Motorcycle Checkpoints May End Up in Supreme Court

Disputing the Constitutionality of Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Motorcyclists across the nation are awaiting a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York which they hope will declare New York's "motorcycle only" roadway checkpoints to be unconstitutional. The case Wagner et al. v. The County of Schenectady, et al. could end up in the United States Supreme Court. The checkpoints, which target well-known motorcycle events, force motorcyclists traveling to and from those events to leave the roadway, regardless of any wrongdoing, and have their vehicles and equipment inspected for safety and non-safety equipment violations and stolen VIN numbers. Motorcyclists have been detained as long as 45 minutes in makeshift stockades while undergoing the inspections. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently began Federal funding for motorcycle checkpoints nationwide in order to assess their effectiveness despite objections raised by members of Congress.

The New York lawsuit is the first to challenge the constitutionality of motorcycle checkpoints. The plaintiffs are being represented by Proner & Proner, a plaintiffs personal injury law firm with a long history of doing "pro bono" legal work on behalf of motorcyclists. The Proner firm commenced the lawsuit on behalf of four motorcyclists who were detained at two separate checkpoints.

The checkpoints are funded by a grant from the New York Governor's Traffic Safety Committee and the troopers who work them are paid overtime. Although the stated purpose of the checkpoints is to promote safety, the majority of the more than a thousand tickets which were issued during the first year of the checkpoints had nothing to do with safety and instead focused on non-safety violations such as loud pipes. The written guidelines for the checkpoints specifically state that one of the purposes of the checkpoints is to look for stolen and forged VINs and the police readily admit that they often have undercover members of their gang and auto theft units working the checkpoints looking for signs of criminal activity.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly made it clear that any roadway checkpoint whose primary purpose is general crime control constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and is presumptively unconstitutional. Notwithstanding that fact, the progress reports which the police prepared on the checkpoints specifically state that the grant funds are used "for overtime for intelligence gathering and the subsequent criminal and traffic enforcement." The police admit that the checkpoints, which focus only on equipment violations and forged and stolen VINs, do not address any of the major causes of motorcycle accidents such as reckless driving, driver inattentiveness and alcohol impairment.

Lawyers for the Plaintiff Riders and Defendant State Police are both seeking summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment claims. The future of motorcyclists' rights hangs in the balance.

Web Staff


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  4. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York rejected all the challengers arguments and upheld the legality of the motorcycle checkpoints.

    "In sum, the court concludes the checkpoints were enacted to promote
    motorcycle safety, a manifest public interest; they were effective in
    addressing this interest; and that any interference with individual liberties
    was not only minimal, but also grossly outweighed by the interest
    advanced. Since the checkpoints were reasonable under the Fourth
    Amendment, there was not a constitutional violation, and defendants are
    entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, defendants’ motion for
    summary judgment is granted and plaintiffs’ cross-motion is denied."

    And by the way, inspections for illegal exhaust systems and the absence of mufflers is a "manifest public interest". If bikers don't like to be inspected and receive tickets they might consider complying with the law in the first place and not call the attention to themselves that has made motorcycle checkpoints necessary.

  5. some of my brothers were detained at a so called (saftey) check point, after sitting there for an hour they walked over the police officer and said whats going on. The officer said opps did i forget to tell you to leave. So thats the kinda stuff there doing at these check points.


  7. Well in City Limits of Myrtle Beach, SC. they tried to enact as such but found later the Supreme Court ruling was they had no authority to do so and that all tickets written with fines would be refunded to the ticket holder with interest. Myrtle Beach Bike week is an annual biker event every year much like the up coming Daytona Bike Week…

    Call it as it is: Biker Harassment and it is Illegal

  8. lf you support the right to LIVE FREE-RIDE FREE,then pull every stall tactic when caught up in one of these illegal checkpoints.Take your time taking off yourhelmet,look in every pocket for your wallet,and don't say anything other than your name.If you are in a car and want to support bikers,pull into the checkpoint and ask for "safety information".If they ask to search you or your bike,refuse.If they have to ask ,they can't do it without your permission.Be nice,if treated nice.If you want to push their buttons and have time to burn,call them"Man" or "Dude".They HATE that.When it's time to leave,your bike could "run out of gas and stall in the detention area.It could spread like a virus and you would have dozens of bikes stalled,clogging up the works.And contact a lawyer if stopped.

  9. Remember the "cold war"? This is the stuff they used to say they did in U.S.S.R. Of course "that" could never happen here because we are in a "free" country.

  10. illegal detention. the people who have available time and disposable $ need to file complaints and tort's against the authorities so it costs them more than they get to do it.

    if the law officer himself does not have a valid safety inspectors license, like i posses, then they have no right to inspect ANYTHING beyond license & registration validity UNLESS you were detained for some obvious 'safety infraction' crating an issue of probable cause.

    check your machine, if there is nothing wrong with it, and you were not violating any moving right to travel, then you do not have to stop for them. if you do, you have the right to file a complaint. that problem is one of which becomes prohibitive due inpart to the actual unrecoverable cost to procede with such a filing.

    file a tort complaint against the officer. make sure you get his name and badge #
    and video of the situation is also advised to capture.

  11. Officers of the Court…Don't think so…they are sworn to uphold the law…Don't think so…WHY do they write BS reports to fit their version of the situation! If you get a ticket for anything, be sure that you look up the vehicle code ("VC") to make sure it's correct. They don't know every single one by heart….If the VC is wrong, the judge has to throw it out…Do your homework.

  12. Having been through a MC Checkpoint I can tell you that there is no way they are looking at illegal activity or safety. They checked my license to insure I have a valid MC license, they checked my insurance card and they checked my directionals, brakes and headlights. Oh, they also made sure my helmet is DOT approved which is odd, because there is no state or federal law requiring the DOT sticker on the helmet AFTER you buy it. So how do they know which helmet are legal???

    That said I am all for MC Checkpoint SO LONG AS they also have Car, Pick Up, SUV and Mini Van check points too. Pull every car off the road for 30 minutes to insure they are "safe" and then I"ll be fine with it.

  13. Mr. Lloyd, if you believe these checkpoints are to protect people, I've got a bridge to sell you. These checkpoints are for revenue and harassment, and not necessarily in that order.

  14. i dont mind being checked for safety ,but why target motorcycles instead of some of these idiot cars that have cut me off because they werent paying attention(i e talking on cells or eating )i have seen many ticket possabilities while i was riding.

  15. God bless America! That being said, chill. The inspections are to protect people not do them harm. Its a pain in the ass, but better safe than sorry. Spend your money on food, bike parts, not litigation!
    Your friendly Canadian neighbour to the north

  16. im a 62yr. old grandma that doesnt do anything wrong on my trike except love the feeling of freedom i get when im riding ,so why would anyone detain me when im on my way to a charity ride,(one of which is for the police youth activities group)or biking for burns for our local hospital.,its not right:@

  17. Hopefully this will also happen in Georgia where Checkpoints are scheduled to stop Motorcycle riders on their way to Daytona beach Bike Week

  18. They're going to be doing this in Georgia beginning in March or April, and I hope the New York court sends the case to the Supreme Court as these "check-points" are for one thing-to harass the average biker because of a bad rep given by bad elements of our group of society. People believe that all bikers are like those portrayed on TV (Sons of Anarchy), and in the movies. They never see all the good that comes from the benefit rides, parties, and general giving nature of bikers. We will help virtually anyone that actually needs the aid, and will generally go out of our way to assist if need be. The police need to back off and fight the real crime that's out there, especially where our kids are involved. 'nuff said……….

  19. Hopefully the Supreme Court will find this activity illegal, and flow it to the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massa chusettes. Being a biker, I now avoid these states. Although my bike is "legal" the Screaming Eagle slip on pipes would earn me a ticket, or worse yet, a day in court, just because there is no "EPA" label on them. Talk about profiling.

  20. Maybe they should do a check point for all those folks weaing suits to make sure they are not violating anything, like thier head to far up thier a$$!

  21. YEA,,Lets do this to them, but HEY,, WE BETTER NOT HAVE THOSE IN Arizona or Calf, for Illega Immagrents,, we WOULDN'T' want to infringe on THERE RIGHTS and all,, My God what is happening to this country,, I can tell you alot of it starts at The White House,,, Wake up AMERICA before it is really to late,, If you think I am going to far with this,,,, Well,, Would you have thought THIS could happen a year ago, with what they are doing to the Motorcyclists ??????? When will some people WAKE UP to this and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT,,,

  22. I have been stopped at ileagal MC check points in GA on US60 outside Suches a popular MC spot. In Lake George, NY during Americade and on US129 in NC leading to the Dragon. This is chicken shit police work looking to steal money from hard working Americans!
    By the way all 3 times I was stopped I was totally legal, but still stopped for no reason with no probable cause.

    I worked for NHTSA for 5 1/2 years and their heads are so far up their ass's they have to open their mouths to take a piss!
    When I went to work for them right out of college I had to retard myself to work at their level.

  23. This is a really important case for rider's rights, and for civil rights for all motorists. Motorcycle-only checkpoints are a clearly unconstitutional case of profiling, and no less offensive than racial profiling.

  24. I had recently read an artical where a policeman has stopped and ticketed a bicycler for exceeding the speed limit on a public street. There has also been a problem at our schools with bicycle theft. I suppose they will next start a bicycle check point for proper equipment, theft, and speeding violations and these are obviously not motor vehicles. I have been an avid biker for 45 years and enjoy a nice ride on a spring day or travel from state to state to visit relatives or ride to Daytona or the mountains of North Carolina. The though of being stopped just for the type of vehicle I choose, is the same as profiling. The goverments of our states think their balls are bigger than any of us law biding citizens. Leave us the hell alone! Stop making excuses for you stupid laws.

  25. Being both a Law Enforcement Officer and a biker, I find this exceptionally illegal. I personally would object to performing this type of checkpoint and if I were subjected to this, I would be seeking an attorney as soon as I can get to one.

    I hope this goes to the US Supreme Court, because I do believe it would be found unconstitutional.

  26. This definitely goes against the constitutional rights of BIkers ,hell Americans in General, Good luck to the riders and the Proner Law Firm. This is slated to happen in others states our taxes paying for LawEnforcement Abuse. Thanks G.F. Moroney

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