CURRENT MOTORCYCLE HELMET ENFORCEMENT
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is disseminating this information to inform California law enforcement agencies of the current helmet enforcement policy that the CHP has adopted. On August 16, 1996, The United States Court of Appeals ruled in the EASYRIDERS FREEDOM F.I.G.H.T. v. Hannigan (Case No. 93-0807-3), on the appeals taken from the United States District Court's injunction against the CHP regarding enforcement of section 27803 CVC California's motorcycle helmet law. The court acted as follows:
The portion of the District Court's injunction restricting the CHP from stopping motorcycles for a suspected violation of section 27803 CVC was vacated.
Section 27803 CVC was enacted to help reduce injuries to passengers and operators of motorcycles and/or motorized bicycles (including mopeds). Section 27803 CVC requires all operators and passengers of these vehicles to wear a safety helmet which conforms to FMVSS 218 on a highway. The requirements for FMVSS 218 are found in 49 CFR, Part 571. This standard requires that each helmet be labeled permanently and legibly so that the labels can be read showing the manufacturer's name, model designation size, month and year of manufacture. Additionally, the symbol "DOT" should appear on the outer surface in a color that contrasts with the helmet color, on the bottom edge of the posterior of the helmet.
Proper use of the safety helmet is defined in section 27802 CVC. The helmet shall be worn on the head with straps fastened and be of a size that fits the persons head who is wearing the helmet, without excessive lateral or vertical movement.
Enforcement of section 27803 CVC shall apply to all persons whether they are the operator of, or the passenger on, a motorcycle or a motorized bicycle operated on a highway. This includes an operator or passenger of a three-wheel motorcycle and passengers seated in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle or motorized bicycle.
Section 27803(b) CVC should be used to cite the operator of a motorcycle or motorized bicycle for not wearing a safety helmet which conforms to FMVSS 218 or for allowing a passenger to ride without a safety helmet which conforms to FMVSS 218.
Based on the terms of a permanent court injunction dated November 13 1995, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, and the August 16,1996, U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, when an officer observes an operator or passenger wearing a helmet that does not meet FMVSS 218, The officer should be governed by the following:
The officer shall not cite any motorcyclist wearing a helmet that does not meet FMVSS 218 for a suspected violation of section 27803 CVC unless there is probable cause to believe that:
I. The helmet worn by the driver or passenger was not certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale, or
For the purposes of this injunction, a determination of non-conformity with FMVSS 218 is defined as one or more of the following:
1. A determination of non-compliance issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or
Officers who stop individuals for other than helmet violations and suspect that the helmet worn does not meet FMVSS 218 should admonish them that if they continue to ride a motorcycle while wearing a helmet which does not conform to FMVSS 218 they maybe cited. As a result of this court decision a peace officer may now stop a motorcyclist based on the appearance of the helmet.
However, the CHP has chosen to adopt the position if the motorcyclist is making a reasonable effort to comply with the law then the motorcyclist should not be stopped. The enforcement policy of the CHP will focus on motorcyclists who are not wearing helmets and motorcyclists who are wearing helmets which are obviously not motorcycle helmets, such as Styrofoam bicycle helmets or football helmets.
Section 27803(c) CVC should be used to cite the passenger on a motorcycle or motorized bicycle for not wearing a safety helmet which does not conform to FMVSS 218. Officers should not cite operators or passengers of a motorcycle or motorized bicycle for non-use of a helmet if that non-use was incidental to the off-highway use of the vehicle while crossing the highway. Officers shall not seize any helmet as evidence to prove that a particular helmet worn by the violator does not meet FMVSS 218.
Compliance with the motorcycle helmet requirements has been high since the inception of the law. Law enforcement personnel are encouraged to continue to exercise good judgment when dealing with the public and discussing helmet requirements.
This information Bulletin supersedes information Bulletin No. 59 dated March 8, 1996.
OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER
DISTRIBUTION A E G S (All Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs)
CHP 47A OPI 076