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Ask Our Lawyer - March 2009

Who’s getting stopped?

Q: If I am in my truck and law enforcement "hits the rollers" behind me, I pull over. However, if the cop pulls over the guy behind me (or two or three), I would not expect to stop. If I am on my bike riding in a group, if the same situation occurs, who is expected to stop? Is there code or policy that covers this?

Jay Jackson, A.B.A.T.E. of Indiana

A: I’ve spoken with some law enforcement friends of mine about this. In general, if you believe an officer is trying to pull you over, you should stop and let the officer tell you whether he was intending to stop you or not. Since the question is what the officer intended to do, it would be difficult to convince a judge that you weren’t expected to pull over. Besides, wouldn’t most bikers want to stop and help their buddies in any event, even if only to be a witness? Of course, you should take care not to interfere with the officer, so you don’t end up with an obstruction of justice charge.

My law enforcement buddies tell me that it is highly unusual for an officer to stop multiple vehicles at the same time because it is dangerous, difficult to manage, and invariably leads to a ton of paperwork that the officer will not want to do. Dan Jeffries, Director of Alcohol Countermeasures for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and a former police officer, said “Honest mistakes happen when the officer is not as clear as he should be about “Who” he wants stopped out of a group.” Stopping a group of bikes is a little more commonplace. Generally, it is hard to single out one bike from the pack. Basically, there is no statute or code that covers this other than the one requiring you to pullover if directed. Honest mistakes happen when the officer is not as clear as he should be about who he wants stopped out of a group. It may be better to be safe rather than sorry.

Most states require you to pull over to the right and stop when indicated by an officer’s flashing lights. Of course, if you are with a group of riders and everyone is over the speed limit, so be it. But if the last guy on the ride has a problem with his taillight, it’s hard to see how the officer had probable cause to stop anyone but the guy with his light out. To do otherwise is to violate the non-offender’s Fourth Amendment rights. If you have an abusive cop in your area that is consistently stopping groups of riders without probable cause for the group, you should call our office immediately. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed with the chief of police as soon as possible.

One of our A.B.A.T.E. lawyers actually has some experience with this situation. Many years ago, when he worked for the State, he and some friends were heading down US 41 to do some camping. There were two cars in their little caravan, which was heading down 41 with an exuberance that was perhaps in excess of the posted limits. Of course, a trooper in an unmarked car hits the lights behind him and motioned him off the roadway, along with his buddy, and a third vehicle that was traveling in front of them. The trooper came back to our lawyer’s car and asked for ID, whereon our intrepid traveler produced his state ID and badge. The officer took a couple of looks at the badge, asked which of the other cars he had stopped were part of the camping party, and sent them on their way with an admonishment to keep the speed down. As he drove away, he could see the trooper begin writing a ticket for the poor guy who wasn’t going camping. The moral? It’s helpful to travel with someone who has a badge.

Behind on my home payment

Q: I am hurting financially. My wife and I have been paying on our home for 19 years. I do not have the full amount for this month’s mortgage payment. What will happen if I stop paying? What are my options?

South Suburban Chapter Member and Region 1 Member

A: Call your mortgage company ASAP. When and if you get a live person, get a name, number and mailing address for that person to confirm all of your questions and their advice to you. Here are your options:

1. Determine the amount you can afford to pay now and see if the mortgage company will defer the rest until you have better times. Most banks understand that we are going through hard times and that we are all in this together. Remember the banks are not doing a lot better than we are, but they are getting a bailout– you are not.

2. Do nothing. Of course, the mortgage company will foreclose and put you out of your home. Depending on the equity in your home there could be a deficiency judgment. Of course, there will also be attorney’s fees, interest and costs awarded against you, as provided in the mortgage. This process could take from 2 to 6 months, but ultimately they will put you out on the street.

3. File bankruptcy if your overall financial situation warrants such a drastic action. This allows you and your family to start over. A fresh start is the right of all Americans and is guaranteed in the Constitution.

Good luck. There but for the grace of God go all of us. If you have any more questions, call me.

Motorcycle-only Checkpoints – All we want is to be treated like everyone else

Q: I heard recently that 2 million dollars were given to 5 states that have a task force set up that can pull over bikes anytime for no reason. Have you heard anything more on the outcome of the ‘New York” profiling pullover?

A:
I’m not familiar with any programs that provided money to states for setting up “motorcycle only” checkpoints, but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on recent events in New York. Here’s the story. Based on successes with checkpoints directed toward commercial vehicles, (i.e. semis) New York started an “enforcement initiative” on Interstate 84 in Dutchess County (in the Hudson Valley area), near Connecticut, on the weekend a well-known motorcycle event was scheduled. During the checkpoint, all motorcyclists were directed by three portable variable message signs to exit the Interstate into the rest area. (Is pulling over all motorcyclists profiling? Good question. I’ll address that in a future column. I say yes, but some others say maybe.)

Once in the rest area, riders were directed to a coned-off area, where they were inspected by members of the State Police Motorcycle Unit and other law enforcement units. Traffic tickets were subsequently written by troopers and other law enforcement officers. Safety violations, such as illegal helmets and unlicensed operation, were the primary focus of officers, although riders were cited for other violations as well, including illegal exhaust systems, for example. Investigators inspected selected bikes for suspected vehicle identification number (VIN) issues. The most common violation was for operating with an unapproved helmet (41 tickets issued), while the second most common violation was for illegal exhaust (7 citations issued). Three motorcycles were referred for further investigation for nonconforming VINs.

emember, all that we bikers want is to be treated like everyone else. The primary purpose of commercial truck inspections to make sure that the trucks are safe to travel on the roadway so that other motorists don’t get hurt. The purpose of drunk driving checkpoints is to make sure that drunks don’t hurt other people on the road. The bike inspections involve only paperwork, while the other inspections involve safety. The result of biker roadblocks is pissed off bikers, and chilled constitutional rights of freedom from unreasonable interference. After all, registrations can be inspected when you license the bike. Why should “they” wait until you are on your way to Daytona, or Sturgis, or the Boogie, or your own local motorcycle event?

Making Amends

Q: I need to tell you a little about myself, so please bear with me. My question for you is: How does a person who screwed up in their late teens and early adult life get their record cleaned up? I’m middle-aged now and lead a good life. My story starts with a split family. I found myself getting into trouble as a child with shoplifting and skipping school, as early as the 5th grade. By middle school I was drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and smoking marijuana. I was in and out of the local Juvenile Detention Center more times than I can remember. At the age of 15, I was put in Boy’s School because my mother and step-father could not control me Just before I turned 17, I got caught on a class “C” burglary for breaking into a gas station for cigarettes, pop, candy and sunglasses. I was held in the county jail until I was 18 then, charged as an adult. Within 6 months of being released from parole, I was in trouble again. This time I broke into a gas station. I got caught and this time had to serve 2 ½ years. Since my release over twenty years ago, I have been a productive member of society. Eventually, I met and married a terrific lady, and we have two daughters. I have tried very hard to make my children’s lives better then what I was given. We have been members of A.B.A.T.E. for the last three years, and this organization has been a big part of our lives.

hile my youth was misspent, I have tried to make up for it during the second half of my life. I feel that I have shown that I have been rehabilitated. I am not proud of my past but this is my life. But at the same time I paid my debt to society and have done everything in my power to mend things that I have broken. I have asked God to pardon me and I know in my heart that he has. Is there any way I can get a pardon for my past transgressions, or to have my criminal record cleaned up?

A: Your story is moving and should be an inspiration to us all. The only way to get a pardon is to request it from your state’s Governor. Most require compelling justifications for a pardon. You will probably have to have letters of support from your church and from community leaders who are supportive of your request.

Another approach is to request that your criminal record be expunged, although the availability of expungement varies from state to state. Also, some states will allow records of arrests to be expunged, providing that certain criteria have been met. Good luck to you.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. And, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

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 rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

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