The California Helmet Law
Everything you need to know and they are afraid to ask

CHP Bulletin #34: (6-1-92)
The "Information Bulletin" that stated the wave of citations against motorcyclists based on the subjective opinion of the citing officer that a given helmet did not comply with FMVSS-218.
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California's Helmet Law is enacted: (1-1-92)


People v. Woods: (9-29-92)
The Municipal Court of Butte County wrote an opinion declaring that the defendant was "not guilty" of violating the helmet law because the statue was unconstitutionally vague. (This opinion is still the most comprehensive, and correct, opinion written on the subject to date.)
Arrow up

OVER 40,000 CITATIONS
WERE ISSUED STATEWIDE
TO RIDERS WHO WERE
WEARING HELMETS

Arrow Down

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People v. Fletcher: (7-12-93)
The Appellate Department of the Alameda County Superior Court overturned a decision of the traffic court, which had found Fletcher "guilty" of wearing an "unapproved helmet" stating: "...the judgment of the trial court is reversed on the grounds that the crime for which the defendant/appellant ws convicted is unconstitutionally vague."


Buhl v. Hannigan: (modified) (7-15-93)
The 4th Appellate Court of California (Division 3) ruled the California Helmet Law constitutional, stating that the proposition that the statute would require a consumer or enforcement officer to determine proper fabrication of a helmet was "absurd," and that the only requirement was a DOT sticker.
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People v. Brown: (3-14-94)
(Case #APP3478)
The Appellate Department of the Calaveras County Superior Court found upheld the conviction of Brown on the basis that the letters on the DOT sticker on his helmet were too small.

Bianco v. CHP: (modified) (5-24-94)
The 4th Appellate Court of California (Division 1) ruled the enforcement practices of the California Highway Patrol constitutional stating that the requirement in Buhl that the only requirement was a DOT sticker did not apply when the rider had actual knowledge of a determination of non-complaince on their helmet.

State of Washington v. Maxwell: (6-28-94)
(74 WASH. APP. 688, 878 P.2D 1220)
The Washington Appellate Court found Washington's helmet law, which is based on EXACTLY the same standard as California's, unconstitutionally vague. Citations continue to be written to this day.

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Easyriders v. Hannigan: (5-25-95)
The United States District Court in San Diego, California, issued an injunction declaring the enforcement practices of the California Highway Patrol violative of the constitutional rights of motorcyclists, and issuing an injunction against stopping and/or citing a rider unless they could prove that the rider had actual knowledge of a determination of non-compliance on their helmet (the criteria set out in the Bianco decision).

Appellants Marcillet and Carlin were stopped and cited: (6-25-95) (injunction was in effect).

Appellant Prince was stopped and cited: (9-13-95) (injunction was in effect).

CHP Bulletin #59: (4-8-96)
The "Information Bulletin" that finally "superceeded" CHP Bulletin #34 -- three court decisions and an injunction later (9 months after issuance of the injunction), and the CHP instructed here that officers should "admonish" riders that their helmet does not comply -- still on the basis of the officer's subjective opinion. Citations continued.
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HLDL v. CHP: (5-29-96)
The United States District Court granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs based on the theory that conviction in state court for a helmet law violation precluded recovery of damages for civil rights violations AND that the "appearance" of a helmet could be a basis for probable cause to stop a rider and issue a citation.

Easyriders v. Hannigan: (8-16-96)
The United States Appellate Court for the 9th Circuit upheld the injunction issued by the Southern District Court in part, but removed the portion of the injunction which forbid officers from stopping riders on the basis of the officer's subjective opinion of a helmet based on its appearance.

CHP Bulletin #71: (3-12-97)
The "Information Bulletin" that purported to define the terms of the injunction regarding enforcement of the helmet law based on an officer's subjective opinion. Citations continue . . .
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ABATE of Oregon v. Howard: (3-1-97)
(Case #96-957-JE)
The United States District Court in Oregon issued a ruling finding the enforcement practices of the police unconstitutional, but upholding the constitutionality of the statute -- the court did not consider the Juvenile Products decision, or the requirement of the United States Code of Regulations in reaching this decision.

People v. Winjum: (6-26-97)
(Case #BL039410)
The Municipal Court of Madera County, State of California, found the defendant "GUILTY" of wearing an unapproved helmet. The citation was issued by the California Highway Patrol, the defendant STILL has no knowledge that his helmet does not comply with FMVSS218 ( save the subjective opinion of the citing officer AND THE COURT), and Winjum will attempt an appeal. The citation was issued in clear violation of the Federal Injunction.



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