Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)
THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit www.ON-A-BIKE.com.
MONGOLS MC PATCH FORFEITURE CASE DISMISSED
In a long-awaited decision with ramifications that could affect all patch-wearing clubs, on September 16, 2015 Federal District Judge David O. Carter issued a dismissal of the government’s most recent attempt to seize the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s name and patch.
In the case titled United States of America versus Mongols Nation, Judge Carter saw the key legal question in the case as the “distinctness” between a “person” and “an ‘enterprise’ that is not simply the same ‘person’ referred to by a different name.”
In layman’s terms, the good news is that the government’s indictment is hereby dismissed pending appeal, which appears unlikely.
“We won,” said Richard Lester, a California-based attorney who has rallied support for defense of the patch forfeiture case through various Confederations of Clubs around the country and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, organizations he helped to establish. “We didn’t win the day on key legal points, and the court’s decision didn’t make the statement we wanted to make in defending the patch, but we won.”
The protracted litigation against the Mongols MC on racketeering charges began October 21, 2013 when the indictment against the club was unsealed. Although the club won its first trial, the judge’s ruling was poorly written and welcomed the charges to be properly re-filed.
While the constitutionality of seizing the Mongols insignia — or the insignia of any motorcycle club — remains unresolved under the dismissal, Judge Carter did rule that the government cannot indict a club as an “enterprise” for racketeering without also indicting a group who can be actually punished; noting that the indictment makes “no meaningful distinction between the association Mongol Nation and the enterprise of the Mongols Gang,” which is good news for all motorcycle clubs.
The prosecution, and subsequent persecution, of the club as a whole was designed to bankrupt the Mongols with mounting legal fees, but money has been raised by both the Mongols club and through the “Save the Patch” effort launched by the COCs and NCOM, and the Trademark Defense Fund I will continue to accept donations until the enormous debt is retired or if needed for a governmental appeal.
CONGRESSIONAL MEASURE ADDRESSES MOTORCYCLIST SAFETY
A Congressional sub-committee has approved two motorcycle safety measures for inclusion in the federal highway bill; one to de-fund motorcycle-only checkpoints, and another to prohibit the DOT from lobbying on any pending legislation.
On September 10, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed the two amendments to the “Surface Transportation Research and Development Act of 2015” to be incorporated in the House version of the surface transportation authorization bill.
Amendment No. 036 directs a study to be conducted to determine the most effective methods of preventing motorcycle crashes, and further bars federal funding to states to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints until the research is completed.
Amendment No. 037 prohibits the Department of Transportation from lobbying on any pending federal, state or local legislation. The current “NHTSA Lobby Ban” only prevents the federal DOT from lobbying at the state level.
The U.S. Senate’s version of the highway funding bill already contains language to prohibit federal funding of motorcycle-only checkpoints.
NTSB CALLS FOR COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEMS FOR ALL VEHICLES
In a report released June 8, the National Transportation Safety Board outlined the life-saving benefits of currently available collision avoidance systems, and recommends that the technology become standard on all new passenger and commercial vehicles.
“You don’t pay extra for your seatbelt,” said Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “And you shouldn’t have to pay extra for technology that can help prevent a collision altogether.”
NTSB’s Special Investigation Report, “The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes,” stresses that collision avoidance systems can prevent or lessen the severity of rear-end crashes, thus saving lives and reducing injuries.
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end crashes kill about 1,700 people every year and injure half a million more. More than 80% of these deaths and injuries might have been mitigated had the vehicles been equipped with a collision avoidance system.
Citing slow progress as a major safety issue, the report notes that a lack of incentives and limited public awareness has stunted the wide adoption of collision avoidance technology. Only 4 out of 684 passenger vehicle models in 2014 included a complete forward collision avoidance system as a standard feature. In the report, the NTSB recommends that manufacturers make collision avoidance systems standard equipment in newly manufactured vehicles.
MISSOURI MOUNTED PLATES
In a measure signed into law on July 13 by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, SB254 modifies provisions relating to motor vehicle license plates, allowing trailer and motorcycle license plates to be mounted horizontally or vertically on the left rear of the motor vehicle.
NEW YORK ADVENTURE LICENSE PLATES
The New York State DMV has unveiled the 9 new “I LOVE NY Adventure Custom Plates” designed especially for motorcycles. There are three themes (hunting, fishing, and parks) for a total of nine new designs that are available to anyone holding a valid Department of Environmental Conservation sporting license or Parks Empire Passport.
The NY DMV also offers custom motorcycle plates for military and veterans, police organizations, medical doctors, the AMA and HOG. Historical and vintage motorcycle plates are also available.
PAINTED MESSAGES AT ACCIDENT SCENES TO SPARK AWARENESS
Coroners in six counties in North Carolina will soon use a stencil to spray paint on the road a cross and message that says; “Look Twice Save A Life” at the scene of all deadly motorcycle accidents.
Anderson County Deputy Coroner Don McCown said he hopes this warning message prominently displayed at fatal accident sites will increase awareness and decrease the number of accidents involving motorcycles.
“We’re hoping it will remind the public that someone died at this location, and more than likely they died of distracted driving or someone not being aware of their surroundings,” explained McCown, adding that the number one reason given for most deadly motorcycle accidents is that the driver never saw the rider. “There are a lot of motorcycle riders out this time of year and we have to share the road.”
ALLSTATE DONATES WARNING SIGNS AT DANGEROUS INTERSECTIONS
Allstate insurance company and its engineering partners are working closely with local traffic authorities to review available crash data and to identify intersections with a high number of multi-vehicle crashes involving motorcycles. Allstate then donates warning signs to be installed at the site with the intent of elevating awareness of motorcycle incidents that would not be readily apparent to a driver.
The warning signs used in the campaign are yellow diamond warning signs that read “Watch For Motorcycles.” Allstate worked in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration to design the current sign to ensure compliance with section 2A.06 paragraph 13 of the M.U.T.C.D.
The NHTSA (National Highway Safety Administration), in their Fatality Analysis Reporting System, supports the Hurt Report’s findings, showing 46% of all multi-vehicle motorcycle crash fatalities (8,107 out of 17,470 fatalities from 2006-2012) occurred at intersections. This data shows that, on average, three motorcyclists are killed every day from multi-vehicle crashes at intersections in the US.
MOTORCYCLE HELMET CAMERAS “ILLEGAL” DOWN UNDER
A motorcycle rider “down under” unsuccessfully challenged a citation for using a camera attached to his helmet, setting an important legal precedent for riders in the Australian state of Victoria.
Victorian police cited a technicality within the rules to argue the camera was an “unauthorised alteration” to an otherwise Australian Standards-approved helmet. Items that protrude more than 5mm from the helmet surface are deemed illegal attachments, the police argue, and therefore render the helmet non-compliant with the Australian Standards.
In other words, as far as Victoria Police were concerned, it’s as if the rider wasn’t wearing an Australian Standards-approved helmet at all. In all Australian states and territories, motorcycle riders must wear a helmet approved by Australian Standards while riding.
As a landmark ruling by a Victorian court, the decision effectively bans motorcycle riders in that state from wearing helmets with cameras attached, but meanwhile police in other states enforce the laws much differently.
So while riders in Victoria are now fair game and have even reportedly been fined for attaching tinted visors to their helmets, and New South Wales police have already been targeting riders for wearing cameras, police in Western Australia and Queensland wear helmet cameras themselves — the very act that has seen motorcyclists fined in NSW and, now, Victoria.
“Riders tell us they wear helmet cameras to improve their safety while on the roads and that drivers and other road users show more care when there is a camera in use,” said the rider’s lawyer, who is considering an appeal. “Riders should not be penalized for trying to improve the safety of their riding,” he said, adding that cameras are also ideal for capturing evidence during a collision.
CIVIL FORFEITURE LAWS LEGALIZE PROPERTY SEIZURES
The recent attempt by the government to seize the patches of motorcycle clubs has focused attention in the motorcycle world on civil forfeiture laws. What started off as a measure to cripple drug kingpins and crush their criminal empires by confiscation of their property has morphed into an often abused law enforcement tactic that harms blameless citizens.
“Civil forfeiture” is the legal procedure which allows police to seize property suspected of being related to a crime, and in testimony given before a citizen commission, one police chief was surprisingly frank in referring to assets seized as “pennies from heaven,” and said the money acquired was sometimes used to buy “toys” that the department could not usually afford.
Under state and federal law, police departments can seize and keep property that is suspected of involvement in criminal activity. Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, however, with civil forfeiture, a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime — or even charged — to permanently lose their cash, car, home, or other personal property merely on suspicion that a crime might have been committed. No hearing is held prior to seizure, which occurs abruptly without any notice or warning whatsoever. Although civil forfeiture doesn’t draw criminal charges against the owner, it does deprive him of his property without due process based solely on an officer’s “reasonable suspicion,” and a portion of the assets seized typically is retained by the police departments who seized the property in the first place.
In 2012, $4.5 billion was acquired via civil forfeitures in tens of thousands of instances nationwide, and in most cases the value of the assets seized was less than what it would cost to hire an attorney to go to court to win it back.
Asset forfeitures have been abused by many police departments, but like the Mongols MC and other motorcycle clubs, citizens are starting to fight back. Americans from all sides of the political spectrum have started to expose the dangers of civil forfeiture, and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have introduced legislation to reform the federal civil forfeiture laws. Reforms of state laws have also been called for.