From the Forum – Scooter Towed Unlawfully?


Scooter Towed Unlawfully?:

“I own a 49cc scooter and made sure when I purchased it that it fit all the qualifications of a “moped” so that I wouldn’t need to get a motorcycle license and could park it outside my house. I verified with a DC police officer that it was a moped and they said yes, as it was under 50cc’s, 16″+ wheels, and max speed is 30mph.

I live in Petworth and can’t fit the scooter through my tight alley to my backyard so I had it parked across from my house on the sidewalk. It was a wide area of the sidewalk, chained to a light post (which I also verified with patrolling cops that this was legal.) I had it chained with the heaviest chain I could buy at Ace Hardware plus a U-lock on each wheel. Scooters seem to disappear quite frequently from my neighborhood.

I came home from work last Friday to discover it gone. Find out that it has been towed by DPW. The ticket is that it was technically a motorcycle so it was unlawful for it to be parked on a sidewalk. They towed it Friday afternoon, so that is $100, plus $20 for each day is it stored- INCLUDING Saturday and Sunday when they are closed. They broke the chain ($50) and each of the U locks ($75 each). Plus my new helmet ($125) was in the under seat bin. The ticket is $100. Was told that I can’t pick up the scooter without paying the fines first. So the scooter is there racking up the fines while I have to take off work to fight the ticket in traffic court with no guarantee of getting reimbursed for anything.

I was wondering if any of you have experience with this sort of situation? I feel like this is some kind of scam. I am out $650 as of today for this unlawful tow. The scooter only cost me $350! Do I leave my scooter at the impound lot and chalk this up to a very expensive mistake or fight it?”

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19 Comment

  • FIGHT IT. I’ve won every ticket I’ve ever fought. Since this was in error you should also win! Take documentation with you including a photo of the moped, a photo of where it was locked up. the technical information on the make and model. The judges love pictures and having you explain exactly what was where…

  • Fight it. You have your documentation lined up. Your cost is not $350, your cost is at least $550, given the ulocks and the chain.

    I buy that you have to pay to get it out, but I would absolutely push this to get it fixed. You should be able to be made whole here.

  • FWIW, the impound lot is absolutely FULL of abandoned scooters. If I were you I’d at least try to fight it. If you find that you can’t win it and you can get a replacement scooter for less than what it would cost to retrieve yours, then go that route.

    • Do they auction off the unclaimed scooters after a while? It might be cheaper to reacquire it that way than to pay the fines and storage fees.

  • I am not an attorney or a DC police officer, but my understanding of DC law is that any motorized two-wheeler is considered a motorcycle and must be tagged, titled, and insured. It doesn’t sound like you even have that done, so if I am correct, they could have towed you for many reasons, including that it was on a sidewalk. I see many cases where DC does NOT touch mopeds on sidewalks, and my bet is that one of your neighbors complained and that is why you suffered from selective enforcement. Any chance you have enemies? I am a licensed DC Motorcycle operator, and if you don’t have that endorsement, I don’t believe you can operate a moped in DC, but that is where my understanding on this subject comes from.

    • Not true in the least bit. The OP knows the actual law. If your engine is less than 50cc, has wheels bigger than 16″ and goes no fast than 30 (or 35mph?) then you don’t need to get tags, registration, or even a motorcycle license. You can also park it on the sidewalk.
      OP: I have honestly never heard of anyone getting their scooter towed. I’m not even sure how they would manage it and I’m surprised that they were able to cut off the locks. I’d love to hear more about the process. It sounds like the city is trolling hard for revenue (I lock up my scooter at a sidewalk bike rack everyday in the CBD while at the office).

      • The law has changed, as of this past summer. So you’re both partially correct: all vehicles need registration and plates. Scooters under 50cc, however, CAN be parked on the sidewalk (outside of the core downtown area) and CAN use the bike lane (another common grievance/misconception).

        While attempting to register my scooter a police officer actually attempted to give me a ticket for parking on the sidewalk near the emissions testing center. I showed him the matrix of motorized bicycles/scooters/motorcycles from DMV’s website – which I keep in the glove compartment – and convinced him that he was wrong. Sadly, that’s pretty common, and I think it’s fair to assume most MPD officers are unaware of the current law. I was only out 5 minutes of my time – it sucks that you’re out considerably more!

    • You have most of your facts wrong here, but bring up a good point about the neighbors. Seems likely that you were targeted because a neighbor complained.

      • +2
        I hate awful, nosy neighbors. There must have been a history of complaints or they know someone in DPW; I’m surprised DPW actually made it there for such a petty issue.

    • I know you dont need a license since it is 49cc or lower but I am pretty sure you need to register and insure. In Baltimore you dont and when i lived there i found it odd since every other place I have ever been too requires plates and insurance.

      Now I believe parking on the side walk is illegal but not strictly enforced .

  • There was a woman in Georgetown that caused a big stir – though it died out – over DC confusing scooter laws.
    I would contact your Council Member and a news outlet. The fact that MPD said you were cool and DPW said you weren’t speaks volumes of how confusing this is.

    Absolutely fight this.

  • This ( fact sheet is absurd. In order to be considered a “motorized bicycle” under these parameters, the wheels must be greater than 16 inches in diameter. However, the Tomos Targa that is pictured as an example of a motorized bicycle has only 16 inch wheels. 16 inch wheels do not fit the requirement of wheels “more than 16 inches in diameter.” The sheet is misleading and inaccurate.

    The sheet also says, “Motorized Bicycle (includes most mopeds and scooters).” WRONG WRONG WRONG. The vast majority of scooters have wheels far less in diameter than 16 inches.

    I live in DC and own a Tomos moped like the one pictured in the motorized bicycle section. I got it registered in DC. I did not need a motorcycle endorsement. I did not need to pass inspection contrary to the requirements on the fact sheet.

    Out of curiosity, what is the make and model of the vehicle that got towed? Are you sure it fit the definition of “motorized bicycle?” Personally, I would love the opportunity to argue about these laws with a judge. However, the fact that your vehicle was unregistered might be fatal to your case because, according to the ridiculous fact sheet cited above, even motorized bicycles require insurance and registration in DC.

  • This is from the DC DMV website. You need to have any scooter registered regardless of engine size, however you can park on the sidewalk. I guess the question is, were you towed for not having the scooter properly registered or were you blocking a sidewalk as spelled out in the law?

    Motorized No. No. Yes. [17]
    Bicycle(includes most mopeds and scooters)

    A motorized bicycle is a two or three wheeled vehicle with all of the following characteristics:
    1) wheels more than 16 inches in diameter, 2) automatic transmission, 3) piston displacement of not more than
    fifty (50) cubic centimeters, 4) incapable of maximum speed of over 35 miles per hour on level ground, and 5) not more than one and one-half (1.5) brake horsepower (S.A.E. rating). If the two or three wheeled motor
    vehicle does not meet one or more of these characteristics, it is a motorcycle.

    Registration Required:
    Yes; $30. [9] Non-DC vehicles must meet their state’s registration requirements

    May be parked in a bike rack or on a curb so as not to impede pedestrian traffic.

  • Does the OP’s scooter definitely not go more than 30 mph? It sounds to me like the OP did his/her due diligence, but I’m wondering if he/she was given bad information. From , I had the impression that just about all scooters ended up meeting at least one of the requirements that required them to be registered.
    There’s certainly a lot of confusion on this subject. Unlike the OP in the previous thread, this OP seems to have been acting in good faith, so I’m a lot more sympathetic.

  • Sorry, you’re wrong. Even if you do have a moped and not a motorcycle as defined by DC, you still can’t “chain it to a light post.”

    The only legal place to part a moped on a sidewalk is “in a bike rack.”

    You can read the DMV’s guide to non-traditional motor vehicles here:

  • You should definitely pay the fine and try to fight the ticket. Even if you decide to give up the scooter, you’re still responsible for the fines, which can either be handed over to debt collectors, be deducted from your tax refund, and/or prevent you from obtaining certain licenses that require a “clean hands” certificate.

  • brookland_rez

    Why does this continually come up? DC is not MD. You legally have to register scooters in DC, ALL scooters. See the attached guidelines:

    A motorcycle is a two or three
    wheeled vehicle that has one or
    more of the following
    characteristics: 1) piston
    displacement of more than fifty
    (50) cubic centimeters, 2)
    capable of traveling over 35
    miles per hour on level ground,
    3) more than one and one-half
    (1.5) brake horsepower (S.A.E.
    rating), 4) wheels under 16
    inches in diameter, or 5) manual
    transmission.[4], [5]

  • I wish I had gotten to this posting earlier. This is still so much incorrect information about this topic (including the DMV website itself). Watch the link below to see how the regulations on scooters was updated earlier this year. 50 cc and below and 30 MPH and below and you have yourself a scooter. That means you get to park on the sidewalk as long as it does not impede walking traffic and it is not chained to a tree or tree box. You will have to get it registered and get insurance, but you do not have to have a motorcycle license. You can do the “but the DMV site says,” to which I will say look at the link at the end of the article to the actual regulation and you can work through the details yourself. Actual law/regulation trumps DMV website 10/10 times.

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