Schwarzenegger Rode Motorcycle Without License

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was driving a motorcycle without a license when he was involved in a minor accident over the weekend.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was riding his motorcycle illegally over the weekend when he collided with a car in his Los Angeles neighborhood, police said Tuesday. Los Angeles Police Lt. Paul Vernon said Schwarzenegger does not have the proper endorsement on his California driver’s license to operate a motorcycle.

Vernon said police did not ticket the governor for a violation because they arrived after the accident, which caused Schwarzenegger to suffer a cut on his upper lip that required 15 stitches. Instead, officers referred their findings to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, which will determine whether the governor should be cited for an infraction. Driving a motorcycle without the proper license can result in fines ranging from $100 to $250 or more. City attorney spokesman Jonathan Diamond said the office had not received the LAPD report.

Earlier Tuesday, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that he never bothered to obtain a motorcycle license because he “never thought about it.” “I just never really applied for it,” he told reporters during a state budget briefing. “It was just one of those things that I never really did.”

Schwarzenegger, a Harley Davidson owner who rides regularly along the California coast, said he had a motorcycle license when he lived in Europe, but never got another one after arriving in the United States in 1968. Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson, acting on initial information Sunday, said she believed the governor’s basic Class C driver’s license allowed him to ride the motorcycle with its sidecar attached. His 12-year-old son, Patrick, who was riding in a sidecar, was unhurt after Sunday’s crash.

It’s not inconceivable that Schwarzenegger didn’t realize that his automobile driver’s license didn’t allow him to operate a motorcycle. In many states, it would. Still, one would think that, having lived in California for nearly forty years, he would have stumbled on that nugget of information.

Update: Gaijin Biker notes something in the article that I either missed or has been added since I posted (AP articles can change repeatedly without any annotation):

But while police determined that the governor had violated a traffic law, other agencies disagreed, citing different sections of the state vehicle code.

Spokesmen for the California Highway Patrol and state Department of Motor Vehicles said the governor’s basic Class C license allowed him to ride the motorcycle with its sidecar attached.

It strikes me as odd that riding a motorcycle with a sidecar requires no test while riding without does, but it may well be that the sidecar technically transforms it into a four-wheeled vehicle.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    I would love to know what states exactly allow a motorist to operate a motorcycle with just the basic license. In the states I’ve lived in, even operating a moped requires at least an additional written (computerized) test for the class “M” license.

  2. Atm says:

    So if you are in a movie that involves you riding on a motorcycle, do you need a license? I seem to recall a movie or two with Arnold on a motorcycle filmed in California.

  3. spacemonkey says:

    Scandalous! Impeach him!

    Schwarzenegger Lied, Illegal Hog Ride!

  4. Gaijin Biker says:

    As the article suggests, Schwarzenegger was not “riding without a license” since his Class C license let him ride a motorcycle with a sidecar attached.

    Schwarzenegger’s motorcycle did indeed have the sidecar attached at the time of the collision; his son was sitting in it.

    However, Schwarzenegger has almost certainly broken the law in the past, on occasions when he presumably rode without the sidecar attached.

  5. Anderson says:

    This is practically favorable press for Arnie, given how his term’s gone. He’s crossing his heavily muscled fingers for Sidecargate!