So you’re on your way to Daytona Bike week in Florida. Or to an afternoon bbq in Appleton, Wisconsin. Or to your buddy’s pool party in Newport Beach, California. It’s a beautiful day for a ride. Ahh, what could be better?
But then, up ahead, you see a traffic stop. Sure enough, it’s a police checkpoint. It looks a lot like a DUI checkpoint, but aren’t those usually at night? Well, sure, those are a bit annoying, and even a bit stressful — after all, who doesn’t get a little bit nervous when they’re being questioned by cops with an agenda? But you haven’t had anything to drink, so you have nothing to worry about, right?
And as you get closer, something slowly starts to occur to you. The cars they are pulling over — well, they’re not cars at all. In fact, it seems that only motorcycles are being pulled over. And it seems that every motorcycle is being pulled over. That can’t be right, can it?
The line of cars in front of you moves quickly; the cops merely waive them through. Now, it’s your turn.
“Afternoon, sir,” the cop says. “Would you mind pulling over right up there?” Instinctively, you know this is not a request.
“Is there a problem, officer?” you ask.
“No problem, we’re just doing random safety inspections. Please pull over right there.”
You’re annoyed. But what can you do? So you pull your bike over as your told. Your heartbeat is just a bit accelerated. After all, it’s nothing to get too excited about, right? You haven’t done anything wrong.
And then the inspection starts. The cop is asking you questions. How long have you had this bike? Where did you buy it? Was that from a licensed dealer or a private seller? When did you last change your back tire? Where did you buy your helmet? Are these pipes street legal?
After keeping you there for more than fifteen minutes, the cop lets you go with a “simple” fix-it ticket. You try to convince the cop that your pipes are, in fact, within spec. Too late. He’s already writing the ticket.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “These don’t mean any points on your license. You just need to fix the problem within thirty days.”
Fantastic. So that means that you’re gonna miss at least half a day of work — maybe more, just to get documentation that you bike was legal in the first place.
Maybe you’re saying, Hey, I wouldn’t have that problem. My pipes aren’t loud. Or my bike is 100% legal. If that’s the case, then I hate to tell you that you’d be surprised what a cop can write you a ticket for. (You may be shocked at some of the stories we’ve heard as lawyers doing bikers’ rights cases.)
Besides, if you’re thinking that this isn’t your problem, you’re really missing the point. You were stopped without probable cause. You did not violate any traffic laws, yet you were detained by the police. You were grilled on questions that were, quite frankly, none of their business. If this doesn’t bother you, then perhaps you’d be more comfortable just scrapping the Bill of Rights altogether. Or become a cop, and repeat after me: “If you’re not breaking the law, then me illegally searching you shouldn’t be a problem.” Ugh.
But here’s the kicker: This was all done under the guise of biker safety. That’s right, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is giving out millions of dollars to the states to hassle you for the sole reason that you were on a bike. This money — your money and mine — is supposed to be used for motorcycle safety. Instead, they’re using it to do illegal and unconstitutional stops. And just on bikers. They are checking VIN numbers, looking for stolen bikes, checking out your helmet, and otherwise generating revenue. And they are most certainly not increasing motorcycle safety or in any way preventing motorcycle accidents.
These motorcycle-only checkpoints are cropping up all over the country. But there may be good news on the horizon. Bikers’ rights groups and a few lawmakers out there are speaking up and fighting back.
[To be Continued.]