In California, driving a motor vehicle on the sidewalk is a serious offense punishable by law under Vehicle Code 21663 VC. This legislation aims to protect pedestrians and ensure their safety on sidewalks.
Vehicles driving on the sidewalk could seriously hurt pedestrians and damage private property. Simply put, with the exception of a few motorized vehicles, it's illegal for cars to operate on the sidewalks.
Vehicle Code 21114.5 VC allows for operating electric carts on sidewalks under some circumstances, but motor vehicles are not allowed. One exception is if a vehicle drives over a sidewalk while entering or leaving a property.
Suppose you are charged with violating Vehicle Code 21663 VC. In that case, you are facing fines and points on your license. In addition, you could get a negligent operator license suspension if you acquire a certain number of points within a given time frame.
This means you cannot drive on the sidewalk intentionally to avoid traffic, construction or decrease travel time to work. This does not apply to situations where you accidentally run up on the curb. Instead, it targets drivers who drive recklessly and end up on the sidewalk with their vehicle.
If ticketed for this traffic infraction, you could face a fine and a point on your driving record. Let's review this state law further below.
Overview of VC 21663
The text of VC 21663 is pretty simple: "No person shall operate or move a vehicle upon a sidewalk, except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property."
Definition of "Sidewalk"
In California, a sidewalk is defined as any area intended for pedestrian use, typically found between the curb and the adjacent property line. Sidewalks are designed to separate pedestrians from motor vehicle traffic, ensuring their safety.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are only two instances in which it is permissible for a motor vehicle to drive on the sidewalk. These include:
- Driving on the sidewalk to enter or leave adjacent properties. These may include driveways, parking lots, private roads, or loading zones. As long as the driver uses the sidewalk only as necessary to access these areas, they are generally not violating Vehicle Code 21663 VC.
- Electric carts as permitted by local ordinance. Under Vehicle Code 21114.5 VC, local jurisdictions may allow specific individuals to drive electric carts on the sidewalk, such as seniors, disabled persons, USPS employees, government agents, etc.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Arnold is behind a stalled car on a busy 2-lane street, with no opening to pass on the left. Frustrated and late for work, Arnold pulls onto the sidewalk to get around the stalled car. Arnold can be cited under VC 21663.
EXAMPLE 2: Eric is leaving the parking lot of a convenience store. He can drive his vehicle onto the sidewalk for a few feet to leave the property as long as he does not stay there any longer than necessary. In this case, Eric would not violate VC 21663.
What Are the Related Offenses?
Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 21663 VC driving on a sidewalk, such as the following:
- Vehicle Code 21209 VC – driving on a bike lane;
- Vehicle Code 23127 VC – driving on trails or paths;
- Vehicle Code 4461 VC – misuse of handicap placards;
- Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC – runaway vehicle causing damage;
- Vehicle Code 21712 VC - unlawful riding in a vehicle;
- Vehicle Code 21464 VC – defacing a traffic control device;
- Vehicle Code 21460 VC - crossing double yellow lines.
What Are the Penalties for VC 21663?
Violating VC 21663 is an infraction. If ticketed by law enforcement for driving on the sidewalk, you can face the following consequences:
- Fine. The standard fine for this infraction is $238.
- A point on your driver's license. A violation of Vehicle Code 21663 VC will add one point to your DMV record, which may increase insurance premiums.
- Possible license suspension for excessive points. The DMV keeps a three-year record of accumulated points. Accumulating too many points within specific time frames can earn you a "negligent operator" designation from the DMV, which can cause your driver's license to be suspended or revoked.
Additionally, if you ignore the ticket, fail to pay it, or fail to show up in traffic court on your appointed day/time, you could be charged with failure to appear, defined under Vehicle Code 40508, a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail.
Further, any driver who violates VC 21663 might cause an accident with another motorist, or pedestrian, resulting in a serious injury. The injured party could file a personal injury lawsuit for negligence to recover financial compensation.
What Are the Defenses for VC 21663?
You can challenge it in court if you disagree with the citation for driving on the sidewalk under Vehicle Code 21663 VC. For best results, hire an attorney to assist you in your challenge. Some of the most common defenses are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that driving on the sidewalk was necessary to avoid greater harm or danger. For instance, swerving onto the sidewalk to avoid colliding with another vehicle or a pedestrian may be considered a valid defense.
Perhaps we can argue there was a lack of intent. You may be able to claim that you did not intentionally drive on the sidewalk and that it was an accident or a result of external factors, such as poor visibility or road conditions.
Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of mistaken identity. In some cases, the accused can say they were not the vehicle's driver at the time of the offense and the citation was issued to the wrong person.
Perhaps we can argue that you have a valid exception. For example, you may say you only drove on the sidewalk to cross the street into a property, or vice versa. Or, if you were authorized to drive an electric cart by local authorities, providing that evidence may get the infraction dismissed.
Perhaps we can challenge the officer's testimony. You may be able to challenge the account of the officer who issued you the citation.
For example, suppose you can provide eyewitness accounts or video surveillance footage that shows you did not drive on the sidewalk any longer than was necessary. In that case, you may get the citation dismissed. You can contact us to review the case details by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, CA.