Thursday, May 19, 2011

Don't Mess with "Helmet-Less"... In Nevada

Published by QuickThrottle Magazine May 2010 SW Edition

By TigerLily
Magazine pics by Linda Dahl

David Stilwell's Newest Helmet!!
5/19/2011 - Article Update:  As of this moment, every "guilty" Nevada helmet citation verdict has been dismissed upon appeal.  A class action suit will follow if Nevada's helmet choice bill, SB177, does not pass.

On November 29, 2009, David Stilwell was riding his Harley and got pulled over by a Las Vegas Metro Officer who claimed, “I couldn't see a helmet on him.” But what the Officer didn't know is that in the course his ordinary traffic monitoring routine, he had just pulled over a person that is anything but ordinary.

I met David at my first ABATE meeting in February 2010. He inspired me when he spoke about his passion for repealing the Nevada State helmet law. While I respect people who feel they must wear a helmet, I personally loathe to live in a State that criminalizes people who don't wear helmets. To me, helmets are heavy and restrictive. I've raised my family, paid my taxes, served my country - I believe I've earned the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. I tell my critics to take a good look at their own lifestyles before judging me. It's possible they may die first from smoking, drinking, or ingesting poor diets. Today, some American's are being forced to wear helmets; maybe tomorrow Americans will be forced to diet – all so that big brother can save us from ourselves or to keep us from driving up health care bills. 

I've bonded with Dave over our like-minded ideals and discovered what motivates him. He said, “An incident involving a gross violation of my rights occurred in June of 2009. That incident changed my life, perhaps even more so than having children did.” Dave cannot talk about that case because it is still pending. But he says the incident gave him an intense desire to understand and exercise his constitutional rights. He says, “To me, the word 'freedom' is sacred. Some people believe that using the Lord's name in vain is abominable. That's how I feel about the misuse of the word 'freedom.' 

David is an activist fueled by passion. According to “Bones,” President of ABATE of Southern Nevada, Dave is “the most knowledgeable person I know, when it comes to the ins and outs of the helmet law.” After getting to know Dave, I agree and add that he is a rider, a patriot, and a staunch Constitutionalist. Dave says, “Every time a law-enforcement officer violates someone's rights, it's a slap in the face of our Founding Fathers, our veterans, and the hundreds of thousands of American heroes that gave their lives so that we can enjoy our freedoms. 

Therefore, it was logical that David got involved when he heard about an unfortunate incident that took place a few months ago in Henderson, Nevada. Some 100 bikers on their way to a Henderson Harley party were stopped by police officers for questionable helmets. Once stopped, they were nit picked about every perceived violation from licenses to handlebars. The riders were given a choice to turn around and go back, or get a ticket. Most took the ticket and went their way. Some paid their fines, but more than 50 decided to fight back. David educated an attorney who knew nothing about helmet laws and got every single case dismissed. Bones proudly announced to his ABATE members, “No money, no points and no B*S*!"

One almost has to feel sorry for the Las Vegas Metro Officer who was only doing his job when he pulled David over thinking he wasn't wearing a helmet. What he discovered, was that David was actually wearing a DOT helmet that he had modified. David pushed the envelope and somehow managed to get a court date. Under oath, the Officer said he stopped David and gave him a ticket – not because he disliked David – but for his own safety. The entire court hearing is a matter of public record and I viewed it several times to report the “juice."

The City Prosecutor tried to convince the Court that David was not wearing a helmet. The Officer described that David was wearing what appeared to be “like a ceramic disc with some type of strap going underneath his chin, maybe about three to four inches in diameter, located on the very top of his head. 

When it was David's turn to face his accuser, the Officer said, “I stopped you because, in my opinion, this is not a helmet and absolutely affords you no protection. 

Even though it was obvious that David was a tad uncomfortable in such a formal court setting, he made clear to the court that: 

  • The police department does not train it's officers on how to recognize a legal helmet;
  • The Officer proceeded to give him a ticket based on the Officer's personal opinion rather than on an objective legal definition of a helmet;
  • The Officer did not have an engineering degree nor has he ever tested a helmet for penetration, impact, or absorption, therefore, the Officer was unqualified to determine the legality of the helmet and should not have issued a citation.

The Judge was at a loss to render a judgment. He read from the Statute, “The Department shall adopt standards for protective head gear and protective glasses, goggles, or face shields to be worn by the driver and passengers.... which meet those standards.” [Emphasis added by the Judge's tone.] After reading the law slowly and deliberately, the Judge looked at the Prosecutor and said, “City, I do not have a copy of THOSE STANDARDS. But I am going to give YOU the opportunity to educate the court with THOSE STANDARDS.” He gave the prosecutor one month to find “those standards” and said, “It's hard to find someone guilty of any crime if there are no standards that something has to be held to."

The case was continued to March 24th and the Judge found David “Not Guilty,” stating that the prosecution had “rested.” But before declaring the verdict, the Judge said, “I think you're crazy for wearing that thing because if you crash you'll die.” That statement is a matter of public record and clearly shows the prejudicial feelings of that Judge. Calling a rider “crazy” for wearing an atypical helmet is an insult to a law-abiding citizen and rider.

This entire experience has motivated me to get involved. Before knowing David and even before knowing about QuickThrottle Magazine, I had planned to do something really zany for my 50th birthday. Ideally, I thought about riding helmet-less and getting a lot of tickets and escaping to Mexico until I could afford my insurance again. But when David explained how he modified his helmet, I thought out loud that maybe instead of riding helmet-less on my birthday in Nevada, I could modify a helmet to look like a headband, legally secure it around my chin, hot-glue some girly bling onto it, and ride around all over Nevada. David grinned, lowered his head a little, and whispered, “I'll help you make a tiara."

But first, ABATE of Southern Nevada is planning a helmet-optional “Freedom Ride” during the Laughlin River Run in Laughlin, Nevada, on April 24th, and I plan to participate. By the time you read this article, I hope to have a juicy story about who, if any, will dare to mess with the helmet-less that day in Laughlin, Nevada.
TigerLily's Helmet
*Contact helmet expert:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. Reminds me of tha' one 'n only "Quig" outta' California who, with his "DOT" tagged baseball cap amassed helmet tickets by tha' gross only to have 'em all thrown out. As a long-time member of ABATE of IL I have had many an opportunity to educate those who would have me wear a helmet "for my safety". As I have explained, I have no beef with those who choose to wear a helmet (More power to 'em) but for me the decision to wear (or not) is NOT a matter of safety, but a matter of FREEDOM. Freedom to choose my own destiny. "Standards" ain't standard until somebody makes a "standard", so good on ya' and fight tha' good fight. Respects, Squirts


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