All-Terrain Vehicle Offenses in Florida

April 30, 2024 Criminal Defense

ATV on beach

An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is defined under Florida Statute Section 317.0003 as any motorized off-highway or all-terrain vehicle 55 inches or less in width which has a dry weight of 1,500 pounds or less, is designed to travel on three or more nonhighway tires, and is manufactured for recreational use by one or more persons.

Unless otherwise permitted by the managing state or federal agency, Florida Statute Section 316.2074 provides that ATVs may not be operated upon public roads, streets, or highways. Additionally, no minor under the age of 16 is permitted to operate, ride, or otherwise be propelled on an ATV unless wearing a safety helmet. If a crash occurs on an ATV that results in the injury or death of another person, the ATV operator must give notice of the crash pursuant to s. 316.066.

Any violation of the above section is considered a noncriminal traffic infraction, which is punishable as a nonmoving violation under Ch. 318.

However, under Florida Statute Section 316.2123, an exception is provided to allow the operation of ATVs on public streets or roads during the daytime on an unpaved roadway where the posted speed limit is less than 35mph.

High School Student Charged After ATV Chase on a Highway

Police in Miami-Dade responded to a call on March 25, 2024, about an ATV driving recklessly on public roads. According to the local report, the Aviation Unit with Miami-Dade Police spotted the ATV around 11:30am. The alerted police officers attempted to stop the ATV driver, but he refused to stop, instead leading police on a cross-county chase.

The ATV was being pursued on both land and in the air from State Road 112 to Sunrise Blvd. Footage captured by Chopper 6 displayed the ATV driver wearing a ski mask over his face as he continued to flee the police throughout the streets of South Florida. After nearly a 30-minute chase through Miami, the ATV driver got onto Interstate 95 by the NW 79th Street exit.

Once the suspect passed into Broward County, the police with Miami-Dade were told not to cross county lines. Instead, the chase continued with the help of Broward Sheriff’s deputies and Florida Highway Patrol to track the ATV. The highway chase included the ATV weaving in and out of traffic. At one point, the suspect started driving the ATV in the opposite direction, going northbound on I-95 while the rest of traffic was going southbound. Soon after the suspect exited and made a U-turn to go back southbound before exiting westbound onto Sunrise Boulevard.

The suspect only came to a stop when the ATV ran out of gas in Lauderdale Lakes, in front of a tire shop on NW 31st Avenue. Once the ATV was stopped, police put the suspects in handcuffs and transported him away in a patrol vehicle.

The identity of the suspect was released the following day, when 18-year-old Anthony Angel Perez had to stand before Broward County Circuit Judge Christopher Brown. Although already 18, Perez is still a student at North Miami High School.

Assistant State Attorney Eric M. Linder claimed that Perez did not surrender as the defense attorney argued, but had only stopped because the ATV ran out of gas. While riding an ATV within itself would not result in such harsh penalties, due to Perez fleeing from the police and putting other drivers in danger, he has been charged with the following:

Judge Brown set Perez’s bond at $5,500, and he was already released as of Tuesday afternoon.

Florida’s Controversial “Wheels Up, Guns Down” Event

An annual peaceful protest that takes place in South Florida has resulted in more than five dozen arrests. The “Wheels Up, Guns Down” initiative involves groups on ATVs, dirt bikes, and scooters to take to the streets and highways on the federal holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event is to honor MLK Jr., as well as protesting to end gun violence after a 2015 case in Philadelphia involving a slain biker.

The event was peaceful in its first years; however, law enforcement has issued warnings over the increase of participants driving recklessly and breaking traffic laws. This warning comes despite participants claiming they are partaking in a nonviolent demonstration.  

In 2017, a 25-year-old participant in the event was killed and seriously injured another person while operating on an illegal street bike. Jarvin Charles was attempting to make a left turn on NW 6th Ave and 54th Street when he collided with a Toyota Camry and was run over.

“The dirt bike did not have the proper equipment,” said Miami Police Officer Chris Bess. “Its lights were not on. The other driver of the vehicle did not see the dirt bike.”

In the following years, South Florida law enforcement warned that they would crackdown on reckless behavior during the annual event. In 2022, Broward Sheriffs said they “will not tolerate any ATV or dirt bike riders who ride in a reckless manner, block traffic, ride against it, pop wheelies, or ride on sidewalks.”

During this year’s Wheel’s Up, Guns Down event, there were over five dozen arrests reported. According to the local report, detectives with the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD)’s Security Bureau and Priority Response Team, Motors Unit, and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) “conducted a takedown of numerous violators engaged in participating or spectating in intersection takeovers in a location near Miami International Airport.”

The arrests leading up to the 2024 Wheel’s Up, Guns Down event included:

  • 61 arrests;
  • 5 impounded firearms;
  • 363 citations;
  • 21 vehicles impounded; and
  • 7 stolen vehicles recovered.

Contact the Defense Team with Pumphrey Law

If you find yourself in legal trouble and in need of representation, the Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law are here to help. While our firm typically handles more serious criminal infractions that result in misdemeanor or felony offenses, we have a broad understanding of traffic infractions and can help you understand what penalties you may be facing for the unlawful operation of an ATV.

If you have been accused of reckless driving, driving under the influence, or causing physical harm to another person(s) while operating an ATV, you could be facing much more drastic outcomes than a simple traffic ticket. Depending on the surrounding details, a conviction can result in you paying back expensive fines, facing imprisonment, being placed on probation, or all the above. The defense team with Pumphrey Law Firm can review the facts of the incident during a free consultation. All you need to do is contact our team at (850) 681-7777 or fill out our form online to schedule your risk-free case evaluation today.

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