Motorcycle Traffic Laws
There have been many laws passed by the Florida legislature that are applicable to motorcycle riders but were created by people that don’t ride motorcycles. As an avid rider, I view the ways these laws are enforced as often being unfair for the motorcyclist. However, a good traffic and criminal defense attorney, such as myself, can help illuminate the prosecutors and judges from a rider’s perspective in order to assist my clients with their cases. Many times, a motorcyclist will be stopped for what is thought to be a non–criminal infraction, when it turns out they get arrested or summoned to court on a Criminal traffic matter.
One of the most common offenses is riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement as is required by Fla. Statutes, 322.03. This is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. It is not a defense if you’ve been driving a motorcycle for so many years and never bothered to get an endorsement. You can still go to jail. Furthermore, unless you have a valid endorsement from another state, you must complete a 12 hour course in order to get your endorsement. That means regardless of your level of experience, you MUST take the class in order to legally drive a motorcycle in the State of Florida.
Another very common offense, especially with riders of sportbikes (aka, “crotch rockets”), is doing Wheelies. This is actually a very expensive ticket and one that is very confusing to many people, including many inexperienced lawyers, when it comes to the enhanced fines and penalties. For example, if one is being charged for "popping a wheelie," then they will be charged under Florida Statute 316.1926, which itself refers to penalties in Chapter 318. It does not specify what penalty, but it actually refers to Florida Statute, 318.14(13), which outlines the enhanced penalties. However, if you are "lucky" enough NOT to be charged with Reckless Driving, then you will probably be charged under 316.2085(2), which is only a moving violation, BUT it refers back to the confusing Florida Statutes I referenced above. As an experienced lawyer, I have been able to show judges the vagueness in interpreting these completely different statutes, often with positive results for my client. The stakes are high, however. So now, when a motorcyclist's wheels leave the ground, for a First Offense: the violator must pay a fine of $1,000, plus any other applicable costs assessed for a moving violation. Second Offense: the violator must pay a fine of $2,500, plus any other applicable costs assessed for a moving violation. The person’s driver license must be revoked for a period of one year. Third Offense: the violator will be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a mandatory fine of $5,000, and the driver license must be revoked for a period of ten years.
Other important laws relate to the driver’s protection. Florida has made the wearing of helmets a matter of choice and Florida generally does not require riders to wear a helmet. However, there are exceptions, pursuant to Fla. Statutes, 316.211. For example, all riders under 21 years of age, must wear a helmet. Further, you must have at least $10,000.00 in medical insurance in order to ride without a helmet. The same statute also requires that all riders wear eye protection. (It should also be noted that if you wear corrective lenses, you must wear them, otherwise this is a criminal second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine).
There are many other laws aimed solely at motorcycle riders. For example, you can’t ride between lanes, also known as Lane Splitting. Handlebars, such as “Ape Hangers,” are allowed but cannot be higher than the top of the shoulders of the rider when the rider is seated. The Exhaust Pipes, cannot be louder than the original stock pipes (however, this can be difficult for an officer to prove).
Florida is a great place to ride but there are a lot of other drivers who don’t pay heed to the motorcyclist. Furthermore, riders are often targeted by the police just because of the type of bike they ride. Often, Harley riders will often be seen as drunk drivers or that they are possessing drugs. Sportbike riders are often seen as speed maniacs who are always doing unsafe wheelies. Whenever you’re stopped for anything from a simple moving violation to a criminal traffic matter, call someone familiar with motorcycle laws and riding. Remember to Ride safe!
Contact a Florida Criminal Attorney to learn more about Florida Motorcycle Laws.