Virginia Outlaws Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

Virginia is latest state to ban "motorcycle only" checkpoints.

In a victory for motorcyclists, Virginia is the latest state to bar motorcycle-only checkpoints, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

On Feb. 28, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law H.B. 187, which was introduced by Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). The new law, which takes effect July 1, prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing checkpoints where the only vehicles subject to inspection are motorcycles.

The measure was introduced after the Arlington County Police Department set up a motorcycle-only checkpoint during the Rolling Thunder ride on May 28, 2011, that brings awareness to prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) issues.

Similar laws have been enacted in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“Officials say they set up these motorcycle-only checkpoints to pull over motorcyclists to check for safety violations,” said Rick Podliska, a Virginia resident and AMA deputy director of government relations. “But if officials are really concerned about motorcyclists’ safety, then they need to stop discriminating against us with these checkpoints and start supporting programs that prevent motorcycle crashes, such as rider safety training and driver awareness programs.”

 


The Proper Way to Approach a Motorcycle Only Checkpoint

There’s a good chance you may encounter one of these “Motorcycle only” checkpoints as this rider.  This is the proper way to act when confronted with these illegal and unconstitutional roadblocks.

American Motorcyclist Association Seeks End to Virginia Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

PICKERINGTON, Ohio – The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has expressed concern to Gov. Bob McDonnell over a recent motorcycle-only checkpoint in northern Virginia, calling the stop “discriminatory.”

The Arlington County (Va.) Police Department conducted a motorcycle-only checkpoint on May 28 during the annualRolling Thunder gathering in Washington, D.C. The Rolling Thunder event, held May 27-29, involved tens of thousands of motorcyclists riding to the nation’s capital to seek accountability for prisoners of war and service personnel missing in action.

In the letter, dated May 31, AMA Washington Representative Rick Podliska told McDonnell that motorcycle-only checkpoints are discriminatory and profile only motorcyclists.

“The AMA urges the Commonwealth of Virginia to suspend the use of motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions raised by the motorcycling community have been addressed,” Podliska wrote.

Those questions include: How do motorcycle-only checkpoints increase the safety of motorcyclists? Where do states draw their authority to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints? Is “probable cause” required to stop a motorcycle and, if so, what constitutes probable cause?

“The safety of motorcyclists is better served by efforts that minimize injuries and fatalities by preventing crashes in the first place,” Podliska wrote. “The most efficient way of doing so is not through sporadic, discriminatory roadside checkpoints, but by mitigating crash causation.”

Copies of the letter were also sent to Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott, Virginia House of Delegates Transportation Committee Chairman Joe May and Virginia Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Yvonne Miller.

The Virginia motorcycle-only roadside checkpoint is the latest in a series of the discriminatory checkpoints that have been conducted in Utah, New York state and Georgia. The AMA is strongly opposed to this practice.

In a victory for motorcyclists, lawmakers in New Hampshire recently approved, and the governor signed into law, a bill that prohibits law enforcement agencies or political subdivisions from accepting federal money for motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints and the state police did so as thousands of motorcyclists rode through the state on their way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week March 4-13.

The AMA opposes the federal motorcycle-only checkpoint grant program, and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and some of his colleagues have asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to suspend the program.

Sensenbrenner has also introduced H.R. 904, which would prohibit the U.S. transportation secretary from providing funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints.

“The NHTSA should focus on decreasing the likelihood of crashes from occurring in the first place,” Podliska said. “No public money should be applied to promoting such a program without first addressing questions from the motorcycling community.”

In addition to letters submitted to the past and present governors of Georgia, the AMA also sent a letter to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend the grant program that gives states money for motorcycle-only checkpoints until questions have been addressed.

To view the AMA’s letter to McDonnell, click here:http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Libraries/Rights_Documents_State/5_31_2011_GovMcDonnell_MOC.sflb.ashx?download=true.

Georgia Motorcyclists Ride on The Capitol To Protest Checkpoints

Over 300 motorcyclists roared into downtown Atlanta and surrounded the State Capitol Wednesday March 23, 2011 to protest the recent Georgia State Patrol motorcycle only checkpoints.

Using a $70,000 grant from the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration NHTSA, the State and local officers set up motorcycle only checkpoints on the two main interstates leading into Florida during Daytona’s spring Bike Week.

The checkpoints were located on I-95 and I-75 in the southbound truck weigh stations on Wednesday March 9th.

Newly elected ABATE State Director, Dan Forrest said he was pleased at the turnout and the diversity of the riders who joined the protest.

“(turnout)  was beyond expectations and I hope a sign of  unity in the biker community.”  Forest said.  ”We had several patch club members from urban riding groups and this was far from the normal group we have attracted in the past.”

Forrest said the speakers called on the State Patrol and the Governor’s office to focus on programs that will save lives and not just profile motorcyclists.  ”The central point of every speakers message was that money needs to be spent on EDUCATION of the driving public to make them aware of motorcycles. Use the media for public service announcements, bill boards, class room training for new drivers.” Forrest said.

Other speakers pointed out how the interstate checkpoints resembled police actions of  totalitarian regimes and not a free republic.

“The roadblocks are a violation of our rights and are a pure attempt at profiling. The Savannah stop had 17 GSP cars, 2 Sheriff’s cars, 1 DOT car, a van filming and photographing every biker and a helicopter. This sounds like a Border Crossing in a communist country and has nothing to do with safety.”

The State Patrol nor the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety did not respond to a request for a statement.  However, Patrol officers have indicated they will hold five more one day checkpoints throughout the year.

Forrest said ABATE of Georgia will continue to lobby against the checkpoints and added that under his leadership he hopes ABATE can become a voice for all motorcyclists and expand its mission to fight any and all legislation that unfairly targets motorcycle owners and riders.     “ABATE of Georgia has suffered through some very poor leadership over the past few years and has spent too much time and effort on the ‘Freedom of Choice ‘ bill or rather lack of it. We have been known as the helmet law people and  have been shunned by many riding groups because of that fact.”   He continued, “We have taken the first step in unity and we must continue to grow as one voice.”

 

 

Despite Checkpoints Motorcyclists Turn Out to Honor Slain Trooper

When it comes to showing their support, Georgia motorcyclists choose to put aside politics and just ride.

Close to a thousand motorcyclists turned out last weekend to honor slain Georgia State Patrol Trooper Chadwick LeCroy in the first Line of Duty ride in Atlanta.

O Gary Buffington of the Rough Neck Motorcycle Club told local television station Fox 5, ”This is absolutely phenomenal for us, we were hoping and praying for 300 to 500 bikes and from what we can tell we’ve got a little over 700 bikes here right now.”

Other motorcyclists attending said this ride wasn’t the proper place to voice their opposition to the State Patrol checkpoint  policy and that while they may disagree with the checkpoints, they were able to set that aside and ride to show their support for the slain trooper and donate to the Corporal Chad LeCroy Family Memorial Fund.

 

 

Bill introduced to block motorcycle-only checkpoints

A federal lawmaker has introduced legislation to prevent the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from giving money to states and local jurisdictions for motorcycle-only checkpoints, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

On March 3, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the bill. The legislation, with original co-sponsors Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would prohibit the DOT “from providing grants or any funds to a state, county, town, or township, Indian tribe, municipal or other local government to be used for any program to check helmet usage or create checkpoints for a motorcycle driver or passenger.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is part of the Transportation Department, recently gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints. New York state has operated a similar program using state funds. The AMA has been tracking this disturbing development of motorcycle-only checkpoints since it first appeared in New York several years ago.

Motorcycle Checkpoints May End Up in Supreme Court

Disputing the Constitutionality of Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Motorcyclists across the nation are awaiting a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York which they hope will declare New York’s “motorcycle only” roadway checkpoints to be unconstitutional. The case Wagner et al. v. The County of Schenectady, et al. could end up in the United States Supreme Court. The checkpoints, which target well-known motorcycle events, force motorcyclists traveling to and from those events to leave the roadway, regardless of any wrongdoing, and have their vehicles and equipment inspected for safety and non-safety equipment violations and stolen VIN numbers. Motorcyclists have been detained as long as 45 minutes in makeshift stockades while undergoing the inspections. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently began Federal funding for motorcycle checkpoints nationwide in order to assess their effectiveness despite objections raised by members of Congress.

The New York lawsuit is the first to challenge the constitutionality of motorcycle checkpoints. The plaintiffs are being represented by Proner & Proner, a plaintiffs personal injury law firm with a long history of doing “pro bono” legal work on behalf of motorcyclists. The Proner firm commenced the lawsuit on behalf of four motorcyclists who were detained at two separate checkpoints.

The checkpoints are funded by a grant from the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the troopers who work them are paid overtime. Although the stated purpose of the checkpoints is to promote safety, the majority of the more than a thousand tickets which were issued during the first year of the checkpoints had nothing to do with safety and instead focused on non-safety violations such as loud pipes. The written guidelines for the checkpoints specifically state that one of the purposes of the checkpoints is to look for stolen and forged VINs and the police readily admit that they often have undercover members of their gang and auto theft units working the checkpoints looking for signs of criminal activity.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly made it clear that any roadway checkpoint whose primary purpose is general crime control constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and is presumptively unconstitutional. Notwithstanding that fact, the progress reports which the police prepared on the checkpoints specifically state that the grant funds are used “for overtime for intelligence gathering and the subsequent criminal and traffic enforcement.” The police admit that the checkpoints, which focus only on equipment violations and forged and stolen VINs, do not address any of the major causes of motorcycle accidents such as reckless driving, driver inattentiveness and alcohol impairment.

Lawyers for the Plaintiff Riders and Defendant State Police are both seeking summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment claims. The future of motorcyclists’ rights hangs in the balance.