Are Motorcycle Only Checkpoints Unconstitutional?

Some of motorcyclists’ rights hangs in 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 motorcycle 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 (supposedly) safety and non-safety equipment violations and stolen VIN numbers.

The legal case (Wagner et al. v. The County of Schenectady, NY et al.) could end up in the United States Supreme Court. Although the stated purpose of the checkpoints is always announced as a way to promote safety, the majority of the more than a thousand tickets which were issued during the first year of the checkpoints in this New-York county had nothing to do with safety and instead focused on non-safety violations such as loud pipes. Motorcyclists have been detained as long as 45 minutes while undergoing the inspections.

These motorcycle checkpoints are financed by a grant from the New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the guidelines state that one of the purposes of the checkpoints is to look for stolen and forged VINs.The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly confirmed that any checkpoint whose primary purpose is general crime control constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and is presumptively unconstitutional. Police admits 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. (written with the help of US Rider News)

38 Responses to “Are Motorcycle Only Checkpoints Unconstitutional?”

  1. 1 CHOPMONSTER66 Feb 19th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    just another way to milk the good citizens of america out of more money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and that is all ..hell i know cops with bikes that do not meet all safty standerds , put loud pipes on for them and removed signels ect..

  2. 2 fausto Feb 19th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

  3. 3 Jack Feb 19th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Commercial trucks have to do it and have for decades.

    Lots of bikers without Motorcycle license. Wonder if they will inspect exhaust systems?

  4. 4 Larry R Feb 19th, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Just another example of the Maritime law that we have been in since World War II. Let’s face it , the United States Government is at war with it’s people, i.e,, you and me. No if’s, and’s, but’s or ors. Hopefully some day soon the people will get off their ass and do something about it. Just saying.

  5. 5 Dave Blevins Feb 19th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    This is nothing like commercial freight truck drivers or thier inspections. Commercial trucking involves hauling of heavy weights, large vehicles with limited visibility and stopping distances, the transport of flammable or even explosive items, hazarous gases, etc. Not to mention, commercial trucks are on the road almost constantly which causes rapid wear on the vehicles and thier operators. There are also produce haulers which must be inspected to prevent harmful insects from infesting the country, hell, the list goes on and on.
    What this subject covers is police that are collecting info about patch holders and thier travel patterns, all while being able to write a citation here and there while under the guise of public safety. The cops are just too chicken s*#t to call it what it really is out of fear of retalliation… and the rest of us are forced to tolerate the harassment and suffer thier poor police work.

  6. 6 Wiz Feb 20th, 2011 at 6:28 am


  7. 7 Bigalyts Feb 20th, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Dave Blevins, Your description of the difference between the Trucking Industry is Perfect. I’d say Jack is more a Trucker, and a lot less of a Rider ! The insulit of that comparrisin, pisses me off. Truckers cause more Highway Accidents and fatalities to Motorcyclist then anyone or any Cage. a lot of them Haul Overloaded, cause that is the only reason that they can afford to Haul, so they claim ! So what we have is 10 – 28 Tires and Wheels weighing 400 – 500 Lbs. each running down the Highways with a GVW of 160,000 Lbs. that if they had to Stop suddenly, would either Flip or Tip ALL THE TIME. Shit I ran over a Piece of Fencing a mile past the last Tip Over in Miami on I-195 few months ago. I say take the $75,000 that the NT&SF and put some more TRUCK Inspections and DOT Inspectors, stopping every 5th Truck in Georgia. Us Biker’s will promiise to slow down when we pass the Inspections on our way through, your fine State !!

  8. 8 Dr Robert Harms Feb 20th, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Commercial trucks are engaged in intra and inter state commerce and motorcyclists are not

  9. 9 Zoomer Feb 20th, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Bigalyts, I hate to disagree with you, but per mile traveled commercial trucks in the United States have one of the BEST safety records of any vehicle in use on our Interstate Highway system. They are required to adhere to some of the most stringent safety, usage and emission laws in effect today. Yes, I am a “trucker”, but I am also a RIDER. I don’t put as many miles on my bike (the only personal vehicle I OWN), but you’d be hard pressed to find many people that ride as much as I do for the time they have available. I’ve been on two wheels since my first mini-bike 41 years ago and average 2,000 mi a month during the summer. My “trucking” record simply speaks for itself though. 2 MILLION miles traveled over 20 yrs with NO chargeable accidents and NO moving violations. There are many states that use their weigh stations just as New York is using these checkpoints, to make MONEY. And as long as WE (all riders) keep sniping at each other for differences OFF our bikes, then we’ll be too busy to present a united front when we are attacked by outside forces!!

  10. 10 James @ Open Road Biker Feb 20th, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I have to back zoomer up here, I was an OTR driver before I came on active duty and my father has been an OTR driver since before I was born (I am 39). Neither of us have any accidents and we both ride. Some of the statements that you make bygalyts are over exagerated quite a bit. The main trucks that you will see that may be overweight (illegal) are usually local dumps, and usually the only reason for that is because it’s not too easy to measure weight by sight. There are a minority that do run overweight knowingly and in my experience that has usually been very small companies or owner operators trying to make an extra buck but it is not quite as many as you would think. A truck without a permit is allowed to gross 80,000 lbs, most trucks have to be built specifically to handle a gross of 160,000 lbs and those will be with permitted loads. One more thing, Georgia allready treats the trucker pretty bad, especially when they pull you over for a DOT inspection not on an off or on ramp, nor a rest stop, but on the side of the interstate. Plus they have chicken coops (inspection stations) on every interstate entrance to the peach state.

    With all of that being said, the stuff put into place for trucks is not about profiling, the motorcycle only safety checks are and need to be done away with.

  11. 11 Mike Tomas, Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Co Feb 20th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I have to do the whole inspection station thing with my rig running to various motorcycle shows around the US. Zoomer is very correct and I have found truckers to be very safe, respectful in general and most helpful. Many are motorcyclists themselves. If anyone has ever gone into the scale houses most officials are extremely rude and we are considered guilty almost every time. Some have said as an introduction “so what are you guilty of today” wow am I really in the United States of America. I was in a small town in Texas (Sonora) to take my family in for breakfast coming back from Daytona. The DOT officer Joe David West pulled me up for no reason at all. We met at the rear of my truck and he asked “do you know why I stopped you”. I replied “no sir, I know I was not speeding. ” His reply was” yes you are right, I saw a nice truck with California plates”. He ran me through the ringer for 5 hours just because.
    There is no doubt us motorcyclists are loosing our rights and are being targeted unfairly.
    There is an old American saying “follow the green”. Its all about the money!!!

  12. 12 tattooeddmike Feb 20th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Welcome to Amerika!!! Money, money, money. Just what the government wants is in your pocket!

  13. 13 Freedomlaw Feb 20th, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Rider, former cop, and attorney here. This is simply the latest effort made by government under the guise of public safety to take away freedom. It frustrates me to no end. My government searches me about ten times a week on average — every court visit and every jail visit. I am searched at airports, and now subject to search when I take the subway. I am stopped once a year or so for a sobriety check point. I believe the described behavior is a violation of the fourth amendment, but my opinion is irrelevant. To those who have not been watching, the Bill of Rights is largely a dead letter since the government declared war on drugs. I was a police officer for many years. So much has changed. I was trained that you did not point a firearm at someone unless you were prepared to kill them. Now police are trained that pointing guns at people deters them from resisting authority. Police dress as soldiers like an occupying army. If you look at the literature of police recruiting, you would think you were applying for the special forces. The problem of course is that when government makes the citizenry the enemy, we citizens begin to lose respect for — and loyalty to – our government. This is a misguided policy which leads to very unfortunate disrespect for law and lawful authority. Moreover, the officers ordered to engage in such enforcement learn that power — not reason — is the great persuader. Ho Chi Min would be proud. In the meantime, the primary skill set of a policy officer — community problem solver — is lost in the process. For shame on the policy and good luck in the United States District Court.

  14. 14 Mike Greenwald Feb 20th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The people that enjoy comparing inspections of private use vehicles versus commercial use vehicles are pedestrian in their viewpoint. Understanding what laws apply to you and the vehicles that you operate may be important to you.

    Just because legislators or regulatory agencies create laws, there is no guarantee that any law is constitutional. There are avenues that you may pursue in your quest to prove that the law that you allegedly violated is unconstitutional.

    When you operate a motorcycle, do not believe for one moment that the LEOs that cite you know the law nor the application of the law. This ignorance of the law can and will cost you money. Voluntary offers of remuneration by you to the government, for these alleged transgressions, is called a bribe. Involuntary payment may be called a fine or theft or armed robbery.

    Operation of a motorcycle by you neither puts you nor the motorcycle under suspicion of anything. There is no probable cause based upon anything involved with motorcycles nor operation of a motorcycle.

    The majority of the motorcycle only checkpoints have little to nothing to do with safety. If you belive that the government is operating constitutionally in these stops, climb into your minivan and sell your motorcycle.

  15. 15 deadwood1783 Feb 20th, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I am astounded that so many people seem to believe the government cares about their safety. Safety is just a curtain they hide behind to take more and more of our personal liberties and freedoms. We can not afford to sit on the sidelines and do nothing as the government continues its march towards totalirarianism. The time is now to contact every elected official and be heard. Once they get these checkpoints for motorcycles up and running, who will be the next target? Those of you who think this is just an inconvience must have partaken of the “Kool-Aid”. If you don’t care about this, where will you draw the line. Sooner or later they WILL come for something you DO care about. Just like the Nazi’s did. You may think it a stretch to campare these “Safety Checkpoints” to the atrocities of the Nazi’s. However, if you will look at history, you will see that chipping away a little at time and using propaganda such as “it’ll make you safer” or “its for the greater good” is exactly the way it was done then. It is exactly what “our” government is doing now as well.

  16. 16 Jim Compton Feb 20th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    (That this case will be going to court)
    By the way, this is a motorcycle blog, not a trucker blog.
    There can be no comparison between the two as motorcyclists are MOTORISTS
    persuing travel in a private vehicle, the same as a family going to Disneyland or the park in their SUV,
    while truckers are engaged in commerce and subject to laws and inspections governing that enterprise.
    So quit with the trucker talk and get back on topic.
    ON THE TOPIC of checkpoints, California Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries has introduced a bill
    to change the wording of the vehicle code by one word – from “ANY” to “A”. This may not seem like much but it would
    effectively stop the Office of Traffic Safety from issuing “grants” to law enforcement agencies that use these grants to
    set up motorcycle only checkpoints in this state from the way I have read it.
    So any California bikers reading this, shoot Jefferies an email of either thanks or support.
    These checkpoints are getting out of hand, locally & nationally. With LaHood and his lacky Strickland
    handing out federal money for these checkpoints it seems only the court ruling in New York will put a stop to them.
    Kudos to Proner & Proner and all my best wishes to the bikers they are representing.

  17. 17 Boomer Feb 20th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    This will likely be ruled unconstitutional, but just as in the current health care law under under review, it will take a long time. How many tickets will be given out in the meantime and will NY by required to pay back all the monies it receives during these unlawful “motorcycle only” check points?

    This is really nothing new. Just a variant of biker harassment most folks who’ve been riding for a long time remember all too well.

    As mentioned already, comparing this to truck check points doesn’t fly in the face of reason or law and as pointed out by Cyril, has nothing to do with safety. There’s a nationwide movement, primarily in Liberal states right now, to force bikers to homogenize their exhaust systems. I guess that’s what happens when hippies from the 60’s become old elitists.

  18. 18 Bigfoot Feb 20th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I have driven trucks and I would rather trust my Harley in the same emergency swerve or stopping situation. I average 50,000 a year on the bike and always make sure that everything works before I start a trip or even a short ride. There arn’t to many second chances when a bike gets hit or something gives way due to wear. My life depends on knowing everything works when it has to. I don’t keed some state inspection that wants to check my bedroll or bags to tell me that I am safe.
    Big brother sticks it to us again is what this sounds like. We should all meet at an area just short of all these check points and enter with a few thousand bikes and just roll through. See what they do then. Show them what we think of this new line of bull they are peddleing

  19. 19 Jack Feb 20th, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    To clarify: I am against these stops. I can just see trucks being used as precedent if this action gets challenged.

  20. 20 Gas Man Feb 20th, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    This should end the debate.

    “The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly confirmed that any checkpoint whose primary purpose is general crime control constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and is presumptively unconstitutional.”

    That is why they are illegal in the State of Michigan.

  21. 21 Harry from OK Feb 21st, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Yes, nuff said.

  22. 22 Chief Waldo Feb 21st, 2011 at 11:37 am

    The bottom line is that governments want money and know they can only openly tax people so much. After that, it’s all about hidden taxes.

  23. 23 Jim Gianatsis / Feb 21st, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks Gas Man for your input. Also…

    Anything in America can be proven unconstitutional with enough money and lawyers.

    Why must car owners have smog checks and motorcycle owners do not? Why must car drivers in every state wear seat belts, but motorcycle riders in every states do not have to wear a helmet. It goes both ways.

    Why should government workers be paid higher salaries, lifetime retirement benefits with health care when the other Americans in the private sector with the same jobs who paid the taxes for the government jobs, get none of that. And our states and our country is going into bankruptcy because of this too high cost of government employees.

    American military personel can retire after 25 years with a pension and health care! Is that fair? For a person who joined after high school at age 18 and had a desk job, they can retire at age 43. Shouldn’t they have to work to work to age 62 and get Social security only, like the rest of us?

  24. 24 Warrior Poet Feb 21st, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Well Jim, it’s even better than that! They only have to serve 20 years, not 25. Emphasis on the word “serve.” Maybe you want to take your uninformed ass back to school, if you can afford it. Oh wait, if YOU had served you could go on the GI Bill.

  25. 25 Todd8080 Feb 21st, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    They can and will get away with motorcycle-only checkpoints because not only are we a tiny minority compared to cagers, most people who don’t ride hate motorcyclists (for a variety of reasons).

    The bottom line is, if enough people want something to happen it will, and it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not. Just look at Hoka Hey.

  26. 26 James @ Open Road Biker Feb 22nd, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Jim, go give this country 1 year of your life, away from your family, in a combat zone and then you have the right to say something about military retirement. BTW, warrior poet is right it is 20 years when you are eligible to retire and get 50% of your base pay. What they don’t tell you is the military doesn’t have to let you retire at that time, they can make you stay for up to 30 years according to your rank at the time, but your retirement goes up 2.5% every year over 20. Also when you retire, the military and our government can call you back anytime they want. Serving in the military is like no civilian job you will work, I know, been there done that, I didn’t go active duty until I was 26, before that I had worked as an OTR driver, and worked in FAB shops welding. We don’t get paid overtime, we sometimes put in 7 day weeks, 12-24 hour days (yes 24 hours and then start all over, grab a 15 minute nap and carry on). From now on Jim Talk about something you know about.

  27. 27 Jeff Nicklus Feb 22nd, 2011 at 10:44 am

    James @ Open Road Biker,


    Over & Out,


  28. 28 TK Feb 22nd, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Jim Gianatsis, I always thought you were an American.

  29. 29 cwglide Feb 23rd, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Looks pretty clear to me, the 4th amendment doesn’t say anything about “Except if persons riding a motorcycle”,,,,,,

  30. 30 Q-Ball Feb 26th, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Join ABATE & MRF. Donate your time and spare coin to help fight unjust anti-biker legislation.

  31. 31 live2rideaglide Feb 28th, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    For the past several years Tennessee troopers have been conducting patrol and biker checks on
    the Snake and Tail of the Dragon. I have seen long lines of motorcycles being stopped and checked. Didn’t see any sports cars or etc. stopped. I don’t know all the legal mumbo-jumbo , I’m
    just an American citizen who wonders why I get randomly stopped and they don’t. I guess an almost 60yr old fat guy on a full-dresser seems like a threat. P.S. They said if you don’t like it , don’t come back to Tennessee. freedom-glider.

  32. 32 Pete Mar 16th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    It’d be nice if the checkpoints did address some of the major causes of motorcycle accidents such as reckless driving, driver inattentiveness and alcohol impairment and maybe actually help lower motorcycle accidents.

  33. 33 Safety Officer Bob Marshall Apr 14th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    As an elected officer for Abate local 27 here in Riverside ca, I can tell you these checkpoints are very real and descriminating! The state is usung safety dollars to descriminate against a specific group of people. Untill most motorcycle riders are organized and active in groups (Abate) we will not have the leg to stand on to tell our politicians, law makers and law enforcers how unpopular and descriminating these check points are! They are not aimed twards safety, they are only aimed twards the all mighty dollar. Motorcycleist are being laughed at over this issue because we are not organized enough! Send an email, protest in public and join your local Abate so we may all come out of this with our freedoms of the road we pay for!

  34. 34 Blksam May 29th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    If you are stopped at any mc only checpoint,contact a lawyer.Lawsuits are the only way to stop this.Can you imagine Hispanic only checpoints?We have a rash of illegals driving with no license and killing people in crashes.Should we start pulling all hispanic drivers over to catch the few illegal ones?NO! That would be a violation of their civil rights.What happened to our civil rights?I would like to see a protest run on Washington.We have backed DEE Snider on his Biker For Babies runs,now it’s time for Him to pay it back.We’ll call it the “WE’RE NOT GONNA’ TAKE IT” RUN.Picture it,Dee leading the roar of 100,000 bikers all singing the 80’s hit on the great lawn.Anyone have his cell number? These are our rights,why should we give them up without a fight?

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