|Virginia Circuit Court Declares
Helmet Law Unconstitutional!
January 21, 1999. Bikers won a major court decision in Virginia when the Virginia helmet law was declared unconstitutional by the Rockingham County Circuit Court on the basis that the statute is void for vagueness.
In the Spring of 1998, officers of the Harrisonburg Police Department began a "ticket and confiscate" campaign against anyone found wearing what they subjectively felt was an illegal helmet. Similar to CHP in California, the HPD targeted "beanie" helmets.
Bikers were stopped if their helmets appeared to be similar to the one's shown in the NHTSA training film "Fake Helmets", which was produced with the help of the Maryland State Police and public tax dollars.
Virginia attorney Tom McGrath wrote the Chief of Police and the City Attorney protesting the confiscations and the confiscations were stopped. He also filed a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request, and found that the police training had consisted soley of watching the NHTSA video and reading the NHTSA companion brochure."
McGrath represented several of the ticketed motorcyclists and succeeded in getting dismissals for all except Francis Michael Collins, ("Tweeter"), who had already been found guilty. McGrath had Tweeter appeal to the Circuit Court and filed a "Motion to Dismiss" on the basis that Virginia's Helmet Law is unconstitutional, because the average citizen had not been told what the standard is.
The Court agreed with the arguement and delcared the law unconsitutional and dismissed the case! This decision pertains only to Rockingham County, but sets a major precident. Other jurisdictions can attack helmet tickets on the same basis and the bill will have to be rewritten, which is problematic for the pro-helmet lobby since next year is an election year.