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Saturday, August 20, 2016

“Motorcycle Enforcement Operations” or Discriminatory Treatment?

Before I go on a rant here, I highly recommend Attorney Bill Weiss for all your personal injury and civil rights case needs. He is a rare breed that gives much of himself to motorcycle riders and the local community, not just chasing down ambulances like other attorneys who claim to defend biker rights. And so it goes without those that support you.
First, these so-called motorcycle safety enforcement operations are funded by the CA Office of Traffic Safety via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These programs are attractive to local LEA's because they provide OT for officers. The hook is, there are a number of requirements attached to the award such as (but not limited to) gathering statistics on traffic infractions, arrests, etc...and... the illusion of results.
There were previously called Motorcycle Only Checkpoints, but since California, other states and even some lawmakers at the national level saw this as discriminatory, pushing back with legislation and policy changes, these programs were changed to "safety" operations. So, whenever, a state looks to prohibit a discriminatory program, legislative language needs to be broad and tight enough to ensure that the government can't just simply sidestep it by renaming the program and making a few tweeks to circumvent it.
LEA's choose a location in their local area with a high motorcycle accident history (supposably), saturate the area, write a ton of tickets for assorted VC infractions, then go on their way to writeup their results so that they can be eligible for future funding. The question for us the public is, what real, tangible results are these programs actually achieving? How are these infrequent, random efforts driving down rider risk to themselves or others and educating folks? What is the return for our tax dollar investment? I can tell you that in addition to the OT the officers are making, cities and counties also benefit from the citations and arrests made. In other words, these programs seem to financially benefit the government while providing no real benefit for riders - just court/citation fees, lawyers if necessary, lost time at work, possible license suspensions, the pain of DUI charges of that is the case AND possible constitutional violations.
As for the notion of infringements on biker rights... It is a well known practice by LEO's to use these as pretextual stops that go beyond the primary mission of the program to criminal/penal code investigations where they detain, question, search and sometimes arrest riders for other reasons that have nothing to do with motorcycle safety or vehicle code.
This is where the problem is, infringement of rider's 4th amendment rights under the guise of safety and or vehicle code. Many can argue that this is, by definition....Motorcycle Profiling. The violations are even more apparent when members of motorcycle clubs are involved.

“Motorcycle Enforcement Operations” or Discriminatory Treatment?
Numerous cities across the state of California have recently been holding so-called “Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operations,” and some cities have even permanently added law enforcement officers to their streets who are tasked with enforcing motorcycle safety. Whether these officers are truly focused on motorcycle safety, or whether they are examples of illegal discrimination against motorcycle riders, is up for debate.
The City of Napa is just one of the many California cities which have publicized recent motorcycle enforcement operations. These operations ostensibly target areas where a high number of motorcycle-related crashes have occurred, and will crack down on behavior of both motorcyclists and passenger vehicle drivers that could cause motorcycle collisions, such as drunken driving, high rates of speed, and unsafe turning. The goal of these operations, according to law enforcement press releases, is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths resulting from motorcycle collisions.
Taking it a step further, the City of Newport Beach has added an officer to its police force who will implement a motorcycle safety program. The position was funded by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant to the California Office of Traffic and Safety; riders can expect to see similarly-funded programs pop up across the state. Newport Beach’s officer will focus on patrolling areas where a large number of motorcycle collisions occur, looking for riders using smartphone handsets or who appear to be under the influence, and watching for other forms of dangerous driving. Newport Beach Police insist that enforcement and education will focus on both passenger vehicle drivers and bikers alike.
While motorcycle-only checkpoints have been illegal in California for some time, the US Congress passed a law in December of 2015 making it illegal for local law enforcement to spend federal funds on motorcycle-only checkpoints. While these motorcycle safety programs do not hold themselves out as being motorcycle checkpoints, one could argue that tasking an officer with “motorcycle safety enforcement” would have a discriminatorily high impact on motorcycle riders in comparison to car and truck drivers.
For club members with three-piece patches, these operations may provide police with an opportunity to stop them and question them at length about their club, attempt to take pictures of club members and any tattoos they have, etc.  This is why it is recommended that you try to video/audio record any such stops. There is now good case law that stops which last longer than necessary to accomplish their purposes (such as a motorcycle safety program stop or traffic citation) violate the 4th amendment.

If you believe you have experienced unfair discriminatory treatment by law enforcement as a motorcycle rider in California, ensure that your rights as a licensed biker are protected and contact the Bay Area motorcycle law attorney William Weiss for a consultation on your case, at 415-362-6765.