The War of Attrition to Regain Our Liberties: Fighting NC's Helmet Law
Date: Friday, April 27 2007 @ 04:13:10 PDT
Topic: Motorcycles What's Hot and What's Not

Written by FastFred Ruddock, April 2, 2007

Sometimes it is more important to stand up and fight for your rights
than if you win or lose individual battles. Old timers in the battle
against North Carolina's helmet law told me they were impressed I was
even able to get as far as I did in bringing my case through the
court system. They also admonished me that I may never get the chance
again and should savor this experience. Apparently they feel the
state keeps a list of "trouble makers" in their database so when a
tag number is entered in a computer the police officer knows whether
or not to issue a helmet ticket. I can neither confirm nor deny this
theory at this time. However when I ride in North Carolina I still
decide and plenty of police officers have seen me do so yet none have
made any effort to issue me another helmet ticket. CLICK read more..

To keep everything in perspective that it is the law rather than the
device I oppose: I wore my full face DOT helmet through the full
length of I-26 in South Carolina. However I removed that helmet for
my 100 plus mile ride from the state line of North Carolina to Bryson
City deep in the Smoky Mountains. I passed many state troopers and
local police officers along my freedom ride to court. However none of
these law enforcement officers made any effort to deter or stop me
let alone issue another ticket for violating NC G.S. 20-140.4. I
arrived in Bryson City and settled in before dark. I was required to
be present in court prior to 9 AM to oppose my helmet ticket. I rode
past the Bryson City Police Department as they changed shifts on my
way to court; many police officers were in the parking lot by their
cars as I rode by without a helmet and they all stopped and stared
hard yet none made an effort to pursue.

I arrived early to court to a nearly empty courtroom. The bailiff at
the metal detector smiled and told me I looked well prepared with my
huge stack of paperwork. I took a seat near the front of the
courtroom for what would prove to be a long and educational day. By
9:00 AM the courtroom was packed to standing room only. When roll was
called I got a sneaky suspicion the District Attorney or DA knew who
I was as he looked right at me when he called my name; I confirmed I
was pleading not guilty and representing myself. Most present in the
courtroom were content to merely surrender to the DA without a fight
and pay fines of $100 or more dollars and court cost ranging upwards
to $300 or more. The greatest majority of folks were processed in far
under 5 minutes as they paid the state fines without a fight. While I
did not count the number present I suggest it would be reasonable to
say the number processed easily exceeded 100.

As the day wore on it became clear they intended to empty the
courtroom prior to hearing my case. I suspect they were afraid of
educating the masses present about their rights and ability to do
more than just surrender and pay. Keep in mind putting up a fight in
no way increases the fines or court costs you pay following these
methods. Finally there were only four of us in the courtroom and the
DA asked my companions why they where present and if they had
business; FU let them know he was present in my support. I was then
called forward. When I took my seat at the defense table two opposing
lawyers took their places at the prosecution's table. This really
tickled me that they were so worried about this case they were
willing to pay two lawyers to oppose one longhaired hillbilly biker
with no lawyer. I smiled to myself confident they had already wasted
far more money than the maximum fine and court costs I could be
ordered to pay.

Then things really got interesting and it all seemed like a well
choreographed production. The female lawyer began asking the state
trooper various simple questions about who he was and what he did for
a living as if we did not know based upon his uniform. The most
interesting tidbit of information was he had been a trooper for six
years. Then she asked him to relate what happened before and during
the stop. At this point the trooper lied on the stand before changing
his testimony to that he could not remember or recall if I was
wearing anything upon my head. I am relatively sure this was a
planned maneuver to ****** me into taking the stand when my case was
in reality based solely upon points of law. On the other hand the DA
grilled the trooper about the fact he never determined if I even had
a helmet that met with his approval.

One of the more interesting or rather entertaining moments was when
the DA introduced into evidence an article from the Full Throttle of
the Carolinas magazine I had written. It was at this moment I both
felt foolish and at the same time the desire to laugh. I wondered
just how long it took these two nerdy looking lawyers to dig up that
piece of evidence. Then the thought of how many hours and resources
the state had been invested into my case before I even arrived at the
courthouse entered my mind. At that moment I realized regardless how
the case turned out I had indeed won a moral victory. The female
lawyer read from my article and it was all I could do not to laugh or
smirk. I have a strong feeling I was not the only one trying to keep
a straight face. At this point as my assistants taking notes in the
audience lost concentration and omitted a few items. She relished
reading about how I rode away from the stop without a helmet and how
many lidless miles I enjoyed that day.

The final quote she read from the article seemed to really fire up
the state: "The lidless rides will continue and you are invited to
join in the fun."

Another important thing to remember when going to court and taking
part in civil disobedience is that psychology will be used against
you. Police officers and DAs are trained to use psychology to
manipulate citizens and defendants. When I attempted to enter into
evidence letters and statements from NCDOT and NHSTA the DA told a
lie or rather used a blanket statement in an attempt to summarily
dismiss my entire stash of evidence. The trick worked initially.
However when I began my final arguments the judge told me I must use
points of law to backup my case. I responded and told him that my
points of law and brief along with all my exhibits had been refused
by the DA as hearsay. The judge raised an eyebrow and made the DA re-
examine my court brief. She did not look happy but had to relent and
allow the brief to be submitted to the judge. I now suppose much of
my materials could have been entered into evidence had I known more
about the rules of evidence.

The judge spent a great deal of time reading my brief of case
complete with many points of law supporting my case. He took copious
notes and appeared to be quite engaged with the reading. After
studying the materials for nearly 15 minutes he looked up and
said, "Mr. Ruddock I am very impressed with your brief." (Statement
of Case brief 1.04 MB PDF) However I failed to gain standing to make
a constitutional challenge because I misspoke at the traffic stop, in
print, and in court. My mistake was referring to my chosen "safety
helmet" with any words other than "safety helmet" such as "head
cover" or hat. As a result the judge found me responsible and I was
fined $25 and charged $75 in court costs.

The judge seemed to really enjoy the case and looked as if he might
laugh as he read out the minimal fine and court costs that are
mandated by the Legislature for this infraction. The bailiffs patted
me on the back as I left and told me I did one fine job representing
myself. One of the bailiffs also has a bike similar to mine it turns
out. My friend FU asked the state trooper who ticketed me if he would
be willing to take a photo with us by the bike. Trooper Crisp
respectfully declined due to an official policy.

While I may have paid $100 please keep in mind the state had to pay
two lawyers, one judge, two bailiffs, two state troopers, and at
least two clerks. Additionally the courthouse stayed open beyond
normal hours to complete my case and other clerks were working in the
clerk's office. How much was spent prior to court in research,
planning, and rehearsals is anyone's guess but I bet it was a lot
more than $100. Prior to my case being heard the troopers last case
was hours before mine. I take some solace in knowing I kept two state
troopers off the highway all day long. Additionally FU pointed out to
me the trooper seemed in a hurry as he left; FU supposed the trooper
did not want to see me ride off yet again with no lid.

Considering it took the state over an hour to deal with me and with
simple math you realize that as few as seven bikers could tie up a
court room for a full day. When you realize there are over 160,000
bikers in North Carolina the lag becomes 23,000 days. Considering NC
has 100 counties and there are 365 days in a year the actual delay
works out to one year for the entire system if court was held every
single workday in every single courtroom in the state. This would
prove to cost society far more in enforcing this law than any
imagined social burden our enemies speak of with forked tongues
before the legislature. Now imagine if every biker simply went out
and got just a single ticket and fought that ticket in court much as
I have done. Either the law would be repealed or enforcement would
end but either way we would win!

Acknowledgments: It is my wish to extend my deep heart felt thanks to
ALL the bikers who helped make this effort possible. Without your
material, legal, and moral support none of this would have been
possible. The list is very long and with the great danger of missing
some who deserve special thanks I'll list a few who made significant
contributions: Jerry, Gypsy, Quig, Roach, Warren, Kit, Wendy, Roger,
Missy, FU, Lynn and many others.

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