Source:: Stop Motorcycle Profiling in America
The motorcycle rights movement is alive and thriving in the state of Texas. Although many motorcyclists conjectured that the tragedy that occurred in Waco on May 17, 2017 would reduce participation in the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents, over a thousand club members and independents showed up for the bi-annual Rally held at the Capitol in Austin every other year. On January 23, 2017, the Motorcycle Profiling Project joined select motorcycle rights advocates from around the country and a contingent representing the National Council of Clubs (NCOC) in a show of support and solidarity that clearly communicates that clubs and independents from across America support the Texas COC&I and Texas bikers in their struggle against motorcycle profiling and discrimination.
After Waco, many in the biker community worried that the motorcycle rights movement in Texas would become fractured and lose participation. This logic was based on a couple of factors. There was supposed to be a Texas COC&I meeting at the Twin Peaks where the tragedy occurred. Would clubs and independents stop participating for fear that merely being present at a political meeting could get you arrested without individualized suspicion and given a 1-million-dollar bond? Would law enforcement start surrounding all TCOC&I political gatherings with a multi-agency task force with high powered rifles?
But Texas bikers have made another choice. The manpower behind the movement to protect motorcycle rights is still mobilized and politically active. TCOC&I meetings have continued to peacefully assemble statewide as they have for nearly 20 years without any incidents or violence.
In the face of crisis, Texas bikers have not laid down and surrendered to fear or complacency. Instead, they have chosen to stand up and fight for their liberties as demonstrated by the mass gathering at the Capitol on January 23rd. And this mobilization is nationwide as evidenced by the support from states coast-to-coast represented in Austin.
After Waco, many motorcyclists view the state of Texas as ground zero in the effort to preserve motorcyclist’s civil liberties and the fight against profiling and discrimination. Although there was some discussion relating to pending motorcycle safety legislation like lane-filtering, the clear message from the community was that motorcycle profiling and discrimination is the most important issue currently facing Texas bikers.
In search of support and sponsorship, the mass of bikers gathered at the steps of the Capitol to deliver their message. Impressively, many of them were not from Texas. Indeed, the NCOC showed their support with a contingent from Washington State, California, New York, Maryland, Nevada North Carolina and Utah. Long Island ABATE was also present and displaying a banner declaring support for Texas bikers. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, another organization dedicated to the fight against profiling, was also present.
Guest speakers included Dr. Will Dulaney from North Carolina and David “Double D” Devereaux from Washington State, as representatives of the NCOC and MPP. Double D spoke about Texas being at the epicenter in the battle against motorcycle profiling. “Texas showed us all that grassroots manpower worked when they brought the country the US Defenders program. Now it’s time to use the model to protect Texas bikers!”
Dulaney introduced a new program from the MPP providing consultation and expert witnesses to bikers with public defenders facing criminal charges. “Public defenders are often overwhelmed with caseloads and uninformed about issues specific to the biker and club community”, explained Dulaney.
Russell Radke, representing the MRF, discussed the national organization’s commitment to pass federal legislation addressing motorcycle profiling. Radke explained that the MRF is one of the only organizations with an infrastructure firmly rooted in Washington DC.
Finally, recently elected District Attorney Mark Gonzales, a motorcycle club member himself, confirmed that even he has been the victim of motorcycle profiling during his recent campaign. Gonzales explained that his named popped up as a gang member during a traffic stop. He’s the newly elected District Attorney! Gonzales is proof positive that motorcycle profiling impacts everyday bikers simply based on a stereotype. There is obviously a problem when the District Attorney has been labeled a gang member with NO due process.
The post Texas Biker Movement Alive and Strong After Waco Tragedy appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
Motorcycle profiling is an epidemic in California and this fact is perfectly illustrated by recent actions targeting motorcycle club members by the San Diego Police Department. Specifically, one Detective Timothy Coyle has recently been targeting motorcycle club members with harassment and frivolous criminal charges related to the possession of weaved leather decorations as slung-shots, commonly called “Get Back Whips”. Documented incidents prove Detective Coyle has been targeting members of the Mongols and Chosen Few Motorcycle Clubs, harassing them, and arresting them frivolously.
Official complaints have been filed and last month a jury in San Diego rejected Coyle’s tactics and found two Mongols MC members not guilty related to illegal weapons charges deriving from so called “Get Back Whips.” Members of the Chosen Few MC are currently awaiting trial on the same charges, again involving Coyle.
This type of discrimination and profiling is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. Legislation prohibiting motorcycle profiling in California would be a cost efficient and effective solution.
Dr. William Dulaney, an established expert witness in cases involving motorcycle clubs, recently wrote to the MPP regarding a recent case in which he consulted.
The Story- Two members of the Mongols MC were arrested on illegal weapons charges south of San Diego, California in May 2015 while riding with over 30 other Mongols members and five friends. “Specifically, two members were arrested and charged with illegally possessing “slung shots”, commonly called get back whips,” says Dulaney. (Note that at the time of the incident one of the men was not yet a member.) The group was on its way to their annual World Run held in Mexico.
After exiting the U.S. border, the entire pack of riders were directed to a large inspection area bounded by concrete barriers. There ATF Special Agent Ciccone and other police officers searched several members of the Mongols, including the 2 ultimately charged, “but it was San Diego Detective Timothy Coyle who interpreted a key chain and a decorative braided belt chain as slung shots,” says Dulaney.
The prosecution was based on Detective Coyle’s claims he submitted in his report to the court for trial and under oath that, “These slung shots are commonly carried by outlaw motorcycle gang members to be used as a readily available weapon. The weapon is swung at the intended target with the metal clip striking the victim.” (Official Report, “Investigation” section, pg. 6). Indeed, “Coyle goes on to claim that he has ONLY observed these items used as weapons,” writes Dulaney.
But the jury did not agree and both Mongol MC defendants were acquitted. Perhaps they were persuaded by the fact that the defendants were not wearing weapons or whips? Indeed, one defendant was wearing, clipped to his vest, “a 10” keychain made of braided nylon parachute cord and a metal clip similar to clips used on dog leashes.” The other defendant wore “attached to his belt a roughly two-foot decorative chain with nylon parachute cord wound through the chain links.”
According to Dulaney, Coyle was unable to answer, under oath, when asked about the history of the slung shot. He stated into the record that he is unaware of any such history. Ever hear the one about David and Goliath?
But maybe most telling was the fact that the officer ordered to take the defendants into custody and to jail “apologized to them both for not having a clue why they were being arrested. Evidence corroborating the claims here is found in the very words used by the arresting officer on the official report,” says Dulaney.
Indeed, “Coyle is making a name for himself as the biker slung shot expert,” says Dulaney. Unfortunately, the Mongols incident is not isolated. Members of the Chosen a Few MC are still awaiting their trials for identical charges. Again, Detective Coyle is involved in their incident as well.
On September 9th, 2016 at least 5 SDPD officers conducted a profiling stop on 2 members of the Chosen Few Motorcycle Club and arrested them for participation in a criminal street gang. These men committed no crimes and had no criminal records but were still given excessive bail.
One Chosen Few member confirmed to the MPP that he was charged with possessing a slungshot- the decorative zip-tied whip- and both men were charged with possessing brass knuckles for wearing rings, including wedding rings. Both men were also given gang enhancements for participating in a criminal street gang. Both men were also given $120,000 bail.
Official complaints have been filed against the officers involved, and one can only hope that another jury will see through this type of discriminatory policing in San Diego particularly considering that Detective Coyle appears to be a common denominator in these recent incidents of discrimination.
The actions of the SDPD are inexcusable. Targeted harassment of motorcycle clubs based solely on association is a baseline violation of an individual’s civil liberties. A simple legislative solution exists that immediately reduces profiling. Other states like Washington and Maryland faced similar discrimination and responded by passing laws prohibiting motorcycle profiling. These laws have been effective reducing discriminatory stops and preserving the right of motorcyclists to travel free from harassment.
The post Jury Finds Mongols Not Guilty After Motorcycle Profiling Arrest appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
Recently, the National Motorcycle Profiling Survey 2015-2016 concluded and the results definitively demonstrate that motorcycle profiling is an epidemic in America. Many motorcyclists in America have been targeted based on appearance, not behavior. The NMPS 2015-2016 is 99% reliable with only a 1.4% deviation.
The 2016-2017 NMPS is intended to more accurately define profiling trends so resources and attention can be focused on the areas that need it the most. As the movement to end motorcycle profiling continues to gain momentum, statistical data and demographic information are an important tool in the efforts to obtain legislative relief across the country.
Please take the time to take the survey. Note: NO PERSONAL DATA IS REQUIRED! YOUR PRIVACY AND ANONYMITY ARE IMPORTANT AND RESPECTED. By asking for no more than your zip code and email, which is completely voluntary, there is no personal information to maintain or protect.
Participation is critical and will have long lasting, positive impacts on the community. Remember. Silence is consent.
Click the link below to take the Survey
On Tuesday the 13th of December at approximately 1:15pm Cody King was the victim of a motorcycle profiling stop in Austin, Texas. Cody was stopped under the pretext of failing to properly signal while riding his motorcycle. But the real intent was to illegally detain Cody so they could violate his privacy without justification by taking pictures of tattoos all over his body. Most bikers and club members have a similar story about being profiled. But Cody went the extra step and recorded the entire incident, exactly what all bikers should do.
Under federal law, the US Supreme Court recently explained exactly how the 4th Amendment works in terms of extending traffic stops for investigatory purposes beyond an investigation of the traffic infraction that justified the initial seizure. The majority in Rodriguez v. US (2015) writes:
“A seizure for a traffic violation justifies a police investigation of that violation” – not more — and “authority for the seizure . . . ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are – or reasonably should have been—completed…” Traffic stops have to be reasonably short, and unless there is reasonable suspicion of some other crime, officers can’t use the stop as a subterfuge for extraneous investigation.” 1
The extended duration of Cody’s stop amounts to a 4th Amendment violation. The moment that the APD officer confirmed that Cody would not be receiving a ticket, authority for the seizure ended because “tasks tied to the traffic infraction” were- “or reasonably should have been- completed…”
Extending the duration of the stop to take pictures of Cody absent “reasonable suspicion of some other crime” is unconstitutional “subterfuge for extraneous investigation.”
Independently, photo-stops violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights because an investigative technique must be “reasonably related” to the original suspicion that justified the stop. 2 Obviously, photographing Cody’s tattoos the investigative technique in this instance- is in no way “reasonably related” to the turn signal violation that justified the initial stop.
The APD offered Cody an unreasonable choice after the traffic infraction was adjudicated. The APD was going to take pictures of Cody regardless of his consent. It’s clear that he was still being detained and not free to leave. Cody was only given the choice between pictures being taken on the side of the road or at the jail. Cody being forced to choose between two unreasonable options does not amount to consent.
Many comments on the MPP reveal that some believe membership in a club that authorities label a gang amounts to reasonable suspicion and even probable cause for conducting an investigatory stop. This argument is specious for numerous reasons.
First, Cody is in a motorcycle club and has absolutely no criminal record. This proves being in a club does not make you a criminal. The facts of the specific case override generalized conjecture.
Second, Membership in motorcycle clubs, including clubs labeled organized or criminal gangs by authorities, is protected by the 1st Amendment.
There is “no evidence that by merely wearing [motorcycle club] “colors,” an individual is “involved in or associated with the alleged violent or criminal activity of other [motorcycle club] members. It is a fundamental principle that the government may not impose restrictions on an individual “merely because an individual belong[s] to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.” In fact, the Supreme Court has long “disapproved governmental action . . . denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen’s association with an unpopular organization.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 185-86 (1972). 3
The APD officers involved in Cody’s stop are responsible for their actions. Official APD procedures make it clear that Cody’s stop was impermissible. The APD Policy Manual is extremely precise about photographs taken in the field. Knowledge or suspicion of gang membership does not justify photos. The APD Policy Manual reaffirms Supreme Court precedent. The APD Policy Manual reads:
318.6.2 FIELD PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN WITHOUT CONSENT Field photographs may be taken without consent only if taken during a detention that is based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and the photograph serves a legitimate law enforcement purpose related to the detention.
(a) The officer must be able to articulate facts that reasonably indicate that the subject was involved in, or was about to become involved in, criminal conduct.
(b) Mere knowledge or suspicion of gang membership or affiliation is not a sufficient justification for taking a photograph without consent.
(c) If, prior to taking a photograph, the officer’s reasonable suspicion of criminal activity has been dispelled, the detention must cease and the photograph should not be taken. 4
What appended to Cody is not isolated. Similar incidents have happened to thousands of bikers in Texas and across America. What happens too seldom is documenting these incidents. Filming the police in public is a constitutional right. Cody’s stop is not just an anecdotal story. Cody’s video is incontrovertible proof that motorcycle profiling is occurring in the state of Texas.
1 Rodriguez v. US, 135 S. Ct. 1609 – Supreme Court 2015
2 Bruder, Molly. “Say Cheese! Examining the Constitutionality of Photostops.” American University Law Review 57, no.6 (October 2008): p. 1695
3 Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015) p.28
4 APD Policy Manual, 2016, p.171 https://austintexas.gov/sites/default/ﬁles/ﬁles/Police/APD_Policy_Manual.pdf
On December 2, 2016 a Pennsylvania Superior Court Order overturned the conviction and sentence of Dennis Katona, identified by authorities as a former member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club convicted for possession and the intent to distribute a controlled substance. Despite Katona’s connection, prosecutors claim he was acting alone and without the club’s involvement. 1
Essentially the court determined that evidence obtained from the search of Katona’s home was inadmissible because independent probable cause is required for each intercept of a conversation occurring in a private residence. Therefore, a warrant allowing consensual intercepts of an individual in his home over a 30 day period violates both the US and Pennsylvania constitutions.2
In a 2-1 decision, the Court majority overturned Kastona’s conviction based on the state’s Supreme Court precedent case Commonwealth v. Brion decided in 1994. The Court argued that the constitution requires a judge to approve a search warrant when a wired informant enters someone’s home as opposed to meeting them on the street, in a car or in a restaurant. In Brion, the court held:
“Because the right to privacy in one’s domain is sacrosanct, we hold that Article 1 § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution precludes the police from sending a confidential informer into the home of an individual to electronically record his conversations.” 3
The Superior Court reasoned that a clear and unambiguous reading of both Supreme Court precedent and enacted legislation requires independent probable cause for every intercept in a private residence under both the state and federal constitutions. 4
“Because society places a higher expectation of privacy in a face-to-face conversation taking place within an individual’s home compared to a telephone conversation, a 30-day period of time in which to obtain such in-home intercepted communications does not comport with the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” 5
Although the Superior Court’s decision is positive for advancing protections against illegal search and seizures, the decision will likely be appealed.
Deputy State Attorney General Michael M. Ahwesh, who prosecuted the case reports, “I fully anticipate we will file an appeal.” 6 The state has two appeal options — requesting a new hearing before a nine-judge panel of the Superior Court or requesting a hearing before the state Supreme Court. 7
The Katona court prefers a state Supreme Court review. The court concluded by writing, “we are cognizant of the fact that this court will not be the final word on this issue. We strongly advocate that our Supreme Court review this case and determine whether our interpretation is in line with its seminal decision in Brion. We recognize this decision has broad ramifications for law enforcement.” 8
Katona, who is currently serving 40 to 80 months in prison for his 2014 conviction on drug charges, could ask a judge to release him on bail pending an appeal. 9
Although dissenting Judge Eugene B. Strassburger argued that “requiring police to seek a judge’s approval each time they sent the informant into the home would be a burden”, most constitutional protections, “including the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures, are supposed to be burdensome,” says Katona’s attorney Paul Boas. “It is burdensome to get a warrant, read a suspect the Miranda warnings, pick a jury and hold a trial.”
“This is a democracy. It’s not supposed to be easy. We’re in big trouble the day law enforcement stops complaining about how hard it is for them.” 10
1 Pittsburgh Action News 4, Nov.11, 2014, Former Pagans head guilty, sentenced for drugs. Deputy Attorney General says it appears Katona was dealing the drugs “on his own. We don’t think the club was involved.”
2 Com. v. Katona, D. No. 1995 WDA 2014, 2016 PA Super 269. p.3 “The crux of appellant’s suppression claim is whether the June 29th search was unconstitutional because it was based on a May 16, 2011 order signed by Judge John Blahovic that authorized consensual intercepts by a conﬁdential informant (“CI”) over a 30-day period in appellant’s home. Speciﬁcally, as a result of numerous in-home intercepts, probable cause was established for the full search of appellant’s home. Appellant asserts that the May 16th order violated our Supreme Court’s decision in Brion, in that it allowed for unlimited intercepts in his home over a period of 30 days.”
3 Commonwealth v. Brion, [652 A.2d 287 (Pa. 1994),] and as codiﬁed in 18 Pa.C.S.[A.] § 5704(2)(iv)
4 See Supra Note 1 at p.10 “We ﬁnd that, based on a clear reading and the intent of both the Brion decision and the statute, a separate ﬁnding of probable cause was required for each in-home intercept.”
5 See Supra Note 1 at p.13
6 Tribune Review Live, Court overturns conviction, sentence of former leader of Pagans, Dec.2, 2016. http://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/11578375-74/state-judge-court
8 See Supra Note 1 at p.14
9 See Supra Note 5
Louisiana motorcyclists in the Bossier/Shreveport area may be experiencing a mechanism of profiling that many are unaware of. It has been reported to the MPP that 17 motorcyclists in the area have recently been arrested for wearing bandanas, scarves, and even a bubble shield while riding because it conceals their identities in public. Local law enforcement contends that covering your face in public is a violation of Louisiana’s anti-mask law, LSA-R.S. 14:313, which carries a 6 month to 3 year term of imprisonment. Although every incident has not been confirmed, the MPP spoke to one motorcyclist directly and confirmed that he was arrested for concealing his identity on November 8, 2016.
The law used to justify targeting motorcyclists for wearing masks in Louisiana exists elsewhere. At least 15 states have what experts call “general anti-mask laws” that could be applied to motorcyclists. Applying anti-masking laws to motorcyclists covering their heads and faces with protective gear is an abuse of statute and demonstrative of motorcycle profiling. An exemption for public safety ought to be obvious.
While visiting Louisiana to attend and speak at a state Confederation of Clubs and Independents meeting in Alexandria, the MPP became aware of the alleged arrests for concealing identities in public. The MPP spoke to a member of a motorcycle club in the Bossier/Shreveport area that was able to confirm the validity of the rumors.
Although a traffic pretext was used to justify the stop, the MPP evaluated his citation and he was indeed arrested for concealing his identity, an alleged violation of state code LSA-R.S. 14:313. This individual was on his way to vote in the 2016 National Election. He was denied this opportunity. He was forced to pay a bond in order to obtain his release and as of this writing the issue has not yet been resolved.
(Notably, this same individual has been experiencing a pattern of harassment while riding his motorcycle. 9 days after the mask arrest he was again stopped and harassed for a series of pre-textual infractions preceding more questions about his club affiliations.)
Masks or hoods, wearing in public places prohibited; penalty; exceptions; permit to conduct Mardi Gras festivities, how obtained.
No person shall use or wear in any public place of any character whatsoever, or in any open place in view thereof, a hood or mask, or anything in the nature of either, or any facial disguise of any kind or description, calculated to conceal or hide the identity of the person or to prevent his being readily recognized.
Whoever violates this Section shall be imprisoned for not less than six months nor more than three years.
This Section shall not apply:
- To activities of children on Halloween, to persons participating in any public parade or exhibition of an educational, religious, or historical character given by any school, church, or public governing authority, or to persons in any private residence, club, or lodge room; or,
- To persons participating in masquerade balls or entertainments, to persons participating in carnival parades or exhibitions during the period of Mardi Gras festivities, to persons participating in parades or exhibitions of minstrel troupes, circuses, or other dramatic or amusement shows, or to promiscuous masking on Mardi Gras which are duly authorized by the governing authorities of the municipality in which they are held or by the sheriff of the parish if held outside of an incorporated
All persons having charge or control of any of the festivities set forth in paragraph (2) of this Section shall, in order to bring the persons participating therein within the exceptions contained in paragraph (2), make written application for and shall obtain in advance of the festivities from the mayor of the city, town, or village in which the festivities are to be held, or when the festivities are to be held outside of an incorporated city, town, or village, from the sheriff of the parish, a written permit to conduct the festivities. A general public proclamation by the mayor or sheriff authorizing the festivities shall be equivalent to an application and permit.
Originally the Louisiana law against wearing masks and hoods in public was motivated by the Ku Klux Klan wearing hoods and masks concealing their identity while they terrorized and intimidated others. Louisiana’s law makes exemptions for Halloween and Mardi Gras, but none for public safety. Although clearly not the intent of the law, motorcyclists covering their faces to avoid bugs, wind, and rain may be subject to arrest.
Considering Louisiana’s mandatory helmet requirement based on public safety, the absurdity of applying anti-mask laws to motorcyclists is further demonstrated. Every helmet covers a motorcyclists head similar to a hood and all motorcyclists wear eye protection. The very act of riding a motorcycle legally requires concealment. A motorcyclist wearing a full face helmet could be arrested for concealing their identity if anti-mask laws apply. Remember, a full face helmet is considered the best protection among experts that advocate helmets.
Some states that have similar laws have anticipated such conflicts and include an exemption for safety or sporting activities in their anti-mask statutes. But 15 states, including Louisiana, have more general statutes that could lead to these abusive applications. In fact, “general anti-mask laws proscribe the simple concealment of physical identity in public, regardless of coexistent criminal activity. Individuals have been prosecuted under general anti-mask laws for wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, for dressing in the clothing and wearing the makeup of the individual’s opposite sex, and for placing a leaflet between the individual’s face and eyeglasses.”
Numerous strategies may exist to combat anti-mask laws being applied to motorcyclists. Judicially, filing for a Declaratory Judgement arguing that the statute is unconstitutional is another option, although this has been attempted and has not always been successful.
“The conflicting court decisions, along with the varying scope of anti- mask laws themselves, reflect the uncertainty concerning when, if ever, the government can constitutionally ban public mask-wearing. Further complicating this area of the law is the apparent political bias of some of the courts that have ruled on the challenges.”
Legislatively, an anti-motorcycle profiling law would eliminate discriminatory pretext stops at the source. Also, adding an exemption to state statute for safety and sport, including motorcycling, would prevent abuse and preserve the original intent of the law.
 https://casetext.com/case/opinion-number-95-188 Attorney General of Louisiana — Opinion 95-188 (Ops. La. Atty. Gen. 1995)
 Stephen J. Simoni, “Who Goes ere?” — Proposing a Model Anti-Mask Act, 61 Fordham L. Rev. 241 (1992). Available at: h p:// ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ r/vol61/iss1/16
 See Ala. Code § 13A-11-9(a)(4) (1982); Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1301(l)(g) (1987 & Supp. 1990); D.C. Code Ann. § 22-3112.3 (1989); Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 876.11-.16 (West 1976 & Supp. 1992); Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-38 (1988 & Supp. 1991); La. Rev. Stat.
Ann. § 14:313 (West 1986); Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.396 (1991); Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.735 (West 1987); N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-22-3 (Michie 1984); N.Y. Penal Law § 240.35(4) (Mc- Kinney 1989); N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-12.7 to .11 (1986); Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 1301 (C 1983); S.C. Code Ann. § 16-7-110 (Law. Co-op. 1976); Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-309(c) (1991); Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-422 (Iichie 1988); W. Va. Code § 61-6-22 (1989).
 Simoni, page 242
 Simoni, page 244
Source:: Bikers Arrested for Wearing Bandanas
Does a person have the right to film police officers in public? Despite clear precedent, the MPP has received the inquiry many times. This is a particularly relevant question relating to developing a “pattern of evidence” that proves motorcycle profiling is occurring. Indeed, video of police profiling motorcyclists was critical to passing the law addressing motorcycle profiling in both Washington State and Maryland.
As Americans, we should all be able to agree that the right to be present in a public place and gather information about an ongoing public concern is fundamental to a free society. This is the essence of political expression, political speech, and a free press, particularly when discussing issues of government accountability.
To deny the right to gather information in a public space would deprive the public knowledge about government abuses. Without this knowledge there is no impetus for advancing police accountability.
Millie Thompson, an attorney from Austin involved in both the criminal and civil proceedings stemming from the Waco tragedy that occurred on May 17, 2015, recently discussed the issue on social media. Thompson writes:
For those of you who don’t know:
We have co-equal rights to 1) be present in a public place, 2) gather information on a matter of public concern, and 3) speak on a matter of public concern. Police officers – as public officials and agents of the government – are by definition a matter of public concern.
We therefore have the right to film them.
This is not a privilege. It is a Constitutional right. Period.
Filming the police may not be something you would consider doing. You may also not be the type of grab a picket sign and take to the streets to protest something.
Pick a topic about which you are passionate – whatever it is – it doesn’t have to be something I agree with.
Are you passionate about pro-life? Are you passionate about supporting the troops? Or ‘backing the blue?’ Pick a topic that you believe in. The people who support that issue have the same rights as those who disagree with you. Remember do unto others?
You don’t have to agree with a person’s agenda to defend their First Amendment rights around that agenda.
Why defend it? Because it may be you in the future who wants to speak about an issue. Or – it may be you who wants to gather information about government actors so that you have something interesting to say when you do speak.
Do you believe in government accountability? Don’t people need to know what the government is doing in order to hold them accountable?
The right to express information relating to an ongoing public concern often frames discussions concerning the 1st Amendment. Less commonly understood is the equally fundamental right to gather that information. Moreover, in an era of cell phone videos and social media the courts have granted individual citizens the same fundamental right to gather information in public as it has traditionally afforded the credentialed press.
In Buehler v. City of Austin (2014), the federal court concludes that the right to film the police in public derives from “foundational and long-standing principles of constitutional law.”
“A private citizen has the right to assemble in a public forum, receive information on a matter of public concern—such as police officers performing their official duties—and to record that information for the purpose of conveying that information.”
Despite the fundamental right to record the police, caution is in order. The right is not absolute and without limits. When filming police take care not to break the law or interfere with an officer’s ability to do their jobs.
“[N]either the First Amendment right to receive speech nor the First Amendment right to gather news is absolute.” Davis v. E. Baton Rouge Parish Sch. Bd., 78 F.3d 920, 928 (5th Cir. 1996). An individual is not permitted to break the law in the process of filming the police in public. For example, an individual cannot interfere with the police’s ability to do their job. “Thus, to the extent that an individual, in exercising his First Amendment right to film police officers as they execute their official duties, violates a valid criminal law, he cannot plausibly argue that his First Amendment right acts as a shield that protects him from criminal liability.”
Buehler v. City of Austin et.al., IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS AUSTIN DIVISION, MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER, Case A-13-CV-1100 ML, 7/24/2014
The post Filming Police in Public is a Constitutional Right appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
The battle over motorcycle-only checkpoints is not over. Although Congress banned federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints in the 2015 Fast Act, these discriminatory stops continue in some states without federal assistance. On November 6, 2016 Suﬀolk County Police Highway Patrol Bureau oﬃcers, New York State Police troopers and MTA Police oﬃcers conducted motorcycle safety checkpoints on eastbound Sunrise Highway at exit 55 and eastbound Long Island Expressway. 169 motorcycles were stopped and 54 citations were issued. Checkpoints are a form of motorcycle profiling that impact all motorcyclists. Those cited were independents, not club members.
Cloaked under the justification of safety, motorcycle-only checkpoints unfairly target motorcyclists and motorcycles as a form of transportation. According to the AMA, “Motorcycle–only checkpoints are discriminatory, forcing riders and their passengers to do something not asked of other citizens, simply because we choose to travel on two wheels, or three, instead of four. The AMA believes the money used for these operations could be better spent supporting programs that conduct rider education, reduce distracted driving and encourage motorist awareness of motorcycles.”
What’s the solution? Motorcyclists in New York State should unify and push for a state prohibition against motorcycle profiling which would include discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.
For Immediate Release
November 6, 2016
Incident: Fifty-Four Summonses Issued at Motorcycle Safety Checkpoints
Location: Eastbound Sunrise Highway and Eastbound Long Island Expressway
Date/Time: Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Suffolk County Police Highway Patrol Bureau officers, New York State Police troopers and MTA Police officers conducted motorcycle safety checkpoints today on eastbound Sunrise Highway at exit 55 and eastbound Long Island Expressway between exits 65 and 66.
Officers stopped 169 motorcycles between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. as they passed through the checkpoints and a total of 54 summonses were issued for the following violations:
14 Unlicensed Operator
2 Suspended License
10 Un-inspected Motorcycle
3 Unregistered Motorcycle
2 Uninsured Motorcycle
10 Helmet Not Approved by New York State Department of Transportation
6 Modified/Loud Exhaust System
1 Other Equipment Violations
6 Failure to Comply with Lawful Order
A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Authority: Timothy D. Sini, Police Commissioner
16-351243 Suffolk County Police Department VC/1835