Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SB177 - Arbitrary and Capricious Helmet Citations - North Las Vegas, NV.

Las Vegas “Ride For Life” Champion Wins Helmet Court Case
By TigerLily

In an effort to save motorcyclists’ lives, the City of North Las Vegas (NLV) applied for and received government grant funds in mid 2010.  The Las Vegas Sun reported in June that North Las Vegas had incurred four traffic-related fatalities since January – all motorcyclists.  A grant fund application by the City described that $78,900 was to fund a special project titled, “Motorcycles can be safe.”  And the City intended to use that money toward “modifying rider behaviors and habits.”

In late June, QuickThrottle began to receive reports from readers about aggressive NLVPD tactics.    Vice President for ABATE of Southern Nevada, Karen Jurasinski, reacted quickly by attending an NLV City Council meeting to voice staunch opposition to these policing tactics.  As a result of the mobilization of local activists, helmet citations appeared to have stopped, but only after a number had already been issued.

Motorcycle rights activists reached out to those motorcyclists who had been targeted by NLVPD.  Most cases are still pending and only one rider decided to pay his $306 helmet ticket and be done.  But one person who successfully fought his ticket to the very end was Greg Dickens.  Greg is a jet mechanic who served honorably for over seven years in the Air Force and currently does the same work as a civilian at Nellis Air Force Base.  He is the force that drives the two-years-strong Las Vegas “Ride for Life” – an October motorcycle charity run to raise money for children with cancer.  One day going home on his only transportation – his motorcycle – Greg was stopped and detained by an NLVPD traffic officer.  The officer cited him for his helmet and for not having a motorcycle endorsement on his drivers license to the tune of over $500 in fines and fees.  Local rights activists put Greg in contact with David Stilwell, helmet-law specialist, and Greg agreed to follow David’s expert advice to plead not guilty and go to trial.

In early November, Greg went to court schooled by David and by his own initiative.  Since Greg had never been in a courtroom, he did not know that a woman who approached him prior to the trial was a prosecutor.  She asked Greg questions and stated that the police officer who cited Greg, asked for a continuance because he was busy “testing dummies.”  She wanted to settle the case then and there, and got Greg’s story.  Greg said, “The officer stopped me to do a helmet safety inspection.  I handed him my driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, along with my certificate that I had completed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course in Okinawa.  The officer gave me citations for my helmet and said I should have gotten a motorcycle endorsement within a year of moving to Nevada.”  Greg handed to the prosecutor his documents, including proof that he had recently taken another MSF course and obtained the motorcycle endorsement on his license.

The prosecutor approached the bench to convey Greg’s information to the Municipal Court presiding judge.  The judge looked at the Okinawa MSF card and reminisced.  He stated that while Greg was taking that course in Okinawa in the mid 90’s, he was instituting Nevada’s own first MSF training program.  When Greg showed the judge his half-shell DOT helmet, the judge said, “Why, this is just like the helmet I wore when I was a motorcycle police officer.”  In an apparent attempt to understand why such a helmet ticket would be given by a police officer, the judge said, “Since motorcycle police officers these days wear ¾ helmets, anything smaller must be suspect.”

The judge dismissed the charges and Greg went home elated.  Greg had fought diligently to keep the City of North Las Vegas from taking his hard-earned money.  Despite the fact that Greg felt coerced into paying $150 to take another safety course, and despite taking days off work to resolve these charges, Greg felt victorious to keep a clean driving record and spend his money on his family during the holidays.

But who are the real “winners?”  Greg lost valuable time and money to fight a good fight – and win.  The City failed to cash-in on this freedom fighter’s citations.  However, the City of North Las Vegas managed keep its word in its application to get its grant monies when it agreed to “educate motorcyclists ... by citing 20% more accident causing violations.”

Since when are helmets are accident-causing violations?  Which Nevada motorcycle safety “expert” advised the City of North Las Vegas that handing out more helmet citations would prevent accidents?

From an NLV grant application:  “Personal Expenses:  $78,900.  This overtime is for 8 officers, 1 supervisor and 1 dispatcher for 10 events lasting 10 hours per event.  The average hourly cost for supervisors is $109, for officers is $76, and for dispatchers is $72.”  Perhaps this explains, in part, why Nevada motorcycle events are often flooded by patrol officers.

Again, who are the real “winners” in this type of enforcement?  You decide.

Thank you, Greg Dickens, Karen Jurasinski, David Stilwell, and our long-time Sinister Cycles partner – Jay - for being vigilant U.S. Citizens that honor our Constitution.

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