HELMET LAW FIGHT
1999 - present
There are countless stories about bikers in the various states being subjected to the abuse of truth, power and process which has come to be known as "helmet laws" the term used to describe mandatory wearing of something the government is unwilling to describe, but nonetheless insist that motorcyclists wear. This page is just one of those stories.BACKGROUND
This presentation is devoted to telling the tale of one of the charter members of BOLT of California California's most street-active motorcyclist rights organization me, Richard Quigley, from 1998 through the present, against those forces. This is not an ego piece. Quite to the contrary. Throughout this presentation, there are literally scores of places where if ego were at issue, I would not go. The point is, rather, to document my on-the-street fight with the police and the courts, in an effort to expose the defects in the helmet law, and bring about, or help bring about, its demise . . . to serve as either a model, or bad example, of how to fight for Freedom against helmet laws, on the streets and in the courts either way, a learning tool.
I believe my exception, like a lot of California bikers, to California's passage of the mandatory helmet law (enacted January 1, 1992) was righteous. The resulting outrage was not so much based on the audacity of the government's belief they could tell bikers how to dress, but on the lies that brought it into being.
For the first six years the helmet law was in effect, I was personally dealing with driver's license issues that kept me from participating on the street and in the courts, directly, attacking the Achilles' heel of the helmet law the absence of an objective standard establishing what, exactly, constitutes a "motorcycle safety helmet" the actual, literal, requirement of the statute. It wasn't until June of 1998 that I had a valid license and was in a position to personally test the statute, and the government's resolve.
I started in 1998 wearing a very small, lightweight helmet the Ill Eagle "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Baby Beanie" helmet (left). Because this style of helmet had the desired effect of making me look like an idiot (as in: not cool), the cops seemed satisfied that everything was as it should be. No stops. No tickets.
By Winter I found a helmet identical in size, fitted inside what otherwise appeared to be a stocking cap something I wore in cold weather long before helmet laws became an issue. In fact, I've ridden with a stocking cap or truckers' cap most of my years of riding (it's a balding thing).
Anyway, by spring I hadn't attracted any serious attention, the weather had started to warm up, the stocking cap helmet was getting uncomfortable so I took a shot at a new look, a trucker-cap-style helmet (right), and things lit up (no pun). The hard surface area and padding were identical to the helmet pictured above, the only difference being in the "retention system" neither the California helmet law statute, nor the Federal Standard (FMVSS-218), specify a chin strap as a requirement . . . simply a "retention system," designed to keep the helmet in place. As you can see, it stays in place just fine.
During the first month with this truckers' style cap-style helmet, I was stopped a few times by cops who were mostly curious, but no citations were issued. That didn't last long.
On June 28, 1999, a traffic stop was made, and a citation issued, in Capitola, California. I recorded (with a mini-cassette recorder) this traffic stop, and subsequently transcribed the tape (posted on our web site here). The conversation that took place during issuance of that citation, contained every element necessary to take out the helmet law . . . in an impartial court, willing to follow the law. The officer was great! He didn't know it, but he said absolutely everything we needed to make the point that the failure to provide an objective standard that describes what a biker can do to comply, with certainty and to prove he had complied with the helmet law, leads to all kinds of violations of a biker's constitutionally protected rights to due process.
However, in spite of all that evidence, and the plain language of the statutes and precedent court decisions, that's not what happened, which is why this web presentation is here it's all the result of four Superior Court Judges who were either unwilling (politics), or unable (just plain stupid), to just follow the evidence and follow the Law. This web presence is here because of these judges' determination to expand the violations of mine and other bikers' constitutional rights the evidence, and their obligation under the Law, notwithstanding.
"Prejudice see what it wants to see,
and cannot see what is plain."
Just to be clear, that failure to follow the law by itself would not have called for this public review of their work. It was their attitude. It was their arrogance and their impudence, clearly born of bigotry unworthy of anyone bearing the title "Honorable Judge." They were shameless, righteous and wrong. They were rude. They deserve recognition, not only from the California Supreme Court, but from YOU.
Here's an overview of all the helmet tickets I have been issued since I started this campaign in 1998, listing dates, citing agencies, name(s) of officers and the outcome of each:
|CHRONOLOGY OF CITATIONS|
|Date||Citing Agency||Citing Officer||Disposition|
|06-24-99||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy McConnell||Convicted|
|06-25-99||California Highway Patrol||Officer Jordan||Dismissed|
|06-28-99||Capitola Police Department||Officer Van Horsen||Convicted|
|07-26-99||Santa Cruz Police Department||Officer Escalante||Dismissed|
|08-03-99||California Highway Patrol||Officer Messing||Dismissed|
|08-09-99||California Highway Patrol||Officer Kamph||Dismissed|
|09-28-99||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Rico||Convicted|
|10-10-99||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Mueting||Convicted|
|10-12-99||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Ross||Dismissed|
|03-19-00||California Highway Patrol||Officer Ulrich||Convicted|
|03-31-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Lt. Hartness||Dismissed|
|04-03-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Pifferini||Convicted|
|04-21-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Watson||Convicted|
|05-09-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Almos||Dismissed|
|06-20-00||Santa Cruz Police Department||Officer Martin||Convicted|
|09-26-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Thurber||Convicted|
|09-26-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Thurber||Dismissed*|
|09-29-00||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Thurber||Dismissed*|
|07-07-01||Hollister Police Department||Officer ?????||Dismissed*|
|09-20-01||Santa Cruz County Sheriff||Deputy Thurber||Dismissed|
|07-19-02||Santa Cruz Police Department||Officer Hedley||Dismissed**|
|07-24-03||Watsonville Police Department||Officer Ridgeway||Dismissed***|
|08-17-03||Santa Cruz Police Department||Officer Martin||Dismissed|
|08-18-03||Santa Cruz Police Department||Officer Vasquez||Dismissed|
|02-06-04||Watsonville Police Department||Officer Ridgeway||Dismissed***|
|03-19-04||Watsonville Police Department||Officer Katich||Dismissed***|
|04-04-04||California Highway Patrol||Sgt. Lobb||Dismissed***|
|04-08-04||California Highway Patrol||Officer Butler||Dismissed***|
|04-27-04||California Highway Patrol||Officer LeRoy||Dismissed***|
|05-31-04||California Highway Patrol||Sergeant Avina||Dismissed***|
|06-11-04||Watsonville Police Department||Officer Katich||Dismissed**/***|
|08-27-04||California Highway Patrol||Officer Smith||Dismissed***|
|06-22-05||California Highway Patrol||Officer Zilge||Dismissed***|
|08-28-05||California Parks||Ranger Brennan||Dismissed**/***|
| * Denotes citations that were correctly issued or otherwise signed off as correctable equipment violations.|
** Denotes citations for riding bare headed.
*** On July 14, 2006, the court found the helmet law statute "unconstitutional as applied by officer," and dismissed.
As of July 14, 2006, the score is 25 wins and 9 losses. Interestingly, those 34 citations were the result of well over 100 traffic stops . . . over half the cops understood my position and went on about their way. Countless "sightings" passed without incident most officers finding something else to look at, some smiling and waving, and every once in a great while, A SALUTE!
The flow of citations virtually stopped for a while in 2000, when the California Highway Patrol seemed to have finally figured it all out. Oh, there were a few from Deputy Thurber who was intent on breaking me in the beginning, but eventually realized that the law didn't support his efforts especially given his, albeit correct, seemingly unique understanding that helmet tickets in California constitute correctable equipment violations. (In spite of the tenor of the discussions we had as he issued the tickets, Thurber turned out to be a better than average cop.)
In fact, it seemed everything was under control by mid-2000, and the police were content to enforce laws that were at least written such that they could be understood, until Sergeant Dane Lobb of the California Highway Patrol decided in April 2004 that HE was going to be the one to fix me (as if I needed fixing).
I expect that by the time the book The Rise and Fall of California's Helmet Law is written, Lobb will be shown to have been the one in need of fixing. But that comes later . . .
I have put the various stories here, starting with the first tickets and working through the end. There is a LOT of infomation about the closing days that will be put up near the end when the tickets tried in 2004 have finally settled and the dust clears. In the meantime, what follows is a fairly complete story of all that happened before, with updates as time allows for the most recent activity:
THE FIRST 3 CONVICTIONS IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
The first three convictions were an abomination, and can be checked out here. The mere fact that both judges participating in the appellate decision Judge Arthur Danner (yeah, I wondered about his both taking this appeal, and at the same time presiding over the other cases) and Judge Robert Atack signed the opinion I wrote for them, belies belief, but they did. Be sure to read that opinion. I still don't believe they signed it. I was frankly not surprised the 6th Appellate court didn't deal with the certified issues . . . they are among the worst of the California appellate courts, with little more to do than rubber stamp everything that comes out of Santa Cruz County. You can click here to review at all that I have in the way of a record of the traffic stops, trial and appeal of these three tickets.
SAN BENITO COUNTY FOLLOWED THE LAW AND DISMISSED
On July 7th, 2001, I was stopped on my way into Hollister, California, by a San Benito County Sheriff's deputy. He read the code and sent me on my way. The cop downtown wasn't so clear on what the law requires, and issued a citation (properly indicating it was "correctable"). Just two months later, the court agreed the citation was correctable and by October, 2001, had dismissed the ticket. It's amazing what can happen when the law is applied impartially to a situation, eh? The whole story, transcripts and recordings, are availble by clicking here.
6 CONVICTIONS IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
The six convictions back in Santa Cruz County were the result of a three-and-a-half year judicial circus, or travesty, depending how whether you credit the courts' (Judge Arthur Danner's) inability to follow the law to ignorance or malice.
It took three years from the date of issuance of the first of the second batch of 6 tickets (two years from the issuance of the last) from October 10, 1999 until October 17, 2002 to get a final decision from the Santa Cruz County Courts (which, incidentally, according to them, did not violate the constitutionally protected right to a speedy resolution). Click here to review all the recordings, transcripts, evidence, briefs and other materials put before the court(s).
Following the asinine (and bigoted) decision by the Danner court, affirmed by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, I was so pissed I rode the entire year of 2002 bare-headed I only got stopped once. On July 19, 2002, I was stopped by an officer from the Santa Cruz (city) Police Department. The resulting ticket was ultimately dismissed as a result of a procedural error by the cop.
In 2002, I actually felt like a Free and Natural person for the first time since passage of the helmet law 10 years earlier.
But, problems arose.
Toward the end of the riding season 2002, an officer I have known and respected for years ran into me at a local coffee shop. He pointed out that he would prefer that I wear something on my head when riding that riding bareheaded was causing problems with members of the public who were starting to question why the police weren't doing their job. He indicated that as long as I had something I believed complied with the statute on my head, he could pass of their failure to stop and cite me off to the vagueness of the statute. The request was reasonable, so in the interest of maintaining a hard earned positive relationship with many of the the local police, I resumed wearing my helmet.
Santa Cruz Police Department 2 More Tickets Gone, Problems Still Brewing . . .
On Sunday, August 17th, 2003, Officer Martin of the Santa Cruz Police Department (with attitude flying) issued a citation (also from the Quik-Code) becasue I was not wearing a "DOT approved helmet."
The very next day, Monday, August 18th, I rode down to the Santa Cruz Police station to have them tell me how to comply with the helmet law in the City of Santa Cruz in the rest of the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County, neither the CHP or the Sheriff's Department take any exception to my helmet style.
Anyway, unable to get anyone from the Santa Cruz Police Department to even discuss the matter with me, never mind answer my question "Do you have any suggestions as to how a motorcyclist can comply, with certainty , with the provisions of CVC Section 27803(b)?"
On my way to the courthouse to try to figure out what do to next, I was stopped by Officer Vasquez. During the course of issuance of his citation, we were joined by Officer Martin from the previous day, and the battle was on.
They thought they could cite me without answering the question, and I believe they can't. Both citations were dismissed by the court less than a month later, but the door was open for me to have further discussion with the Santa Cruz Police Department.
I'm not sure where the SCPD stands today, but it appears to me that they are willing to conceed that the statute is a problem the way it is written, and seem willing to help find a solution. As of this writing (03-05-04), we're working together on a solution, and no more tickets have been issued. That's probably the best news so far.
9 citations, 2-and-a-half years in court, over 30 appearances, and all 9 citations were dismissed Judge Barton, of the Superior Court of California, in and for Santa Cruz County, found me "no guilty" on the grounds that the statute (the helmet law) was "unconstitutional as applied by the officers."
The first of the nine citations was a citation issued on July 24, 2003, by Watsonville Police Officer Ridgway (not the "bad cop") a motor officer who, because he believed in the "DOT approved helmet" myth (transcript of traffic stop), cited me for not wearing one . . . using the Quik-Code book (by LawTech Publishing) as his reference.
The subsequent 3 Watsonville citations (for a total of 4 from Watsonville) earned their own page . . . too long to tell here. To read about the most updated version of the story, click here.
The other 5 of the 9 citations were issued by the California Highway Patrol. The entire story on what happened with the 4 Watsonville citations, and the 5 from the CHP is that they were dismissed by the court because the statute is "unconstitutional, as applied." Neither the District Attorney would appeal. To find out what is happening instead, go here.
All I know for sure is that as long as the fight continues, so does the possibility of victory. From all outward appearances, it's not going to stop until something breaks. It's them, or me.
I can deal with that.
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Last updated: April, 2004
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