On September 12, 1995, Honorable Marvin S. Kaminetz, Judge of the Circuit Court for St. Mary's County, Maryland, issued the following "oral opinion of the court" (the record comes in the form of a transcription of the judge's spoken opinion on the case, apparently the process called for in Maryland law).
The opinion regard an appeal from conviction of Mike Lewis of Lexington Park, Maryland, for violation of Maryland's helmet law by NOT WEARING A HELMET. The conviction was overturned, primarily, because Maryland's helmet law requires riders to wear a helmet that complies with the provisions of FMVSS 218 (the federal standards which serves to define "safety helmet"). In discussing why he was going to overturn the convictions in this case, this is what the Judge said:
Well, the Court has looked at a few cases that deal with the argument --
First of all, I understand there is a factual situation in this particular case, that is, the Defendants were not wearing any protective helmet.
But I do not think that that fact, even though that is the facts of this particular case, I do not think that that negates their standing to raise the issue under the statute under which they have been charged.
I still find that they do have standing to raise the issue being charged with that Section, violation of Section 21-1306, Subsection (b), which is the required headgear for motorcyclists.
In my research I looked at a couple cases: 283 Md. 115, which is the Bowers v. State case. Also I have looked at 285 Md. 508, which is In re: Leroy T., which was a juvenile case, but those cases deal with the issues of vagueness. It is a Constitutional issue dealing with due process.
And in assessing the constitutionality, quoting from In re: Leroy T., which is really quoting, subquoting from the Bowers' case, "In assessing the constitutionality of a statute assailed as overly uncertain whether in respect of the acts it purports to prohibit or the persons to whom it applies, courts typically consider two basic criteria."
These are the criteria the Court considered, frankly.
"The first of these may be described as the fair notice principle and is grounded on the assumption that one should be free to choose between lawful and unlawful conduct. Due process commands that persons of ordinary intelligence and experience be afforded a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that they may govern their behavior accordingly. Since vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning, no one should be subject to criminal responsibility for conduct which he could not reasonably understand to be prohibited.
A statute may also be stricken for vagueness if it fails to provide legally fixed standards and adequate guidelines for police, judicial officers, triers of fact, and others whose obligation it is to enforce, apply and administer the penal laws.
In determining whether the prohibited conduct is sufficiently delineated, the Court went on to say in Bowers a state is not vague when the meaning of the words in controversy can be fairly ascertained by reference to judicial determinations, the common law, dictionaries, treatises, or even the words themselves, if they possess a common and generally accepted meaning."
I think the reason that I am going to grant the Defendants' motion to dismiss in this case is -- well, not I think -- the reason why I am going to grant the Defendants' motion to dismiss deals with the issue of notice.
The officer has been very candid. Obviously, the officer did the right thing in this particular case. I think it was a good arrest. The officer acted very prudently in arresting a person wearing no helmet.
However, I find that the notice requirement, the standards have not been sufficiently published, made available to the general public as to what meets the requirements of 21-1306.
The State has not given me anything other than -- all I have before me is Defendants' Exhibit 1 as to what the standards are.
The Officer was very candid, he's never even seen those standards.
He's seen some training that may be based upon these standards, but the general public, I don't think, has see that film or had that training that Trooper Salvas has.
So, even though this may be obtainable, it is not readily obtainable. It is not readily available. I don't think you can go to the public library and get federal motor vehicle safety standards and regulations.
I just don't think it is available in the public library in St. Mary's County.
Maybe you can go in the city and get it at certain libraries, but I really don't think that the St. Mary's County Library has these available to the public.
There is no way that I find that I have been presented with how the public would know what the standards are.
Again, I think the Officer was very candid. He's been trained. He knows what they are.
But I don't know. There's been no evidence presented to me, quite frankly, as to how the State has shown where, in fact, the public, the possible people who would potentially violate the statute would, in fact, have the notice to know what was right and what was wrong under the terms of the statute as written.
I take note, the schedules that are obviously published right in Article 27, Section -- is that 279? I think it is.
You look at the carrying dangerous weapons, and it give you definitions of what knives are, what knives are, what knives are, bad. I don't understand half that stuff, anyway.
I have tried to read this stuff concerning the motorcycle law. I understand some of it, but you are right, you need to be an engineer to understand the specifics.
That doesn't mean that this is necessarily void for vagueness. I am not saying that.
I am saying this is not readily available to the public for the public to have the sufficient due process notice required as to what, in fact, is legal and what is illegal.
I have to base it upon the facts that have been presented to me in this case.
There may be something out there that I am not aware of that the public has a way of knowing or not knowing what is legal or not, but it certainly hasn't been brought to me.
Case dismissed. The cases are dismissed."
This Judge did his job. No frills, no personal observations about the lifestyle. Just a straight-forward decision based on the evidence presented to him. He was fair to both sides, and reached the only conclusion he could. I wonder it he would consider moving to our neighborhood?
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