Criminal Charges from Electric Scooters

April 13, 2023 Criminal Defense

Electric scooters have become a popular mode of transportation in the last several years, as they are an easy and efficient way to get from point A to point B. In Florida, larger cities have adapted to sharing the road with e-scooters. However, the increase in popularity is met with an increasing concern for those operating e-scooters and the possible dangers that they can cause.

While electric scooters are environmentally friendly and easy to operate, the reality is that you can still face criminal charges for certain offenses on an e-scooter. This page will define electric scooters and the Florida bill legalizing their use, along with the potential dangers and criminal charges a person can face in Florida.

What is an Electric Scooter?

An electric scooter is a motorized, stand-up vehicle considered a form of micro-mobility. This type of stand-up scooter is usually powered by an internal combustion or an electric hub motor.

Electric scooters (e-scooters) have become popular in recent years due to the increasing demand for scooter-sharing systems. Apps such as Lime, Bird, and Razor all gained popularity for their e-scooter apps which let users rent and ride a scooter on a minute-by-minute paying basis.

DeSantis Passes E-Scooter Bill

In June 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill legalizing e-scooters in Florida. Under HB 453 titled “Micromobility Devices,” the bill authorizes counties or municipalities to allow and regulate the operation of electric scooters. Such regulation under the law shall abide by state and federal laws. This bill was aimed at changing various Florida laws.

HB 453 defines a “micromobility device” as any motorized transportation device made available for private use by reservation through an online application, website, or software for point-to-point trips and which is not capable of traveling at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground. This is now codified under Section 316.003(41) and applies to a “motorized scooter” or bicycle.

Unlike larger scooters such as a Vespa, users of electric scooters are not required to obtain a driver’s license prior to operating an e-scooter. Instead, an operator of an e-scooter must abide by the rights and duties applicable to those riding a bicycle.

Bird Rider Agreement

As there are multiple electric scooter brands, each may vary in its specific set of rules and regulations. The following is Bird’s set of rider operations, which states that the ride must acknowledge and agree to cooperate with such rules, and that any traffic violations or other offenses are at the risk and expense of the rider.

The following lists the prohibited acts under Bird’s rider agreement:

  • Rider must not place any objects on the handlebar;
  • Rider must not use a cell phone, music player, or any other device that may distract them while operating the e-scooter;
  • Rider cannot operate the e-scooter under the influence of alcohol, drugs, medication, or other substances which may impair a rider’s ability to operate safely;
  • Rider may only ride solo, and cannot operate the e-scooter with a second person or child;
  • Rider may not use their own lock for the e-scooter, but only the locking mechanism provided by the electric scooter service;
  • The e-scooter cannot be parked in any prohibited spot such as private property, in a locked area, blocking the right of way, or in any other unapproved, non-public space; and
  • The e-scooter must be parked in a visible space, in an upright position and using the kickstand.

Possible Criminal Offenses on E-Scooters

While e-scooter drivers are not held to the same liability as those operating a vehicle, there are still criminal offenses that can take place on a rental scooter. The following is a list of common criminal offenses which have taken place on an electric scooter:

  • Theft E-scooters are used on rent or shared-basis, and any person who attempts to steal one can face criminal charges for theft. In Florida, theft charges are categorized as petit or grand theft, depending on the cost of the stolen object or property. If the electric scooter is worth $750 or more, the defendant may face felony charges for grand theft.
  • DUI Florida has a broad definition of driving under the influence, meaning a person can receive a DUI charge even without operating a car. A person can face DUI charges if they operate an e-scooter while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.
  • Traffic ViolationsThose operating an e-scooter must abide by the specified traffic rules. Possible traffic infractions include:
    • Speeding – A person may face criminal charges for speeding when they exceed the specified speed limit.
    • Reckless Driving – Reckless driving charges may be given to a person who operates an e-scooter by swerving through traffic, cutting off other riders or drivers, or driving on the sidewalk are all forms of reckless driving which can result in criminal charges.
    • Operating on Prohibited Areas – Most e-scooters will have specified areas that are off-limits for drivers. This may include operating the scooter on the sidewalk, certain roads, or public areas. Failure to do so may result in the e-scooter’s lack of operation or facing civil or criminal penalties.
  • Vandalism Any person who damages, defaces, or causes serious damage to an e-scooter may be charged with a vandalism crime, also known as criminal mischief.

It is important to note that the rules and regulations for operating an e-scooter will vary depending on the specific area in which you are renting or operating such a vehicle. Whenever renting an electric scooter, make sure you’re informed of all the rules in your area to avoid committing any criminal offenses.

Statistics on E-Scooter Crimes in Florida

Since electric scooters have been legalized in Florida, they have become popular in bigger cities such as Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Tallahassee. With its increase in popularity, however, there have also been increases in electric scooter-related crimes.

Based on a report by the Miami Beach Police Department, there were 130 electric scooter-related theft incidents that took place in 2020. Of those reports, most of the theft incidents took place when an e-scooter was either left unattended or unsecured. 

The Miami Herald reported a study from 2014-2018 that indicated that there were around 40,000 people injured while operating an electric scooter. There have been around 3,300 people who were hospitalized for injuries sustained by an electric scooter. Between June 2017 and June 2019, there were eight e-scooter related deaths reported by Consumer Reports.

Ryan McConaghy, the executive director of The Micromobility Coalition, a company founded by Uber and Lime, gave the following statement regarding electric scooters: “The popularity of e-scooters has skyrocketed in recent years, and as with any mode of transportation, a rising number of travelers will mean an increase in the incidence of injuries.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one is arrested for an e-scooter related crime, contact a defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. Despite the convenience and ease of renting an e-scooter, there are serious consequences for any person who commits a criminal offense while operating these vehicles. You may be facing expensive fines, imprisonment, or both.

Don Pumphrey and his team of attorneys work with individuals across Florida for all types of criminal offenses. We understand the nuances of the legal world and will help fight your case while making sure none of your rights are violated. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today and receive a free consultation regarding your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

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