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Ask Our Lawyer - May 2008

Tired of an Uncivil Congress? Solution: Bring Back Dueling

There was a time when politicians, congressmen, and the like were civil. A theory: Dueling was the cause. If you run the possibility of getting shot for your foul mouth and ill ways, it may just make you a little nicer. I say bring it back for Washington, D.C. Who knows? It might even work with lawyers.

In one famous duel, James Shields challenged Abe Lincoln. As challengee, Abe had the right to choose weapons. Since Shields was diminutive with short limbs, lanky Lincoln chose “long swords.” Apparently, Lincoln’s reach was such that the duel would have been ridiculous, with Lincoln pretty much running Shields through before Shields could get in range. The story goes that the unfairness of the duel was so comical Shields and Lincoln patched things up and remained friends for life. Interestingly, Shields served as a U.S. Senator in 3 different states, which is still a record.

Arguing With Cops Is Ok in Illinois, And maybe everywhere else

When you read this, keep in mind my longstanding prejudice against police officers with a few exceptions (all of which are wonderful A.B.A.T.E. members). Also, note that I am extremely proud of my first cousin, John Higginson, longest serving Illinois State Trooper. A good officer, he had the reputation for issuing the least number of citations and highest number of warnings per year served–my kind of cop.

Q: I was stopped by a cop on my motorcycle. When I tried to argue with him about the facts, he told me to shut up or I was going to jail. Do I have the constitutional right to argue with a police officer about an arrest? A.B.A.T.E. member.

A: Many are under the assumption that once you are stopped and questioned by a police officer, you have no right to debate your position with the officer. Wrong. An Illinois Appellate Court (and many other states) has reaffirmed our basic right to argue our position with an investigating police officer. One needs to be mindful that an errant cop has the ability to charge you with resisting and obstruction. In the Illinois case, the prosecution told the jury that the defendant had no right to argue with the police officer. On appeal, the Court held that this was a gross misstatement of the law and reversed the conviction. We have and should always have the right to call into question the facts of an officer’s arrest. Obviously, when you have made your point, it’s wise to clam up.

Are you resisting if you are on a cell phone? No, but it could become resisting if you persist in refusing to get off the phone when requested. According to the Court, nothing in the law suggest that you can’t initially question the validity of the officer’s actions. Certainly, you can ask why you are being arrested, and you can point out the officer’s mistake(s), and protest and argue against the officer’s actions. That said, if there was ever a time to practice diplomacy, it is when you are being arrested. Some of us found out the hard way when we were young and inexperienced, that jail is not good – they won’t let you do what you want in jail.

Miracle Ride, Indy 500, Colts, Bob and Tom, The Governor, Jay Jackson, Gino Johnson, The Farabaughs, Me and Thousands of Others On May 31 and June 1, 2008
See www.miracleride.net

The Miracle Ride is coming. Join all the above and participate in the greatest motorcycle ride ever. Win motorcycles, a Ford Pickup truck, join poker runs, and prepare for the Grand Finale Ride around the famed Indy 500 Motor Speedway, on your own motorcycle with all the above. Remember, all the money goes to the kids of Riley Hospital For Children.

Every June, Riley Hospital patients have eagerly anticipated the Miracle Ride and the arrival of more than 8,000 motorcycles outside the hospital. Throughout those years, thousands of the most sick and seriously injured children have benefitted from the funds raised through the event.

In the past 14 years, the Miracle Ride has donated over $2 million to Riley kids. This year, the Miracle Ride has made a commitment to raise $1 million over the next five years. When that commitment is fulfilled, the Miracle Ride will be honored with the naming of a family lounge in the new Simon Family Tower that will serve families of Riley patients. But rest assured that now, as throughout Miracle Ride’s history, the funds you raise will help the children who travel to Riley to receive life-changing and often life-saving treatment in the pediatric burn unit and pulmonology program.

Don’t miss this amazing event! For more details, check out http://www.miracleride.net.

Messing with the fabric

Q: The helmet pundits are at it again. What can we do to preserve our rights to ride?

A: Some of us like to sky-dive, pound each other on a football field, do aerobatics, parachute, bungee jump, shoot guns, snorkel, gymnastics, drive small convertibles, horseback ride, and the like. And some of us like to ride motorcycles. Unfortunately, there are some out there that want to “protect” us from the decisions we choose to make. To me, these busybodies are picking away at the fabric of American life, pulling apart the threads of freedom that have made this country what it is. However, it seems like these nudges won’t be happy until we are all wrapped in bubble-pack and prevented from making any decisions that “they” don’t approve. It’s not right, and it damages the fabric of our American life.

RoadHazard.org Works!
from long-time A.B.A.T.E. member Steve "Bullitt" McQueen:

How many times in your life have you experienced something that you know needs to be fixed, but you also believe that wasting your breath with your local (or national) government will get you exactly where you are at, experiencing something that STILL needs to be fixed? I have good news for you. You don't have to waste your breath any more and you could save a life in the meantime.

You have surely all seen the information for RoadHazard.org in your state newsletter or some other publication. This program allows us to report hazardous situations on our roads that could lead to injury or death to a motorcyclist. It is managed by volunteers, Rod Taylor and his team at ABATE Legal Services, and covers Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio [as well as all 50 states].

The first time that I used the program I turned in a large pothole that could cause a motorcyclist to lose control if hit. I went to the website and filled out the form there (try to get the closest intersection or crossroads to the hazard as well as a close address) and sent it in. This hazard just happened to be on my way to work so I saw it every day. The third day that I drove to work the hazard was fixed. I was amazed. Since that time, I have used the program two other times. Both were completed in a week or less. One of the items was for a problem area that the local homeowners had been requesting repair on for 5 weeks.

Finally we have an avenue to report something to our government and have confidence that it is going to get fixed. If you know of a road problem that needs fixed or some trees that need to be cut back, save the life of a motorcyclist–report it to RoadHazard.org. The life you save may be your own.

Update on the No-Contact Rule

A rider in Illinois reports:
I recently read your article about the no contact rule, where insurance companies refuse to pay for a loss. I had an accident in September, 2007. On a four lane two way road someone started move into my lane. I tried to avoid them but they bumped my engine guard and knocked me down and kept going. Two people who saw the accident stopped to see if I was ok but no one got the plate number.

There was only a scuff mark on the engine guard. But with the witnesses, Progressive paid for all the damage that was done (about $1200) they also gave me a check for uninsured\underinsured loss for $20,000. I had seven broken bones and was off work for a while.

The only problem I have had with Progressive is that sometimes they try to negotiate labor cost but they end up paying the bill. I have been using Progressive for about 7 or 8 years and would recommend them to anyone.

Side Plates–Legal ?

Q: Is it legal in Pennsylvania to have a lighted side mounted license plate bracket on my motorcycle? –Harry Pishko, Pennsylvania.

A: It’s unclear from your letter whether you are talking about mounting the plate on the side, but horizontally, or on the side and vertically. In a column several months ago, I discussed the laws regarding placement of license plates on motorcycles. Under Pennsylvania law, “Every registration plate shall, at all times, be securely fastened to the vehicle to which it is assigned or on which its use is authorized in accordance with regulations promulgated by the department.” In addition, the administrative code in Pennsylvania requires that “Every registration plate shall be securely fastened to the vehicle:
1. So as to be clearly visible.
2. In a horizontal position.
3. At a height of not less than 12 inches from the ground, measuring from the bottom of the registration plate.
4. So as to prevent the registration plate from swinging.”
Under those regulations, it appears that the plate can be mounted to the side of the fender, but has to be horizontal, not vertical.
Not all states require a horizontal placement, but enough do that you should check with your local motor vehicle office to make sure your bike is properly plated.


Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

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

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