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Coast to Coast Legislative Report from AIM and Bill Bish for December 2012

Lane Splitting Wins, Helmet Laws Lose, and Speeding Tickets Up for Debate

By Bill Bish, thanks to Richard Lester and NCOM, with photos from the Bob T. collection

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THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit


Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an Illinois prosecutor’s appeal to allow enforcement of a state law barring ordinary citizens from recording police officers as they do their jobs.  A lower federal court had found that Illinois’ anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights because it was being used by police and prosecutors against people who tape law enforcement officers.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had filed a lawsuit against Cook County in 2010 to halt prosecution of ACLU staffers for recording cops in public spaces, an activity promoted by the ACLU all over the country, but when Chicago officials objected the legislature passed a law outlawing the filming of them.  The so-called “anti-eavesdropping” measure was designed to prevent covert recordings without consent, but the State of Illinois has applied that statute to mean any photography in a public zone; meaning no photographing or recording a cop on a public street while he/she is making a traffic stop, arrest, or for any other reason.  Most other states don’t have laws prohibiting the filming of anyone or anything in public places, and the Illinois law had some serious teeth, carrying a 15-year prison term.
But the High Court has sided with a lower court decision protecting the rights of Americans when it comes to privacy under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and they refused to take action on the appeal.  In rejecting the state’s plea to criminalize videotaping police, the Supreme Court apparently agrees with the lower court, and police officers have no more expectation to privacy in public than any other person in America.
Harvey Grossman, legal director of the Illinois ACLU, was “pleased” with the result; “The ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that in order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and their agents -- especially the police.”
The National Coalition of Motorcyclists has presented various seminars during past NCOM Conventions on proper procedures for recording law enforcement officers in the performance of their duty, and although the Supreme Court has now given their blessing to such exercises of our civil rights under the United States Constitution, be aware not to interfere with, disrupt, or cause delays for police officers in their official duty while doing so.


A dozen motorcyclists convicted of violating Virginia’s mandatory helmet law have had their convictions reversed by the state Court of Appeals, while three others had their helmet convictions affirmed by the court. All 15 defendants were wearing headgear of some kind when they attended the 2011 Virginia Beach Bike Classic, but police claimed the riders’ helmets failed to meet the state’s standards. Each of them was convicted in general district court and in circuit court, but on appeal the state acknowledged the lower courts were in error in 12 of those 15 cases.
Virginia’s helmet law, Code §46.2-910, requires helmets to meet any of three published standards but does not require any marks or labels to show compliance. Ten of the convictions addressed in Bennett v. Commonwealth were based solely on a lack of labeling, so those convictions were reversed.
One rider wore what a trooper described as a “toy” helmet with a plastic chin strap held together with a key ring. The state argued the key ring flunked one published standard, but the court of appeals panel said the state failed to rule out compliance with the other standards, so that conviction also was reversed.
In three cases, the motorcyclists admitted to a trooper that they knew their headgear was not the real deal. One helmet even had a label identifying it as a “novelty helmet,” not for road use. For those three riders, the trip to the Court of Appeals proved fruitless. Convictions affirmed.
An admission of guilt, while always ill-advised, doesn’t always equate to a conviction, however, as the 3-judge panel drew a fine line with one remaining defendant who told the trooper he knew he was wearing a novelty helmet -- but that statement alone was not enough to establish it failed to meet any of the safety standards, the court held. That biker’s conviction was reversed, as reported in Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

Deaths of bicyclists rose 8.7% and fatalities of occupants of large trucks swelled 20% last year even as total traffic fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1949, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported in an analysis of 2011 traffic deaths.
Overall traffic fatalities dropped 1.9% to 32,367. The decline came as the number of miles driven by motorists dropped by 1.2%.
Last year also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.
The increase in bicycle deaths likely reflects more people riding bicycles to work and for pleasure as our culture begins moving toward healthier and greener modes of transportations, but the increase in deaths of large-truck occupants is more puzzling though it may be due to more trucks returning to the road as the economy improves.
Motorcycle deaths also rose 2.1%, marking the 13th time in the last 14 years that motorcycle rider fatalities have risen, reflecting more than a decade of record sales levels and escalating registrations nationwide.

Florida #1 for Speeding Tickets, Wyoming #1 for Speed Deaths. As you may know, Texas drivers can now legally outrun the rest of the U.S. with a new 85 MPH speed limit posted between Austin and San Antonio, now the fastest stretch in the country. But it’s in Florida that you run the greatest risk of getting slapped with a speeding ticket. Georgia, Nevada, Texas and Alabama follow Florida as the Top 5 states for speeding (Texas ranks a mere #4).
Wyoming drivers, meanwhile, have the highest rate of speeding-related deaths in the nation. 25 million speeding tickets are issued nationwide each year, and drivers pay an average of $150 per ticket. These findings are part of newly-released data just published in the “Need for Speed” infographic on Bankrate’s Insurance Quotes website. These statistics are for all vehicles.

A woman in Houston was arrested and jailed for 12 hours after she held up a make-shift sign to warn drivers about a speed trap. Natalie Plummer was officially charged with walking in the roadway -- jaywalking, essentially -- though she says the police officers who arrested her were just angry that she had tipped off speeders.
Plummer was riding her bicycle along a road near downtown when she spotted police officers pulling drivers over. She told KTRK News that it looked like the officers were targeting cars at random, so she recorded some of the activity on her cell phone. Then, she said, she turned around and wrote “Speed Trap!!” in large letters on a piece of grocery bag to warn oncoming traffic.  “I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead,” she told the TV station.
The officers didn't see it that way. Shortly after she took up her post, a squad car pulled up to Miss Plummer and an officer grabbed her backpack off her shoulder and began rifling through it. Then, he handcuffed her and told her she was under arrested for felony obstruction of justice and that she would spend three to five years in jail, at minimum.
She ended up being charged with misdemeanor “walking in the road where a sidewalk is present,” though she was in jail 12 hours before she was able to bail out.
Plummer said she wasn't obstructing justice, and she wasn't in the roadway, either -- she was on the sidewalk.  “He couldn't take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it,” she said.
A KTRK legal analyst says Plummer should not have been arrested, but the Houston Police Department stood by the officer's report that she was walking in the road and a danger to herself and others.

A group of cheesed-off French bikers have taken to painting their own road markings warning motorists about upcoming speed cameras.  The Federation Francaise des Motards en Colere (FFMC), literally the French Federation of Angry Bikers, angered by a particular speed camera, decided to take direct action.
About thirty “Angry” bikers took to the streets of Toulon, brazenly taking matters into their own hands with a pot of paint. And these aren't just crude daubings either - these Gallic agitators have made their new markings look like a pro job, effectively communicating to drivers of speed cameras ahead; at least until local law enforcement catches on.

Motorcyclists should be allowed to weave their way to the front of stationary traffic and car drivers should have to study up on motorcycle safety, according to a "landmark" parliamentary report recently released by Australian lawmakers.
It is currently an offense there, and in most developed countries, for motorcycles to "filter" (lane split) between cars at red lights and in slow traffic, but the report by the Road Safety Committee said that behavior could cut commuting times, slash congestion and should be legalized.
The report, applauded by the motorcycling community but given a mixed reception by other road users, also recommended questions about safety around motorcycles be included in future car license tests.
Rob Smith, of Motorcycles Australia, told the Herald Sun newspaper that the report was a big win for motorcyclists but it might be some time before new laws are introduced. He said he understood concerns from other motorists about safety, but agreed with the government officials that filtering through traffic could be a solution to congestion. "Filtering motorcycles benefits every road user by saving travel time," Smith said. "People should be concerned about road safety, but there is no evidence anywhere in the world that lane filtering is actually dangerous."
Victoria Motorcycle Council deputy chairman of data and research Rob Salvatore said the report was a landmark recognition of motorcyclists as legitimate road users. Committee chairman Murray Thompson MP said there has been a 66% increase in registrations of motorcycles in the past decade and passenger vehicle drivers needed to be more aware of them.


The Finks MC in Australia is challenging the constitutionality of a law that would make it easier to declare them a criminal gang, and have asked Australia's highest court to overturn laws they say are draconian and threaten civil freedoms.
Under the laws, police in Queensland state have sought to have the Finks declared a “criminal gang”. Similar laws have been used elsewhere in Australia, and have been met with similar resistance from organized biker clubs.
"This legislation can be used against any organization which the police or the government may target to say they are criminal in nature," Finks lawyer Bill Potts told reporters ahead of the High Court challenge.  "We say it's a law too far, it's a law that's unnecessary. We say that in total that large sections of it are in fact unconstitutional," he told Reuters.
The laws have been successfully challenged by other so-called “gangs”, including the Hells Angels, in two other states; New South Wales and South Australia, “frustrating governments who have tried to link rival gangs to the illicit drugs trade, trafficking of illegal firearms, robbery, murder, extortion and prostitution,” the news agency reported.
New South Wales and South Australia subsequently recast their laws after the High Court of Australia decided that new powers allowing lower court judges to hear evidence in secret and to prevent legal appeals went too far under the Australian Constitution.

QUOTABLE QUOTE: "America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."
--Claire Wolfe, author of “101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution” (1996)

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