Ask Our Lawyer – April 2019

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

MIDWESTERN ROULETTE – UNMARKED INTERSECTIONS AND 12 FOOT CORN -RULES

While riding in the middle of nowhere in Indiana or Illinois or Ohio, you approach an intersection in mid-July.  What can be 12 feet tall, dense, thrives even in drought and you can’t see thru it?  – Hybrid corn!  You have the right of way for anyone approaching from your left.

There are no stop signs as each cost $250 installed. Rules of the road apply, so no need- right?  The farmer owns to the middle of the road, but the county or township has had the right of way (usually 50’ – 25’per side) since Davy Crockett died.  The farmer pays no taxes on the right of way portion of his property, but he still owns it. (Reminds me of a Rodney Dangerfield joke -later.)  Many plant to the very edge of the right-of-way, some even down into the ditch and into the right-of-way.  Is that legal for them to do that? Maybe? Maybe not?  Are they being careless if they obstruct the intersection? Maybe? Maybe not? It is their property – right?

Usually nothing out there.  Usually, maybe and probably are words lawyers learn in law school and used to cover their ass. This is the way it happens. Putting along toward the corn canyon intersection, you neither see nor hear anything but your motorcycle.  Rain has dampened the road.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Life is good – up to the point that it isn’t.  “Isn’t” happens in less than a second.  Remember “thousand one”?   A flash of color, not corn green, but big red truck catches the corner of your left eye.  No time to say your last words – you just get hit.  You don’t even hear it.  Not really sure of what you are thinking about, if you are conscious.

At tall corn intersections good folks die, Cessna Park, one in Champaign County, two in Douglas County, and another in Daviess County.  These tall corn intersections are located in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.  This happens in Iowa, Nebraska and other corn growing states.  For most of the year, you can see forever at these intersections, but for about four months – not so much.  And we all know that the odds of getting hit are slim.  Nothing out there but corn and cows.

It is ok to use the “don’t need to stop” rules of the road before the corn is higher than the basketball rim at Hinkle Fieldhouse. But from July till harvest forget that you have the right of way over those to your left.  Give it up. Just pretend that at every intersection you have an invisible stop sign. Let’s call it a “tall corn stop sign”.  Do it and we can stop writing about this hazard.

What if you don’t? After they put dirt on you, we will have to measure the field to see if the farmer planted corn in the right-of-way.  Or try to make a case of negligence against him for obstructing visibility at the intersection. Just stop at all “tall corn signs” even though the law says you have the right-of-way, because every so often there is a red truck waiting for your number to be called.  And the farmer says that it is his land and that he can plant corn on it if he wants. Can he?

BONDING ABATE OFFICERS WHO HANDLE OUR CASH

 Bonding officers who handle ABATE cash is an absolute must.  Here is how it works.  This insurance, called a fidelity bond, helps you protect ABATE against theft and reduce our risk of loss. Employee bonds are a common part of an overall business insurance package.

With a fidelity bond on money handlers we are covered for theft of these funds.

A fidelity bond is insurance that you can buy through the company that handles your business insurance policies. The cost varies greatly depending on the type of business you operate and the amount of cash or other assets that are handled by the bonded employees. If an employee steals from ABATE, the insurance covers the loss.  Then the insurance/bonding company gets to chase ourex-memberfor the money.

IN DELAWARE DO YOU REALLY  NEED A HELMET FOR A PASSENGER WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE A PASSENGER – AND SIZE DOESN’T MATTER

 

Q.  Rod, yesterday while riding on a limited access highway in Delaware, in heavy shore traffic, a stationary state trooper entered the road behind me. He navigated through many cars and positioned himself behind me and immediately illuminated his lights and pulled me over. I was at a loss for a reason as I had broken no laws and my bike was in order.

Upon encountering me, he immediately stated that he wanted to make sure I was in possession of an approved helmet. I stated that my helmet was stowed in my luggage and he demanded to see it.  I produced a helmet, he in turn inspected it and told me it was not approved. He issued me a $94 ticket and drove off.

Is this legal? I had no passenger so … he had no reasonable suspicion to stop me. Was I profiled? Does the law mandate that I display a helmet? I am thinking of fighting this spot check helmet possession thing. They say I can drive to Delaware with a DOT helmet and get out of it, but I think that really sucks. They shouldn’t be able to stop you and make you open your luggage for no good reason. Thanks Bill Burke. Quakertown, Pa.

 

 

A.  Bill. I agree. We have reviewed many helmet laws in our time, but I think that the Delaware law leads the unusual. Even though Delaware is helmet free for those 19 and older, oddly the lawrequires you to always carry a helmet – even when you have no passenger.   I guess just in case you pick up a passenger under 19. But what size helmet do you carry? One size fits all? Do you have to carry all sizes just in case? How many helmets? 5? 10? 20? Silly, but that would follow logically. Maybe it is ok if the helmet doesn’t fit correctly – you just have to have one and size doesn’t matter? Here is the text of the law:

“Every person operating or riding on a motorcycle shall have in that person’s possession a safety helmet approved by the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security (hereinafter “Secretary”) through the Office of Highway Safety and shall wear eye protection approved by the Secretary; provided, however, that every person up to 19 years of age operating or riding on a motorcycle shall wear a safety helmet and eye protection approved by the Secretary”.

I say the officer did not have probable cause to stop you and search your luggage, and certainly did not have reason to search for a helmet when you had no passenger. Sadly, you will now have to invest a lot of your time to fight this improper citation. I applaud your efforts. Keep us posted. I would like to write a follow up as to your experience in court.

A SWEET RIDE FOR YOUR BIKE AND FOOD FOR YOUR SOUL

Q.  Hello Mr. Taylor, I have been looking at the back of Hoosier Motorcyclist Magazine and was wondering where that (winding) road is located. If you know, please tell me the location? Thank you, Todd Stipp.

A.  Todd, Marc Falsetti, Editor Supreme of Hoosier Motorcyclist Magazine, tells us this photo was taken by Michael Farabaugh on Highway 42, Door County, Wisconsin – a wonderful place to ride. Michael Farabaugh, as you may know, was renowned for his incredible photography. His work can be seen in most motorcycle magazines, including Easy Rider, Super Cycle, American Iron etc. Thank you for noticing and the next time I ride that way I will give you the GPS coordinates. It is a sweet ride for your bike and food for your soul. Rod

BREAKING AND ENTERING BY MY LANDLORD

Q.  I live in an apartment complex that has a lockable garage where I store my custom motorcycle.  The other day, I saw the manager leaving my garage and I confronted him about trespassing. He said he had the right to “inspect the premises” and make sure all was well.  I said it was my rental space and he had no right to come into my locked garage area unless there was a problem.  Can I keep the manager away or at least require him to give me notice of the dates and times he intends to inspect my garage?  ABATE MEMBER.

A.  Review your written lease if you have one. Most leases allow inspections for emergencies only.  If the landlord is violating the lease, you may have grounds for trespass/invasion of privacy.  Probably a threat of this will cause him to provide you notice in advance of the need for an inspection – if he has a right to make an inspection under the lease. If there is no lease, tell him to stay out of your garage. 

CHECKING ON THE LAWYERS

Q.  I have called a lawyer from a motorcycle publication about my motorcycle crash.  I am not sure where his offices are located and I am not sure he is licensed in my state.  How can I be sure that he is a licensed lawyer in my state?

A.  Most states have an Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission that makes book on lawyers.  That commission compiles an annual list of lawyers authorized to practice law in your state.  You can also view records of any disciplinary actions that have been taken against that lawyer.  If the lawyer in not licensed to practice in your state, that information should be reported to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.  And for good reason, that lawyer may not be a lawyer in any state.

RADAR GUNS THAT SHOOT 2 AT A TIME – WHEN TO PULL OVER – HOW LONG TO WAIT?

Q.  If I am in my truck and law enforcement “hits the rollers” behind me, I pull over. However, if the cop pulls over the guy behind me (or two or three), I would not expect to stop. If I am on my bike riding in a group, if the same situation occurs, who is expected to stop? Is there code or policy that covers this?  (A previous question by Jay Jackson, ABATE of Indiana with an update).

A.  I’ve spoken with law enforcement friends of mine. In general, if you believe an officer is trying to pull you over, you should stop and let the officer tell you whether he was intending to stop you or not. Since the question is what the officer intended to do, it would be difficult to convince a judge that you weren’t expected to pull over. Besides, most bikers want to stop and help their fellow riders in any event, even if only to be a witness? Of course, you should take care not to interfere with the officer, so you don’t end up with an obstruction of justice charge.

My law enforcement buddies tell me that it is highly unusual for an officer to stop multiple vehicles at the same time because it is dangerous, difficult to manage, and invariably leads to a ton of paperwork that the officer will not want to do. However, some of the newer radar guns can track speeds of multiple vehicles.  If the gun only tracks one vehicle, the officer usually tracks the slower vehicle and tickets the faster vehicle as traveling in excess of the speed of the slower vehicle, so say my police officer friends.  A former Director of Alcohol Countermeasures for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and police officer, said “Honest mistakes happen when the officer is not as clear as he should be about “Who” he wants stopped out of a group.”  Sadly, he claimed that stopping a group of bikes is a little more commonplace. Apparently, it is hard to single out one bike from the pack. So here is the rub – there is no statute or code that covers this other than the one requiring you to pullover if directed.

Honest mistakes happen when the officer is not as clear as he should be about who he wants stopped out of a group. It may be better to be safe rather than sorry.  If the officer signals you to pull over and wait while he chases another vehicle, how long do you wait?  Ten minutes? Twenty minutes? Half an hour? That is a tough one to answer and is compounded by being in harm’s way along an interstate. Keep track of the time by a cell phone photo of the officer going after the other vehicle if you are safely stopped on the side of the road and can still see the officer.  If you decide to leave after a reasonable time, you can prove that it was reasonable.  You can explain that perhaps you misinterpreted the officer’s direction and that twenty minutes was long enough to be in a dangerous spot.  But I will leave that to you to explain to the judge, and smile a lot.

Most states require you to pull over to the right and stop when indicated by an officer’s flashing lights. Of course, if you are with a group of riders and everyone is over the speed limit, so be it. But if the last guy on the ride has a problem with his tail light, it’s hard to see how the officer had probable cause to stop anyone but the guy with his light out. To do otherwise is to violate the non-offender’s Fourth Amendment rights. If you have an abusive cop in your area, that is constantly stopping groups of riders without probable cause for the group, you should call our office immediately. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed with the chief of police, as soon as possible.

One of our ABATE lawyers actually has some experience with this situation. Many years ago, when he worked for the State, he and some friends were heading down US 41 to do some camping. There were two cars in their caravan heading down 41 at a speed that was perhaps in excess of the posted limits. Of course, a trooper in an unmarked car hits the lights behind him and motioned him off the roadway, along with his buddy, and a third vehicle that was traveling in front of them. The trooper came back to our lawyer’s car and asked for ID, whereon our intrepid traveler produced his state ID and badge. The officer took a couple of looks at the badge, asked which of the other cars he had stopped were part of the camping party, and sent them on their way with an admonishment to keep the speed down. As he drove away, he could see the trooper begin writing a ticket for the poor guy who wasn’t going camping. The moral? It’s helpful to travel with someone who has a badge.

GETTING SUED FOR A BIKE I DON’T OWN?

Q.  My ex-wife and I both ride.  In the divorce she was awarded the motorcycle and the court required her to pay the loan. She has fallen behind on the payments and the bank is calling me.  Can they hold me responsible for paying for a motorcycle I no longer own?

A.  It’s possible. It depends on what happened in the divorce and if the loan you took out for the motorcycle was redone to remove you.  If you were not removed then you may still have liability. Check the loan documents carefully to see what obligations you have on the loan agreement. If you are still obligated, you should talk to your divorce lawyer about what can be done.   I am sure he will address this issue with your ex and the court that granted your divorce.

COMMENTS FROM ROD SHAW ABOUT ABATE LEGAL

Hey Rod, Rod Shaw here.Thank you for your service. Michael Beason  was a pleasure to work with. Very competent and well prepared.  I think you should give him a raise.  Take care, and may the wind be at your back.

Ride Safe & Free,

 Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

abatelegal.com

 The information provided in the above articles is not intended to substitute for legal advice and is given to the person referred to in the article.  All information, content and responses are for general informational purposes only.  Please consult an attorney to obtain advice with regard to your specific legal question.

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery, and expenses as approved by client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number.

Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: rodtaylor@abatelegal.com  © 2019.

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