"Reckless biking" is now a crime in California

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

A California appeals court recently ruled that you can be charged with reckless driving under California law if you ride your bicycle recklessly.

In 2013, after drinking heavily at a Dodgers game, Jorge Velasquez, Jr., rode away on his bicycle. While going downhill on the wrong side of the road, he struck a pedestrian. The pedestrian suffered serious injuries and ended up in a coma for 10 days.

The DA wanted to charge Velasquez with reckless driving under Vehicle Code 23103--a crime that is usually charged in cases involving cars. But Velasquez argued that this crime didn't apply to bicyclists.

An appeals court judge in Los Angeles took the prosecutor's side and ruled (the opinion can be found here ) that Velasquez can be charged with "reckless bicycling" under VC 23103.

VC 23103 reckless driving is a potentially serious offense. It is normally a misdemeanor that carries a minimum sentence of 5 days in county jail. But if the defendant injures someone else seriously (as happened in this case), it can become a California felony.

This is certainly why the prosecutors wanted to charge Velasquez with reckless driving rather than the lesser offense of cycling/biking while intoxicated under California law--which is a misdemeanor and carries no jail time.

Because of this ruling, California prosecutors may become much more aggressive about pursuing criminal charges after accidents involving bicycles. (Read our related article, "Can a bicyclist get a traffic ticket in Los Angeles?")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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