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Ask Our Lawyer - February 2003

A sad tale with a happy ending

Last week we promised you an update of the ABATE Legal Services battle with the Secretary of State Police (or, as we like to say, the SS) to return a bike to our member that was wrongfully seized. Here’s the nuts and bolts of it all, and the principals here apply to all of us, whether we live in INDIANA, OHIO or ILLINOIS.

John DiPasquale is long-time member of ABATE. He has always been a taxpayer and law-abiding citizen, and what happened to him shouldn’t happen in a free country. John’s tale of woe and government officiousness begins in 2001, when John wanted to build a 1987 Sportster. He found the parts he needed, and took them to Ken Grman. Grman, well-known for the quality of his work, told John that he needed to run the part numbers through the State Police to see if any of the parts had ever been reported stolen. The police reported that none of the numbers showed up in any of the police databases as being stolen. Thus assured that the bike would be free from problems with the parts, John asked Ken to build the bike.

In due time, the bike was done, and John, still trying to do what the law asked him to do, attempted to register and title the bike. While at the office of the Secretary of State to register the bike, the Secretary of State Police (SS Police) informed him that their check of the bike’s numbers showed that a private database, not used by the State Police, indicated that the engine cases were stolen, and that the SS Police would confiscate the bike, and remove and destroy the cases. There was no indication that the information in the “super-secret” database relied on by the SS was based on any sworn testimony or affidavit from the purported owners of the parts. Remember that the State Police told him that nothing on the bike was reported as stolen and that nothing on the bike was reported to be owned by anyone other than John. Nonetheless, after consulting their super-secret database in the sky, the SS confiscated John’s beautiful and valuable 1987 custom-built Sportster. When asked to produce a warrant, the SS officer said, “Warrant? We don’t need no warrant!” Well, they may have not said that exactly, but there was no warrant to seize John’s bike.

That was May 22, 2001. John called his ABATE Legal Services team. While ABATE’s government relations team worked with the political officials to resolve the problem, the ABATE Legal Services team vowed to kick ass and take names until the bike was returned.

The ABATE Legal Services team, including Rod Taylor and George Tinkham, even told the SS that they would give the parts back if there was any proof that any person or company had any prior ownership of the parts and had claimed they had been stolen. No one ever came forward, and no proof that the parts had been stolen has ever been produced. Despite these facts, the SS stubbornly refused to give the bike back. In order to protect his property, John DiPasquale and ABATE Legal Services had to sue the bastards.

After months of effort, the SS finally relented and complied with a court order to return the bike back to John. In addition, the State of Illinois finally agreed to take steps to ensure that the records reviewed by the SS are accurate and reliable and that there is some basis to believe that the part was actually stolen. Now riders in the future will hopefully not have to go through what John did.

In a future article, we will share with you the results of our investigation of this super-secret “database in the sky,” used by the Illinois SS, Indiana and Ohio, and others to appropriate the rightful property of law-abiding citizens. ABATE Legal Services has several questions for these people - who are they, who pays them, how do they verify their information, and what connection do they have to the Illinois SS and others who would take your motorcycle if your numbers appeared (wrongfully or rightfully) on their super-secret list? Wasn’t this tried somewhere else - maybe Germany in the 30's? Just wondering...

ABATE members, and riders everywhere, should not be subject to seizure of their bikes without due process, such as that based on sworn testimony from the purported owners of the bike parts, not on the say-so of a secret database. There is nothing magical about having someone raise their right hand and swear to the truth of something that affects the constitutional property rights of others. This should not be a novel concept in America in the new century.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email to brianshadiow@abatelegal.com.