires a driver’s license for operation. See Jones v. State, 721 So.2d 320 (Fla. 2d DCA1998).
Because moped is “self-propelled vehicle,” and is not excluded from the definition of motor vehicle in licensing statute, driving a moped requires a license, notwithstanding other statutes in which motor vehicles are defined to exclude mopeds; thus, the defendant could be convicted of driving a moped while license suspended. Soto v. State, 711 So.2d1275 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).
Because the defendant’s electric scooter did not have both an electric motor and pedals for user-generated propulsion, the vehicle falls outside the definition of motorized bicycle. Furthermore, because the vehicle is self-propelled, is not operated upon rails or a guide way, and does not fall within any of the exclusions (including a motorized bicycle) listed in section 322.01 (26), it is by definition a motor vehicle under this subsection. Inman v. State, 916 So. 2d 59 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).
Two-wheeled scooter with gasoline-powered engine (go-ped) was “motor vehicle” requiring a valid driver’s license for its operation. State v. Riley, 698 So.2d 374 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997).
A gas-powered bicycle traveling in excess of 30 miles per hour does not fall within the motorized bicycle exclusion. State v. Seward, 188 So.3d 927 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).
Sample Motion to Dismiss Charges for DWLS or DWLSR
IN THE COUNTY COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
IN AND FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA
STATE OF FLORIDA,
CASE NO.: XX-CT-XXXXXX
DEFENDANT’S SWORN MOTION TO DISMISS
Defendant, by and through his undersigned attorney pursuant to Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 3.190(c)(4), hereby moves this Court to dismiss the information as there are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the Defendant.
FACTS IN SUPPORT OF MOTION
The facts that support his motion include:
- On [date], at approximately [time], law enforcement with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office came into contact with the Defendant at the [location] in Pinellas County, FL, at [location description].
- Defendant was driving a motor bicycle at the time of the traffic stop which can be described as a Black Huffy Motor Bicycle is powered by pedal, equipped with a small 48CC engine, which does not exceed twenty miles per hour.
- Defendant purchased the Black Huffy Motor Bicycle after googling 48cc engine. He found an advertisement from an independent seller listing his bicycle as a motor bicycle with a 48cc engine.
- Defendant used Google maps navigation system while riding his bicycle to determine the bicycle miles per hour. The navigation system registered him traveling no faster than 15mph.
- The Black Huffy Motor Bicycle does not require registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- The Black Huffy Motor Bicycle does not require Defendant to hold a valid Florida Driver’s License.
MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF MOTION
The Florida Legislature has defined a motor vehicle as “a self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped.” 316.003(43), Fla. Stat. (2019).
Chapter 322, Florida Statutes requires the operator of a “motor vehicle” on a highway of the state to have a valid license. As defined in Chapter 322, “Motor vehicle” is anything that is self-propelled, but does not include bicycles and qualifying “motorized bicycles.” As defined in
Section 316.003, “Motorized bicycle” means that the bicycle is not capable of self-propulsion, but is propelled instead by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground. 316.003(4), Fla. Stat. (2019).
In this case, Defendant was riding a Black Huffy Motor Bike that is not capable of self-propulsion, but requires a combination of human power to pedal and a help motor. Further, it does not travel in excess of 20 miles per hour.
The 12th Judicial Circuit addressed a similar issue in State v. Fries. In that case, the defendant was riding an XB-502 motorized bicycle. 20 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 627b (Fla. 12th Cir. 2011). The XB-502 is a commercial bike sold on Amazon.com for approximately $1000. Its specifications are (1) Electric power, (2) 500 watts, (3) Brushless Hub Motor, (4) 48 Amp Circuit, (5) Tire Size: 16×2.5 on 16” inch Aluminum wheels, (6) Maximum Speed is 20mph, (7) It Has Pedals, and (8) Seat Height is 31 inches. The court held that bicycle was not a motorize vehicle as defined by the Driving While License Suspended statute, section 322.34(2).
In the present case, Defendant was driving a motor bicycle similar in nature to the one described in Fries. The Black Huffy Motorized Bicycle operates by pedal and helper engine, and does not exceed twenty mile per hour as a maximum travel speed. Since a driver’s license is not required by Florida law to operate the vehicle used by Defendant in this case, a motor bicycle, the Information should be dismissed.
WHEREFORE, the Defendant respectfully moves this Court to dismiss the Information in this cause.
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been furnished to the Honorable Bernie McCabe, Office of the State Attorney of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, SA6eservice@co.pinellas.fl.us, on this 7th day of January, 2020.
Leslie M. Sammis
SAMMIS LAW FIRM, P.A.
1005 N. Marion Street
Tampa, Florida 33602
Telephone: (813) 250-0500
AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO DISMISS
On May 26th, 2020, this Affidavit in Support of Motion to Dismiss was brought by Defendant, _______, as provided by Fla. R. Crim P. 3.190(c).
My name is ________. I am the Defendant in this cause. I have read this Motion to Dismiss and every factual statement is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Further affiant saith not.
STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF PINELLAS
Sworn to or affirmed and signed before me on _________________.
NOTARY PUBLIC or DEPUTY CLERK
Print, type or stamp commissioned name of notary
Other Questions the Prosecutor Might Ask
We recently had a case in which the prosecutor wanted to know the answer to these following questions before he would agree to drop the charge:
- The specific make and model of the alleged motorized bicycle driven by Defendant.
- Whether the alleged bike engine is electric or gas-powered?
- If the bike is operated by an electric motor, what is the wattage output, and is it operated by an Amp circuit?
- Whether the alleged motorized bicycle engine requires clutching or shifting of gears to operate?
- The brake horsepower of the alleged motorized bicycle.
- The seat height of the alleged motorized bicycle from the ground.
This article was last updated on Thursday, May 21, 2020.