Pocket Bike Mini-Motorcycle Laws

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What Are "Pocket Bikes" or "Mini-Motorcycles"?

Pocket bikes or mini-motorcycles are miniaturized versions of full-sized motorcycles. They were originally designed to assist in motorcycle pit events, but have recently become part of mainstream culture through mass production and distribution. Pocket bikes are usually about two feet high and weigh about 40 pounds. They are sometimes called mini-motos, pocket rockets, minibikes, or rocket bikes.
There are two main concerns with pocket bikes.

  1. Despite their small size, some of these bikes can reach high speeds, sometimes in excess of 50 mile per hour. Many of them are equipped with 40cc or higher engines. This makes them dangerous for both operators and other vehicles.
  2. Due to their small size, they can be difficult for other motorists to see on the roads. Pocket bikes, especially those that have been custom made, often lack typical safety equipment such as turn signals, visibility reflectors, and brake lights. For these reasons, many states have outlawed or restricted the use of pocket bikes on public roads.

Is It Legal to Drive a Pocket Bike in My Area?

Every state has different laws covering the use of pocket bikes. In many states and local municipalities, it is illegal to ride pocket bikes on public roads, streets, trails, or highways. In such states, pocket bikes can only be driven on privately owned lands such as a racetrack or a designated outdoor field. Texas and California are examples of states that limit pocket bike driving to private property. 
Other states allow the operation of pocket bikes, but restrict their usage to various regulations and rules. For example, New Jersey limits the use of pocket bikes to persons over 12 years of age. 
The best way to find out whether pocket bike usage is legal in your area is check with you Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if they allow pocket bikes to be registered with the state. If the DMV does not allow pocket bikes to be registered, then it is probably not legal to drive them in your area. 
If your DMV does allow pocket bikes to be registered, you should register your bike before using it. DMV registration is more common for the larger versions of pocket bikes, known as “super” pocket bikes. Also, check to see if the DMV requires that the bike meet certain restrictions. 
For example, many states require all motorcycle seats to be at least 25 inches off the ground. You may also need to equip your pocket bike with all the standard equipment on a regular motorcycle, such as turn signals, brake lights, and other safety gear. Additionally, if your DMV allows pocket bikes to be registered, they will need to be insured as well.  

If you are unsure of the pocket bike laws in your area, be sure to consult with your DMV or with an attorney before using a pocket bike.    

What Are the Penalties for Violating Pocket Bike Laws?

The most likely offense associated with pocket bikes is illegally operating an unregistered vehicle. This can range from a simple traffic violation to a misdemeanor, depending on the jurisdiction. Such citations could result in:

In  addition, if your vehicle does not meet safety specifications, you could be subject to a host of traffic violations, including:

Finally, since pocket bikes are frequently associated with stunts, it is common for the police to issue reckless driving citations for dangerous activities. 

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Pocket Bike issues?

If you have received a citation in connection with the use of a pocket bike, you should contact a lawyer for advice, especially if you have received criminal misdemeanor charges. Also, before you purchase, build, modify, or operate a pocket bike, you should consult with an attorney to determine the specific laws of your state.

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Last Modified: 03-10-2014 11:20 AM PDT

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