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Targeting motorcyclists for traffic stops

The presence of motorcycle-only checkpoints throughout the country are generally thought to date back to a 2006 incident in New York when an officer was killed pursuing a motorcyclist. The next year, police set up roadblocks targeted at motorcyclists, and many were ticketed. Other states then followed suit. However, on Dec. 11, the U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the practice.

Restricting profiling based on vehicle type is done on a state-by-state basis, and Washington, Virginia and Maryland have passed laws doing so. The precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court is that if the police officer can justify the traffic stop after the fact, it does not matter what the motivation was.

One complaint about the traffic stops is that they use taxpayer money to stop motorcyclists who may be breaking minor laws but are not putting anyone in danger. A motorcyclist in New York was stopped at a roadblock because his helmet did not have a DOT sticker. He later filed a complaint that claimed the officer told him to give him the keys. The man refused, and the officer allegedly become angry, shoved the motorcyclist and took him into custody for resisting arrest. A later police investigation said the officer was not in the wrong.

Some people may think that tickets for traffic violations simply must be paid. However, it is possible to fight a traffic ticket. In addition to the cost of the ticket, people might also want to fight a traffic ticket to avoid getting points on their license and to keep the cost of their insurance down. An attorney may be able to help a person strategize regarding how to contest the ticket. It might be possible to introduce doubt into the officer’s account of the traffic stop, or a person may at least be able to get the fine reduced.