In County of Sacramento v. Lewis oral arguments, as found on Oyez, Justice Scalia said, questioning the counsel for respondent Philip Lewis

And he owned the motor cycle, didn't he?

And he owned the motor cycle.

But Philip Lewis at the time was 16 years old. How could he have owned a motorbike? Could he even ride it?

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    A written transcript of the arguments can be found here; this passage is on page 41. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 12:21

2 Answers 2


In California, you can get a driver's license at age 16, as well as a motorcycle license. This is similar to the minimum age in most other states.

According to this article, California law generally permits minors to own property. There is a restriction for motor vehicles: Vehicle Code section 15500 says that a minor can only own a motor vehicle if they have a valid driver's license. But Lewis certainly could have satisfied this.

So it would have been entirely possible and legal for Lewis to own, and ride, a motorcycle at age 16, provided that he had satisfied all the requirements (driver training, etc) and been issued a license.


You don’t need a licence (or be eligible to hold one) to own a motor vehicle. You need one to purchase or lease one, but it’s not illegal to own one through, say, being given one.

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    Actually in California you do, if you're a minor: Vehicle Code section 15500. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 12:11
  • The statute also says an unlicensed minor may not "accept" a motor vehicle, which seems to rule out the possibility of being given one. "Otherwise obtaining" a vehicle is also forbidden. It's true that it doesn't in so many words say a minor may not own a vehicle, but I'm having trouble figuring out how that could actually happen without violating the statute at some point. (Maybe it's worded thus so that minors who already owned motor vehicles when the law went into effect could keep them?) Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 22:49
  • The statute doesn't seem to cover the case of the unlicensed minor who obtained a motor vehicle while living in a state where it is legal to do so, and then moves to California. Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 0:35
  • @GerardAshton the Constitution would prohibit the loss of ownership without compensation
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 1:31

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