ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles, are popular recreational vehicles for Californians all across the state. From sand dunes to desert trails, ATVs provide amusement for those who love the outdoors. Although ATVs are primarily used for off-road recreational purposes, they can be driven on California roads and are considered motor vehicles for most purposes. Because you are subject to California's laws regarding vehicle operation while on an ATV, you can get a DUI if you operate your ATV while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. ATVs and other off-highway vehicles, or OHVs, are subject to many of the same laws and regulations that highway vehicles are.
California law defines an ATV as a vehicle that:
- Carries one driver that straddles a seat
- Has at most one seat for one passenger
- Has three or more low-pressure tires (most have four tires today)
- Is designed for off-road use
- Is less than 50 inches in width
- Has steering handlebars
- And is 900 pounds or less in weight, unladen
Getting a DUI while driving an ATV will not be much different than getting a DUI while driving a car. On or off the highway, operating any motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be dangerous. ATVs are also dangerous in and of themselves, making the combination especially risky. ATV accidents can be fatal. Accordingly, California treats DUIs obtained on ATVs and other off-highway vehicles as it would any other DUI. You must adhere to speed limits, safety precautions, and many other laws car drivers are subject to. Even California's open container law applies to ATVs. One important difference is that while you do not need a valid California driver's license to operate an ATV off of California's highways, your California driver's license will nevertheless be suspended if you get a DUI on an ATV, meaning you will not be able to drive on or off the highway in any motor vehicle.
Regardless of what vehicle you were operating at the time, DUIs carry harsh penalties. For a first offense, you will face up to a year in jail, a fine of between $390 and $1,000, and will typically face three years of probation. Your California driver's license will be suspended for six months and you will have to submit an SR-22 filing on your auto insurance to have it reinstated, even if you weren't driving your car at the time you were arrested. You will also be ordered to complete a DUI education program lasting three; six, or nine months, depending on your BAC at the time you were driving. If you are under 21, your license will be suspended for one year. These are just the penalties for a first offense. A high BAC can aggravate your sentencing, as can injuring or killing someone, excessively speeding, having a child in the car with you, or repeat offenses. If you live in certain counties, you may also be ordered to install an Ignition Interlock Device on any vehicles you drive or operate, and this can include your ATV if it is equipped with a standard ignition system.
If you are facing DUI charges, you may wish to speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney about your case. DUI charges carry with them severe consequences, so it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney about your defense options. Driving off highway is not a defense to a DUI charge. Neither is driving an ATV instead of a car. California DUI laws are far reaching, extending to all motor vehicles, even jet skis and boats. Furthermore, it is dangerous to operate ATVs and other off-highway vehicles while under the influence of alcohol because of the already high risks these vehicles carry. Keep California's severe DUI laws in mind when operating any vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and remember to follow the California rules of the road when on your ATV.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing DUI charges? The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide tenacious representation throughout your case and will fight hard for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties and will not be afraid to take your DUI case to trial. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.