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Motorcycle Licenses in California: How to Obtain and Why You Need One

California Vehicle Code 12500 (b) states, “A person may not drive a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle upon a highway, unless the person then holds a valid driver’s license or endorsement issued under this code for that class, except those persons who are expressly exempted under this code, or those persons specifically authorized to operate motorized bicycles or motorized scooters with a valid driver’s license of any class.”

How Do I Get a Motorcycle License in the State of California?

It is most likely that you will want to obtain the M1 class motorcycle license, which permits you to drive a traditional motorcycle. The M2 and M3 class licenses are only for motorized scooters, “mopeds,” and 3-wheel motorcycles.

You will need to go to a DMV and provide your:

  • Social security number
  • Photo ID
  • A document that proves your California residency
  • Payment for application fee

Then, you will need to perform the following:

  • Scan your fingerprint
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Have your photo taken
  • Pass the knowledge test (written test)
  • And EITHER:
    • Pass a motorcycle driving test at the DMV
    • OR, take earn Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training by completing the official course

Earning a CCMT by completing the course can be used to opt out of the in-person driving test at a DMV, however, you will still be required to pass a written test regarding motorcycle operation laws.

Can I Get a Motorcycle License if I Am Not 21?

It is possible to obtain a license if you are under the age of 21, however, there are some additional steps that must be taken to do so. 

Applicants age 18-20 are REQUIRED to get the Certificate of Completion of Motorcycle Training, and must hold an instructional permit for at least 6 months.

Applicants aged 15 ½ to 17 must additionally provide proof of completion of a driver’s education course. 

What Happens if I Operate a Motorcycle Without a License?

As specified in CVC section 12500 (b), it is a crime to operate a motorcycle without a valid license. The statute classifies the crime as a misdemeanor offense, meaning that upon conviction, you could face:

  • Up to 6 months in prison AND/OR
  • A maximum fine of $1,000


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