Cruising is driving not for the purpose of simply reaching a specific destination, but instead, to socialize or to see and be seen. It usually occurs when numerous vehicles come to a certain geographical area at a certain time for the specific purpose of cruising the area.

These time and places may be pre-arranged with a specific group of people or it may just be a locally known custom. Those who go cruising may meander on their route, but the goal is to end up on a particular strip of road or other place where cars can drive back and forth for social purposes, such as showing off cars and attempting to attract romantic interests.

Cruising is not the same thing as street racing, which may be illegal due to a separate ordinance or law.

Cruising ordinances are written to prevent the gathering of “cruising” vehicles at a certain time and place. Therefore, they may prohibit cars from coming down the same street (at certain hours of the day), or through certain parts of a street, more than twice within a certain amount of time. This may be enforced by police checkpoints. There are also likely to be signs stating that no cruising is allowed at certain times. Cruising ordinances may also be enacted in areas like large parking lots.

This activity has a long history in the United States and elsewhere. Certain towns and neighborhoods have become famous at different times for attracting cruisers. Over time, many cities have responded by enacting city ordinances prohibiting cruising.

Are there Legally Protected Cruising Ordinances?

Authorities at the state and local level have an interest not only in preventing traffic congestion in cities, but in preventing nuisance and crimes associated with the act of cruising. Once an anti-cruising ordinance is established, cruising becomes a traffic offense for which a person may receive a traffic ticket.

Cruising ordinances are frequently upheld. Not all ordinances are legal, but courts have upheld local anti-cruising ordinances if they stay within certain measures. The restrictions a cruising ordinance places on traffic should be “narrowly” written, meaning it should be very specific and stick to limited circumstances. The ordinance should serve a governmental interest, in this case, preventing traffic congestion and nuisances such as littering, noise, exhaust and potential traffic accidents. Below are some of the criteria a successful cruising ordinance might meet:

  • Specific traffic areas, such as particular intersections, are designated in the law;
  • The area where the law prevents cruising is a reasonable one where traffic clearly needs to be prevented, such as business districts and other high traffic congestion areas;
  • The law should designate a reasonable time of enforcement; and/or
    • Usually, cruising ordinances are enforced during nighttime hours. Enforcing a cruising ordinance during daytime hours would be more burdensome on the local population.
  • As mentioned above, the law should be related to a governmental interest, such as reduction in traffic or noise pollution.

What are the Defenses Against a Cruising Violation?

If you have been cited as violating a cruising ordinance, some possible defenses that have been tried are:

  • The driver was heading to a specific destination and was not, in fact, cruising;
  • The purpose of the drive was not social; and/or
  • Many people have tried raising constitutional challenges to cruising ordinances. They may claim that the ordinance is overbroad and unreasonably restricts personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

It is not always clear as to what will work as the best defense, as the surrounding circumstances will vary from case to case. It’s important to relay all of the facts of the situation to your lawyer, as it will give them the best chance to raise the best possible defense.

What are the Possible Penalties for Cruising?

The punishment for criminal convictions will always vary from state to state, as each state has the right to determine their exact punishments for each crime. So while the following is not guaranteed, it is likely:

  • The most likely penalty if a traffic citation for cruising, which involves paying a monetary fine
  • Traffic citations may result in an increase in the cost of insuring a car and driver; and/or
  • Police who pull over cruisers to cite them may also give them tickets for anything else they see that does not comply with traffic laws.
    • For instance, they may ticket the passengers of the car if they are not wearing seatbelts.

Is there Opposition to Cruising Ordinances?

As mentioned above, cruising has been popular in the U.S. for a very long time. In certain areas around the country, it has been a custom that has been passed down over generations. Cruising is an activity that provides something to do for kids who aren’t old enough to go to bars or other establishments for socializing.

Because of the freedom it provides to young people, and because it has become ingrained into many local societies over time, there has been some pushback regarding these types of ordinances. Many people, as stated above, have tried to present legal challenges stating that their constitutional rights are being infringed upon. However, cruising ordinances have become more and more common around the country.

Should I Hire a Lawyer to Fight a Charge of Cruising?

If you have received a citation for cruising, then you may want to speak with a criminal lawyer to learn more about your rights and possible defenses. Remember that the outcome will depend on the surrounding circumstances and the amount of evidence available. Be prepared to share every detail with your lawyer, to give yourself the best chance of success when fighting the charge.