Image Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Driving under the influence has a new baby brother, and his name is Scooter. In a precedent-setting case, Los Angeles prosecutor Mike Feuer has secured a misdemeanor conviction for a man arrested after he hit a pedestrian while operating an electric scooter under the influence of alcohol.
The incident occurred in West Los Angeles, an area where on-demand electric Bird scooters are ubiquitous. Nicholas Kauffroath, 28, had been riding down the sidewalk (strike one) when he knocked over a pedestrian leaving a theater (strike two). While the unnamed pedestrian sat on the sidewalk suffering a knee abrasion, Nicholas drunkenly carried on without stopping to render aid (strike three).
When LAPD officers located him at a nearby apartment building, he was issued a field sobriety test, where he was found to have a blood alcohol content of .279, more than three times the legal limit (strike four).
It’s a conviction that is the first of its kind, and surely it won’t be the last. But as the popularity of electric scooters takes off, that’s going to be a big problem — especially for those who break the law.
Both driving under the influence and a hit and run are considered to be wobbler offenses in California, meaning these serious crimes can be prosecuted as either either a misdemeanor or a felony, either of which can carry a sentence of jail time.
Mr. Kauffroath got off lucky with only a misdemeanor charge, in this instance. “He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $550 fine,” writes Laura Nelson for the Los Angeles Times. “He was also ordered to pay restitution to the victim, complete a three-month DUI program, and stay off scooters while drinking.”
Had the injuries to the pedestrian been more severe, or fatal, he would not have faired nearly as well.
DUI’s aren’t usually associated with two-wheeled vehicles. While the vast majority of arrests come from people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, California law spells out the restrictions in no uncertain terms: motorcycles, bikes, and scooters are not to be ridden while under the influence.
“Drinking while operating a vehicle, a bike — or a scooter — is not only illegal, but can lead to serious injury or worse,” said attorney Mike Feuer in a statement. “This conviction demonstrates our office’s continued effort to enforce our drunk driving laws and make our streets and sidewalks safer.”