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Ask Our Lawyer - June 2005

Q: I was riding my bike the other day, when a local cop stopped me for not having a muffler on my bike. I have an expensive custom bike, and it has pipes, but no baffles. The cop and I got into it a little bit, and he threatened to have my bike impounded.

I was afraid that if they impound my bike, it would have been damaged, so I backed down. I’m still mad about it, though. Can they do that?

A: As with most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Mostly, it depends on where you live and what the law is there. In Indiana and Ohio, inappropriate mufflers are subject to citation and fine as misdemeanors.

The officer will stop you and give you a ticket, and you are more than likely allowed to roll on down the road. In Illinois, however, the law is much more strictly written.

Under Illinois law, “ It is unlawful for any person to drive or move or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved on any highway any vehicle . . . which is equipped in any manner in violation of this Code.”

The Illinois vehicle code requires that “Every motor vehicle driven or operated upon the highways of this State shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler or exhaust system in constant operation and properly maintained to prevent any excessive or unusual noise. No such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cutout, bypass or similar device.

No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise of such vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle, and such original muffler shall comply with all the requirements of this Section.”

Since the statute declares that a vehicle in violation of the vehicle code shall not “be driven or moved on any highway,” the officer would be within his authority to impound the bike and have it towed.

Neither Indiana or Ohio have the same sort of language. Both of those states make it an infraction (Indiana) or minor misdemeanor (Ohio), but neither statute authorizes the officer to impound the bike.


Q: How is the RoadHazard site doing? Do you get any responses from the agencies you contact?

A: You would be surprised. I’d have to say that RoadHazard.org is an unqualified success. We receive many follow-up letters and comments from both local government offices and from the person who made the original notification.

Many times, the government representatives thank us for bringing the problems to their attention so that they can fix it. RoadHazard.org is a valuable service to both riders and road crews!

Sometimes its like that scene when Lucy and Ethel are working in the candy factory putting bon-bons in boxes. Recall that when they can’t keep up, they start eating them. That’s us at RoadHazard.org sometimes.

It seems to me that it’s time to bring RoadHazard.org to next level. I have always envisioned RoadHazard as being a national program, coordinating information and notifying the proper authorities across the US. As proof of concept, RoadHazard.org has worked well in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and there is no reason to think that it would not work nationally.

Many other states are already contacting us. What is needed, however, is some group that has the manpower and resources to make it work on a national level. We are in the process of identifying and contacting national organizations who would be interested in staffing and running an expanded RoadHazard.org.

I’ll keep you advised of any developments as they occur. As always, keep those notices coming!


Q. We were at a region meeting the other day and the conversation turned to ABATE. Specifically, we were trying to figure out the correct pronunciation of “ABATE.” Do you have any thoughts?

A. To tell the truth, I’ve always wondered about that myself. As I found out when I did the column on what the letters of ABATE stand for, there appear to be as many “official” pronunciations as there are ways to say ABATE. I heard three different pronunciations: A-bate, a-BATE, and UH-bate.

However, no matter how you pronounce it, it means brotherhood and community. Take your choice - it’s a Mason-Dixon/north-south kind of thing. My poll says that if you’re south of I-70, you say A-bate; if you are north of I-70, you say uh-BATE, and if you are a pure Yankee blue blood, you say a-BATE.


Abraham Lincoln is a hero of mine. My office has a bust of him, and 7 prints of him. My house has 2 prints. I own 13 books about him. I have a letter signed by his son (Robert) that hangs in my office entry. Lincoln traveled through Wayne County, II., where I was born and argued cases in Mt. Vernon, where I grew up and Champaign-Urbana, where I went to U. of I.

I have been to his birthplace in Ky, his family home in Indiana, and have been to his home, office and burial place in Springfield too many times to count. Of course, I have been to Ford's Theatre. I have ridden my FLH throughout the Eighth Circuit - Lincoln's Circuit. My son is named Andrew LINCOLN Taylor.

I know a lot about him, and I think I have come to know the lawyer he was. I believe that Lincoln would not over-charge his neighbors, friends or clients. I believe Lincoln would not take a fee if the recovery for the client was not enough for the client to pay his bills.

Lincoln would never file an attorneys' lien against a client/friend. Lincoln would do wills for free, if needed. And if there was a cause that his friends and neighbors believed in strongly, he would represent them for free.


Remember Angel Hoffman, the ABATE member who lost her leg in a motorcycle accident? She wishes she had called ABATE LEGAL SERVICES first, but instead she called some other lawyers from out-of-state. Her case was one of absolute liability. Unfortunately, the individual who ran over her had only $100k in insurance.

It would take me only one phone call and the sending of her medical records to settle her case. It took longer to help her avoid bankruptcy and compromise the hospital and doctor bills, but we did it. Angel did not want to file bankruptcy. She had always paid her own way.

ABATE LEGAL SERVICES lawyer Rod Taylor waive his fees and expenses--as it should be. The other folks [lawyers] did not. Do I believe it was right for them to charge a young woman who lost her leg thousands of dollars – for doing what?

I think that says it all and that is the reason ABATE has its own Legal Services program. In the end with our help, Angel did not have to file bankruptcy, the medical liens were reduced, and we put some money in Angel's pocket, but not enough. Her first lawyers claimed their Attorney Lien and unfortunately (in my view) were paid thousands of dollars. Angel, who was losing her leg, needed that money a lot worse than those lawyers did.


Next month, we will deal with a question that has been coming up with more and more regularity - can an employer forbid an employee from riding a motorcycle between job sites while the worker is on the clock? Also, can an employer prohibit an employee from riding a motorcycle to work? Check back next month for some thoughts on those questions.

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.