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Ask Our Lawyer - February 2004

Q. What is wrong with the City Council in East Peoria? Are they really getting ready to pass an ordinance banning/restricting the use of ATVs and motorcycles? If true, what can be done about it and would this proposed ordinance affect the rest of the country?

A. The ordinance is not passed as yet, but a City Council committee has approved and recommended an ordinance that, in our opinion, is unconstitutional and unneeded. This ordinance outlaws off-road vehicles owned by non-residents and severely restricts the use of ATVs and off-road motorcycles for residents of East Peoria. This law singles out ATVs and motorcycles. An even reading of the proposed ordinance indicates that so long as you are using any of these vehicles commercially and not for "fun" you will fall outside of the requirements of the ordinance. It kind of reminds me of the old my Army Basic Training maxim, "this is your rifle, this is your gun, one is for war, one is for fun." Surely, the leaders of East Peoria do not mean what the ordinance says.

The ordinance requires additional City registration and additional City inspections, above and beyond the requirements of existing state and federal laws. Do they really intend that City inspections should supersede the mandates of federal and state law? Does the City of East Peoria really have the expertise and engineering capability to preform these inspections, and do we really need additional registrations for stuff we own in this country?

Interestingly enough, this ordinance appears to ban riding ATVs and off-road motorcycles by all non-residents. It occurs to me that if I lived in another town, the first thing I would want to do is ban all ATVs and motorcycles from residents of East Peoria. And then it occurs that we would have retaliation and other protective attempts by communities all across the country. As I recall, this was one of the problems that our thirteen (13) colonies had at one time. What would occur if similar restrictions were to be passed concerning leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chain saws, hair dryers, kitchen mixers, and the like? Do we really need more laws? Don't we have, on the books already, laws concerning disturbing the peace, nuisance, and trespassing? Most states have adopted the common law, which has been around since the fourth year of James the First of England (that's a really long time ago, folks, back when the only ATV was a mule), and since then, we have had sufficient and adequate rules barring all nuisance conduct. Looking to the future, if we keep passing laws and regulations at our current rate, I find it interesting to fast-forward to 500 years from now. Draw your own conclusions as to the morass that that would create. It might be easier just to pass laws saying what we can do!

What is needed by the City of East Peoria is not more laws, more regulations, and more inspections, but simple enforcement of the current laws that the legislature of the State of Illinois has passed concerning all the right of all citizens to live in peace, and to enjoy the use and benefit of their property. Already, the laws in East Peoria pertaining to trespass have been utilized. I recall that lawbreaking trespassers riding ATVs were charged and fined accordingly. It is that simple.

I have a hunch that most legislative bodies must justify their existence by passing laws. We should spread the word that one of the good things that a legislative body could do is to resist the passing of needless additional laws, needless additional regulations, causing needless additional complications for our society. However well-meaning the leaders of East Peoria may be, I suggest that they are failing their citizens if, in fact, they merely enact more stuff for all the lawyers and the judges to interpret and dispute and litigate over. I say to them, please stop, think, and enforce the laws that have been around for centuries.


Doc Jones to help in the rescue
Last month, I told you about Lupy, an ABATE member's dog that was scheduled for execution or banishment. I'm happy to report that the city council involved has agreed to amend the ordinance that would have eliminated Lupy. With the help of ABATE's Rick "Doc" Jones, D.V.M.. and graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine (which is a hell of a lot harder to get into and Harvard Medical School, and we are damn proud of him), problem solved.

Did you know that Martin Meister has driven over 100,000 miles for ABATE, all at his own expense? Nice work, Martin!

Last month, we published a survey, and the results are beginning to come in. If you didn't get a chance to send your responses, I've included another copy of the. The responses we have gotten have been interesting, and I'll have more comments when we get more responses. Let me share some of the comments I've gotten so far. Let me know what you think.

When it comes to driving into direct sunlight we all know that that is a blinding light. Common sense should then come into play and the driver should slow down.... if the investigation determined that the driver of the auto was speeding or distracted by something the driver was doing in the car then that driver should be prosecuted for manslaughter. ... If the driver was in accordance with the speed limit and this was an accident deemed to be the cause of a "natural event" (sunlight) then I feel the person should receive the citation for disregarding the stop sign and be held accountable for civil proceedings.
- Brian S.

I'd just like to say in all the instances mentioned the verdict should be plain and simple black and white "guilty" and yes should be charged with a crime. Maybe people will start to pay attention more if the punishment fit the accident /crime.
- DHopper

situation# 1 - yes he should be charged, punishment would depend on his prior driving record, at minimum the person should be doing a lot of community service and should have to talk to groups about what happened.
situation #2 - charged and jailed
situation #3 - charged and jailed
- Mugsy

My answer is yes in all instances. More jail time with the egregiousness of the offense. While we can claim mitigating circumstances, we ALL take absolute responsibility for the operation of our car, and motorcycle. We are charged with obeying the law, and if there are stop signs at intersections we are charged with seeing them. If the sun is in our eyes, we need to slow down or stop and not drive or ride into a situation in which we cannot see. Would you ride with a blindfold?
- Larry Bignall

I feel the answer to all the questions are yes and yes ... it doesn't matter what you are driving/riding or who you hit, a bike or a car ... blowing a stop sign is a crime and more so when others get injured or die, it makes no difference if you were traveling the speed limit or not ... there are ways to block sun glare and screwing with food, phones, CD's, or anything else is no excuse.
- Chuck Johnson

#1 no and no; #2 yes and yes; #3 yes and yes. The careless disregard for other human life is the key determining factor.
- Digger Phelps

ABATE Legal Survey
Here are the questions again. Remember, you can respond by either fax (317/686-2200) or email (rodtaylor@abatelegal.com).

Situation number one: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 30 mph (the speed limit) with the sun in his eyes. He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.

Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

Situation number two: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 45 mph (speeding) with the sun in his eyes. He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.

Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

Situation number three: Assume that a motorist is proceeding west at 30 mph (the speed limit) with the sun in his eyes, and is distracted (talking on a cell phone, eating a burger, loading a CD changer, reading, etc.). He fails to see the stop sign, runs through the intersection, killing a biker instantly.

Question one: Should the motorist be charged with a crime? _______ yes _______ no.
Question two: Should the motorist spend time in jail? ________ yes ________no.

Ride safe and free,
Rod Taylor
ABATE 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.