Legal Loophole in Helmet Law

Detroit Now News
Friday, March 17, 2000

Police in metro Detroit are baffled over an old state law. Michigan law requires those driving motorcycles to always wear helmets, but police are concerned about a loophole in the law that won't allow them to pull over motorcyclists without helmets.

This has become a huge problem for police. They were hoping that this would not leak out to the public so soon, but as it stands now, Michigan's mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists is being called legally invalid.

"I didn't know," said one motorcyclist.

If longtime bikers are surprised, police are dumbfounded.

"This law has been in effect for years. No one to our knowledge ever even caught this. This is something recently caught by an attorney," said Chief Emery Price of the Westland Police Department.

Police stumbled upon what's being called a legal loophole of disastrous proportions. A motorcyclist who had been ticketed for riding without a helmet challenged the law and won.

"Being that there are no established requirements as to the type of helmets, there's a lack of notice, so therefore the ordinance fails," said Westland Attorney Angelo Plakas.

Michigan's law mandating helmets was approved when it went into effect years ago. But a judge was recently forced to drop the fines against the biker who wasn't wearing a helmet.

After further investigation, Westland police found 19 other courts throughout Michigan have recently been forced to do the same.

"With the warm weather coming, there's going to be some problems," said Chief Price. "There's going to be some serious injury or death caused by some of these people out here not wearing their helmet."

Westland police and other jurisdictions have reluctantly sent memos to their officers, saying do not pull over bikers who are not wearing helmets because according to the ruling it's against law.

"I still have the helmet on always," said one motorcyclist.

The Westland police have been in contact with the Michigan Attorney General's Office. The attorney general still believes that this law is valid, however they are going to check into this and find out for certain next week.

If necessary, they will make immediate corrections. In the meantime, police are asking bikers to please wear helmets

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