DC Police Union – “ATVs and Dirt Bikes on City Streets: Most Arrests Go Unpunished by the Courts”

dirt bike
Dirt bike accident on H Street, NE in 2014

From a DC Police Union press release:

“The DC Police Union conducted research into the matter in an effort to discover what’s affecting this instability in our community. We gathered information from police databases and arrest records, along with public documents and court records from DC Superior Court. Here’s what we found:

 In the 15 months between January 1, 2014 and May 31, 2015, MPD made 147 Arrests for violations of DC Code §50–2201.04b Operation of all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes.
Considering the department‟s “No-Chase” policy of not pursuing these suspects under any circumstances, officers still make an average of 10 arrests per month. The DC Police Union concurs with the fact that giving chase to these types of illegal vehicles creates a serious risk to citizens, officers, and even the riders themselves. This offense is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, and a $250 fine. Frankly, the risks associated cannot be justified for what is considered a minor traffic misdemeanor according to the statute. Additionally, the fine for this violation was previously $1,000, until 2013 when the DC Council amended this statute and lowered the amount to $250.

 Of the 147 Arrests made by MPD the breakdown is as follows:
 11 of the arrestees were juveniles.
 42 cases presented to the Office of the Attorney General
were „No-Papered‟, meaning all charges were dropped
against the defendant.
 43 of the cases were papered, but were later dismissed
through diversion, „Nolle Prosequi‟ as part of a plea
agreement to another charge, or want of prosecution.
 33 of the defendants were found guilty.
 18 of the cases are still pending a disposition.

When the juvenile and the pending cases were removed from the equation, 126 cases remained. Of those 126, over one third of them were immediately no-papered by the OAG. Then another third were dismissed though diversion (community service) or for other reasons. The remaining 28% were found guilty of Operating an ATV or Dirt Bike. Ultimately, just 33 of the 147 adults arrested by MPD were found guilty.”

You can read the full release below:


54 Comment

  • “Additionally, the fine for this violation was previously $1,000, until 2013 when the DC Council amended this statute and lowered the amount to $250.” What rationale (if any) did the Council offer at the time?

    • Kids can’t afford $1,000 fines! Not after they sunk all that cash into their ride. Besides, they don’t have a job.

      • LMAO, like they PAID for those bikes. Every single one is stolen from MD suburbs. They wouldn’t risk crashing something they actually PAID for.

    • And that’s the MAXIMUM fine. Later in the release they note that most offenders weren’t fined at all, and the few that were fined paid much less than the max. A WaPo article last week noted that something like half of these vehicles appear to be stolen, and hardly any appear to be licensed, so how are there not multiple violations – theft, reckless driving, lack of proper license/registration, etc. – each time one of these guys is caught? Each of those counts ought to carry a separate penalty, and they ought to add up to a pretty significant deterrent.

  • I swear, DC has pretty much the most lenient, ineffective criminal justice system in the entire country.

  • Just wanted to add that, after hearing 6-8 gunshots around 11th and I NE last night, there was the pretty distinct sound of a dirtbike driving away.

    • That was definitely fire crackers, FYI.

      13th & I

      • I live on 10th, and I don’t think that what I heard was 3 blocks away (nor did it sound like fire crackers). Guess it’s possible, but at the time it sounded undoubtedly like a small caliber handgun.

  • OK, so don’t chase them and charge them when they’re only being asshats looking for attention.

    But when they start endangering people’s lives, then can you chase them down and arrest them for assault with a deadly weapon? Reckless endangerment at least?

    Why is it that trying to run someone down with an ATV isn’t attempted murder?

    • Attempted murder is probably a stretch, but they should be charging them with reckless driving too.

      • If someone shot at me with a gun, and the only reason I wasn’t hit was because I ducked, that would be attempted murder. Why is it such a stretch?

        • The asshole on the dirt bike probably didn’t intend on hitting the bystander. Even though he clearly showed no remorse for his mistake, that would most likely make it vehicular manslaughter if the woman was killed.

        • I’ve seen cases where two gang members are in jail for 60+ years for killing a bystander. Of course they weren’t trying to shoot the bystander. The government’s argument was (in my layman’s terms) – if you’re going to start shooting in a crowded sidewalk, of course you’re going to hit someone – you should have known.

          Apply the same to riding a motor vehicle on the sidewalk… you should have known!

          • Guns have only one purpose, whereas vehicles are used for a number of things. So you can’t compare a car to a gun, unless the car is intentionally being used to kill someone.

          • I frankly don’t care what the intended purpose of the car/ATV is as someone is running me over. Injured is injured and dead is dead.

            Smashing someone’s skull open with a frying pan is still attempted murder even though that’s not the purpose of it.

            I think your argument plays more toward how things should be *regulated* than how they should be *prosecuted*.

        • The have different rules for vehicles??? Maybe, of the “weapons” one is definitely a weapon and the other is a vehicle.

          • They have different rules for vehicles, and different cases interpreting those laws. But you certainly can be prosecuted for homicide if you negligently kill someone with a motor vehicle.

            See D.C. Code 50-2203.01 and go from there.

  • After reading the Police Union Press Release, and recently paying two $100 speeding tickets issued by traffic cameras, this pisses me off to no end.

    DC Council seems to prefer to collect money from tax paying citizens.

    On the plus side, if the council allows the roads to get any worse, the dirtbikers won’t have anywhere to ride.

    • I think the lenient sentences for driving a dirt-bike in the city, combined with the terrible state of DC roads, is clear evidence that the Council is trying to make the city accessible soley by dirt-bikes. Come on councilmembers…admit you’re in the pockets of big dirt-bike!

    • That’s not true, these are specifically designed to be off road vehicles.

  • What happens to the vehicles themselves? Don’t they get impounded? What kind of costss are involved to get your bike/ATV back? I’m wondering if that’s any sort of deterrent (probably not).

    • A number of ATV riders post pictures on social media. I would imagine that DC could try to get a warrant to obtain information about the accounts of people who post themselves illegally riding through the city, and then figure out where they store the bikes.

      • I was referring to the AG not being willing to prosecute or dropping charges.
        “2 cases presented to the Office of the Attorney General
        were “No-Papered‟, meaning all charges were dropped
        against the defendant.”

    • They get impounded and auctioned off. I don’t believe you can reclaim them since they are illegal to use within DC anyway.

      • They’re illegal to _use_ in D.C., but unfortunately, they’re not illegal to _own_ in D.C.

      • They’re not auctioned off. Well, some of them might be, but many of them are returned to the parents or owners who have a bill of sale, which boggles my mind. We should just start crushing them and posting the videos on YouTube.

  • I’ve noticed an uptick in groups of ATV’s and dirt bikes in NE dc, primarily along H st. in the last year, and after having lived in the neighborhood for many years I don’t recall this being such an issue before.

    I don’t like the no chase policy but I understand they are trying to prevent further chaos. However if when they do catch them they don’t prosecute them, there is no reason for them to stop or even care. If they are so dangerous they wont chase them, certainly there is enough reason to fine them severely.

    I also didn’t see anything about confiscating the bikes, or if they are returned. It’s dc, so I am guessing they return them but I really hope thats not the case.

    • I imagine they are only confiscated if the person is found guilty. That means in most cases, the person gets their dirtbike back once they’re released and shouldn’t have to pay any impound fees, etc.

  • Anyone know if the “no chase” rule is also in effect in other cities of similar size as DC?

    • Baltimore has had no-chase for years. Dirt bikes weaving in and out of traffic on Charles Street has become a summer rite of passage.

    • I think that no chase rule is pretty standard across the country.

    • A lot of cities have ordinances banning or restricting “hot pursuit” for liability reasons. If the police are chasing someone in a crowded urban area, and there is an accident, the city can be held liable. If the perp is hurt, even he/she can sue. It’s crazy but it’s true. The risk is pretty significant in any case and certainly not worth it, annoying as those idiots are.

  • I hear the same from MOD officers. Much frustration with the AG for not prosecuting these cases. Enough is enough. The attorney general needs to achieve convictions. These stats are not acceptable. Does anyone know the percentage of convictions on other crimes?

    • The AG has nothing to do with criminal prosecutions in DC. It’s handled by the US Attorney, a federal position appointed by the President. DC doesn’t control its courts…that remains with the Feds.

      • So the press release should have read “USAO” in the instances where it reads “OAG”?

      • It might have been that way, but not now. The USAO prosecutes more serious crimes, not all. Here is the OAG page on juvenile crime:


      • Wrong, it does prosecute for some crimes now. Just posted link to OAG that has some info on its role.

        • D.C. Office of the Attorney General prosecutes many misdemeanor crimes. The U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutes almost all felonies and a handful of misdemeanors.

      • OAG prosecutes all juvenile cases (expect those charged under Title 16 as an adult i.e. murder), all traffic charges, and all disorderly crimes. USAO prosecutes everything else; drugs, guns, assaults, ect ect.

  • When they grow up they get more expensive bikes and to basically the same stuff on the Beltway. I don’t drive on it often, but over the past 6-8 months everytime I drive 495 E of DC, and often also on Rt 50, I have witnessed crazy sh#t involving sport bikes. Last weekend it was guy popping wheelies at 70. Thats so common now it doesn’t even phase more anymore. Sometimes packs of 20-40 bikes, popping wheelies, passing on all shoulders, lane splitting, and running well in excess of 100mph .

  • How does this compare to other arrests? If the DC Police Union is going to be doing “research” at least give it some context.

  • They passive aggressively blame the “courts,” but the details show they are actually blaming prosecutors.

    • The problem is the authorities are not working the right angle. This isn’t a simple “driving an offroad vehicle in DC” — this is conspiracy to inspire mayhem! The reckless and lawless behavior, adults encouraging juveniles, juveniles wearing masks and carrying guns, completely unreasonable for a civil society to tolerate police and prosecutors turning a blind eye to this situation.

  • However, if you park your car in the “street sweeping zone” they will ticket you. LOL!! Typical DC Court!!!

    • That’s DPW, not MPD.

      • The point was……the charge is probably not dropped for the parking ticket—- the lesser of the two “evils.”

        • I get your point, but criminal charges and parking tickets are handled through completely different systems.

          • Yes, they’re different systems, and it remains ridiculous that the system for seriously dangerous driving is less stringent and easier to get out of, than the system for parking in the same space for 2 hours and 3 minutes.

          • Yep, it’s ridiculous.

  • I hate to say it, but it is going to take some upper middle class white lady and or her kid to get hit and seriously injured by one of these ATV’s before the Council forces MPD to give up this little ridiculous self imposed “no chase” policy. The MPD go on high speed chases through DC all the time, chasing people with stolen cars, criminals fleeing etc.

    The MPD aren’t rule bound. This little rule of theirs is self imposed. They could decide tomorrow to give it up, but why would the MPD want to do any work when its much easier for 5 of them to sit in the Columbia Heights Froyo for an hour and a half rather than doing some work. \

    Oh, once you’ve impounded the ATV, don’t give it back! It is an illegal vehicle on DC streets. Would you give me back my surplus Army tank if you caught me driving it around town? No. Do your fucking jobs!

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