March 8, 1996



The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is disseminating this information to inform California law enforcement agencies of the impact of a permanent court injunction issued on may 25, 1996, by the United S States District Court Southern District of California against the CHP, the San County Diego Sheriff's Department and the Huntington Beach Police Department The plaintiffs were motorcyclists who were issued citations under the California motorcycle helmet law. California Vehicle Code (CVC) 27803, for wearing motorcycle helmets that allegedly did not comply with federal safety standards.

CVC 27803 makes safety helmets mandatory for all drivers and passengers on motorcycles. Further, the law requires that a helmet may not be worn unless it meets specifications set forth in Federal Motor Vehicle S Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218 as stated in VC 27802. This section also requires that each helmet sold . . . shall be conspicuously labeled in accordance with the federal standard .... This label (a Department of Transportation "DOT" sticker} constitutes the manufacturer's serf-certification that the helmet conforms forms to the applicable FMVSS.

In Buhl v. Hannigan 16 Cal.App. 4th 1612 (1993), the court held that the law requires only that the consumer wear helmet bearing certification of compliance (e.g., the DOT sticker). Later, in Bianco v. California Highway Patrol, 24 Cal.App. 4th 1113 (1994}, the court dealt with the situation where a rider knows that a manufacturer' s certified helmet no longer complies with FMVSS 218, but continues to wear the helmet. The court held that 'the statement in Buhl that consumer compliance with the state law only requires the consumer to wear a helmet bearing the DOT self certification slicker does not apply when a helmet has been shown not to conform with federal standards and the consumer has actual knowledge of this fact." In EASYRIDERS FREEDOM F.I.G.H.T. v. Hannigan (Case No. 93-0807-J), the courts held that citations should only be issued in two situation: (1) when a helmet was not certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale or (2) when a rider wearing a helmet certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale has actual knowledge Accordingly, CHP policy is that officers may not stop or cite individuals solely for wearing "beanie type" helmet with an affixed DOT sticker. Per the injunction riders must have "actual knowledge that the helmet worn was not certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale, or the helmet was certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale and the person being stopped has actual knowledge of a showing of a determination of non- conformity with federal standards." Officers who stop individuals for other than helmet violations and suspect that the helmet the rider or passenger is wearing does not meet FMVSS 218 should admonish them that if they continue to ride a motorcycle while wearing an unlawful helmet they may be cited. In accordance with the Court injunction citations shall be limited to only those instances where the officer knows the individual has actual knowledge that the helmet being, worn is unlawful.

This information bulletin supersedes Information Bulletin No. 34 dated June 1, 1992. An outline of the injunction contained in the attachment.


OIP: 005

DISTRIBUTION: A E G S (All Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs)