PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 25, 1993, Easyriders and fourteen individual motorcyclists who had been cited for violating California's helmet law for allegedly wearing helmets that did not meet federal standards, filed suit against several officers and police officials of the CHP, the San Diego Sheriff's Department ("SDSD"), and the Huntington Beach Police Department ("HBPD"), in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. The complaint sought to enjoin enforcement of the helmet law on the ground that it was unconstitutionally vague, and to enjoin the law enforcement agencies from enforcing the helmet law in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

The individual motorcyclists claimed that they have been cited for wearing helmets that they believed complied with federal regulations and had the required DOT sticker attached. They claimed that they were unable to identify which helmets comply with federal regulations and California law, and that law enforcement officials have continually and will continually cite them for helmet law violations based on officers' subjective determinations of which helmets comply with the regulations. All of the individual motorcyclists had been stopped by the CHP, SDSD, or HBPD while wearing helmets that covered only the top of the head above the ears and were secured around the motorcyclists' chins by nylon straps thread through two D- rings. [FN1]

*3 In late 1994 and early 1995, Easyriders settled the case with the SDSD and HBPD defendants, [FN2] leaving the CHP officials as the only defendants in this matter. On March 15, 1995, the district court granted the CHP's summary judgment motion, holding that the helmet law as interpreted by the California courts is not void for vagueness. The district court also found, however, that CHP was issuing citations to motorcyclists wearing helmets with DOT stickers without regard to whether the motorcyclists had knowledge that the helmet had been shown not to comply with federal standards. The court requested further briefing from the parties on whether an injunction should be issued.

On May 25, 1995, the district court issued its decision on Easyriders' request for a permanent injunction. Easyriders Freedom F.I.G.H.T. v. Hannigan, 887 F.Supp. 240 (S.D.Cal.1995). The district court found that under the California helmet law as interpreted by Buhl and Bianco, a motorcyclist wearing a helmet that does not comply with Standard 218 violates the helmet law in two situations:

(1) where the helmet did not bear a certification of compliance at the time of sale or

(2) where the helmet did bear a certification but (A) the helmet has been shown not to conform with federal safety standards and (B) the person being cited has actual knowledge of a showing of non- conformity with federal standards. Id. at 242-43 (emphasis in original).

Having reviewed the record, the district court concluded that "the CHP has a clear official policy of allowing officers to stop motorcyclists and issue citations for substandard helmets based on the officer's subjective opinion of whether the helmet would, if tested, conform to federal safety standards." Id. at 243. In addition the district court found that "[t]he CHP has a clear official policy of allowing officers to cite for allegedly substandard helmets regardless of whether the officer has reason to believe that there has been a determination of non- compliance with [Standard 218] or that the motorcyclist has knowledge that the helmet has been determined not to comply with [Standard 218]." Id.

Finally, the district court found that the individual motorcyclists had been cited by CHP despite the fact that some of their helmets had not been determined through testing or recall to be in non-compliance, and despite the fact that the plaintiffs who were cited while wearing helmets that were shown to be in non compliance did not have actual knowledge of such non-compliance. Id. The district court concluded that the CHP violates the Fourth Amendment by "issuing a citation for a substandard helmet without probable cause" and "making a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion" that a motorcyclist has violated the helmet law. Id. at 244.

In light of CHP's clear policy of stopping and citing motorcyclists in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the district court enjoined the CHP:

*4 (1) From stopping any motorcyclists for suspected violation of Vehicle Code s 27803 unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe that

(A) the helmet worn by the driver or passenger was not certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale, or

(B) the helmet was certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale and (i) the person being stopped has actual knowledge of a showing of a determination of non-conformity with federal standards.

(2) From citing any motorcyclist for suspected violation of Vehicle Code s 27803 unless there is probable cause to believe that

(A) the helmet worn by the driver or passenger was not certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale, or

(B) the helmet was certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale and (i) the person being cited has actual knowledge of a showing of a determination of non-conformity with federal standards. Id. at 245 (emphasis in original).

The district court defined a determination of non-conformity with federal standards as:

"(1) a determination of non-compliance issued by the [NHTSA] or

(2) manufacturer recall of a helmet because of non-compliance with [Standard 218] or

(3) other competent objective evidence from independent laboratory testing that the helmet does not meet [Standard 218]." Id.

The district court declared that the injunction was to remain in effect until an amendment of the helmet law or the regulations thereunder, or a subsequent decision of the California courts established "additional or revised provisions related to helmet compliance or enforcement standards." Id. at 246. The district court also required the CHP to provide notice of the injunction to the law enforcement agencies throughout California that rely on the CHP standards for helmet law enforcement. ID.

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