This past July, it was ruled in a California appeals court that those who ride their bikes recklessly can be tried and charged with reckless driving. The ruling stemmed from a serious case that occurred back in 2013.
A Los Angeles resident by the name of Jorge Velasquez Jr. rode off on his bicycle following a Dodgers game and heavy drinking. While riding his bike recklessly downhill on the wrong side of the road, a pedestrian was hit. Unfortunately, the pedestrian wound up in the hospital with serious injuries and was in a coma for ten days.
Due to the seriousness of the injuries the innocent pedestrian suffered because of Velasquez biking irresponsibly, the DA was firm in their charge of reckless driving against Velasquez under Vehicle Code 23103. Since this crime is usually applied to cases which involved reckless driving of actual automobiles, Velasquez held that this reckless “crime” did not apply to himself as he was on a bicycle.
However, the severity of the injuries pushed the Los Angeles appeals court judge to take the side of the prosecution, and rule in favor of the DA. Velasquez was forced to face the consequences of his “reckless bicycling” under VC 23103.
Many Californians are aware that VC 23103, or reckless driving (of a car), can be quite a serious offense, depending on the circumstances. The most basic instances merit a misdemeanor with a minimum of five days spent in county jail. However, if another person is injured seriously due to reckless behavior of the driver, it can be considered a felony in California. Since the pedestrian in Velasquez's case suffered significantly, the prosecution did not feel it was right for Velasquez to be tried as the lesser offense of “biking under the influence”. The DA believed the circumstances of Velasquez's case warranted being tried as a felony crime like “reckless driving”, rather the “biking under the influence,” as the latter is a misdemeanor that carries no jail time.
This case can be an indicator that California prosecutors may lean towards more aggressive trials and criminal charges when others are injured by irresponsible and reckless cyclists.