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Can I Operate a Motorized Bike with a Suspended License?

When someone hears that they are facing a license suspension, one of the first worries is, “How am I going to get to work?” Even a 30-day license suspension for failing a breath test can put someone into a difficult situation. While rides from friends and family, Uber or a cab are options, many look for options that allow them their independence and don’t cause financial strain. A moped, or motorized bike is an attractive option for many. Is it permissible to operate one with a suspended license though? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

The law requires that the operator of a motorized bike have a valid license. G.L. c. 90, §1B. If you do not hold a valid license, you cannot legally operate a motorized bike. The penalties for violating G.L. c. 90, §1B by operating a motorized bike without a valid license include fines of up to $100 per offense.

If you are stopped and cited for operating a motorized bike without a valid license, the police may also try to charge you with the criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license pursuant to G.L. c. 90, §23. However, Massachusetts has held that operating a motorized bike without a valid license does not constitute a criminal violation of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.

In Commonwealth v. Lopez, the Massachusetts Appeals Court determined whether a citizen who operates a motorized bike without a valid license can violate G.L. c. 90, § 23, even though that statute expressly applies only to motor vehicles. The defendant was found guilty at trial for operating a motorized bike without a valid license, and pleaded guilty to the criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, subsequent offense. As a result of his plea to the criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, the defendant was sentenced to 90 days in a house of correction.

The Appeals Court held that although those persons who operate a motorized bike are subject “traffic laws and regulations of the [C]ommonwealth,” that these traffic laws do not include the statute prohibiting the operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. Those who operate a motorized bike must comply with laws governing the manner of operation of motor vehicles on public ways. While G.L. c. 90, §23 can be interpreted to govern the manner in which vehicles are operated on a public way, the statute more importantly addresses the threshold question whether the driver can operate a vehicle at all. Because the Appeals Court interpreted the statute to address the general requirements for operating a motor vehicle rather than the manner of operation of motor vehicles on public ways, it held that G.L. c. 90, §23 is not a “traffic law[] and regulation[] of the [C]ommonwealth.” The Appeals Court’s holding is well supported by the language in G.L. c. 90, §1B, which already provides penalties for those who operate a motorized bike without a valid license, further suggesting that the Legislature did not intend indirectly to make it an additional crime under G.L. c. 90, § 23.

If you have been improperly charged with the criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license while driving a motorized bike, contact The Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard to fight your charges.

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