New York Federal Appeals Court Upholds Motorcycle Roadblocks

The Court of Appeals for the New York Second Circuit backs roadblocks for the purpose of issuing citations.

In 2007, the New York State Police began using federal taxpayer grant money to target these motorcyclists with the stated objective “to detect motorcycle safety violations and ensure proper registration and operator compliance with New York State’s motorcycle license requirements.

The first roadblock was set up on October 7, 2007 to hit participants returning from a motorcycle rally nearby in Connecticut. Signs were posted on Interstate 84 ordering motorcycle riders to “exit ahead” while a uniformed police officer directed traffic into a rest area. From there, a total of 280 motorcyclists were detained and forced to undergo “full-blown inspections” that generated 104 traffic tickets. The most common citation was for improper helmet.

In 2008, a total of 17 roadblocks were held, detaining 2278 motorcyclists who were issued 600 tickets for infractions that had nothing to do with safety. Another 365 citations were issued for use of an unapproved helmet. Several detained bikers sued the state police after they were detained 45 minutes or more.

US District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe had rejected the motorcyclists’ argument that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to this case. To get around the constitutional need for individualized suspicion of wrongdoing before a seizure, courts have created a “special needs” doctrine that allows roadblock programs serving a particular government need. Here, the state produced statistics that showed motorcycle fatalities dropped 17 percent in the same year that motorcycle helmet ticketing increased 2175 percent, and Judge Sharpe agreed this was proof that the roadblock’s primary purpose was safety. Courts then must balance whether the government need to enhance safety is greater than the interference with individual liberty. The appellate judges agreed with the lower court’s analysis that it was.

“Applying this balancing test, we conclude that the well catalogued public interest in highway safety is well served by the safety checkpoint program and outweighs the interference with individual liberty in this case,” the second circuit ruled in a brief, summary opinion. “Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that there was no constitutional violation.” A copy of the summary order of November 29, 2012 is available by following this LINK.

24 Responses to “New York Federal Appeals Court Upholds Motorcycle Roadblocks”

  1. 1 Mike Greenwald Dec 7th, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Now they want you to give up your Big Gulp, guns, cigarettes, money and Krispy Kremes. They want to inspect your head and your tail. Howyadoin’?

  2. 2 Boots Dec 7th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    It looks like to me, the Constitution doesn’t mean squat anymore!

  3. 3 GuitarSlinger Dec 7th, 2012 at 11:15 am

    A simple reality check here . Its NY States laws . It is their Constitutional Right ( you might want to try reading the US Constitution before commenting or criticizing ) to both create and defend them . So when traveling thru NY State … either follow the Laws of the Land you’re in …. or Pay the Piper his due for breaking them .

    Your other option of course being … don’t ride within the confines of a State who’s laws you do not approve of and are unwilling to follow .

    Just because you do not agree with a particular States Laws does not make those laws wrong , nor does it grant you the right to break them without incurring what ever penalty those laws may require . Pardon me if that wisdom might require a certain level of Maturity as well as Historical Knowledge in order to be comprehended

  4. 4 ROGUE Dec 7th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    New York Federal Appeals Court Upholds Motorcycle Roadblocks
    This case goes back to October 2007 and has been dragging through the courts since then, over five (5) years. Though there seems to be some progress from the Richard Proner Law Firm it seems to be very slow.
    Yes I do realize these things take time or so we are told by lawyers and those who want to drag these issues out like law enforcement who are still able to issue tickets while all this is going on.
    I do believe I read somewhere that Proner is a AIM attorney and though many people seem to support Richard Lester and his organization I have not seen a lot of progress or victories from this organization.
    It appears too many they would like keep these things going in court while they say we are doing the best we can and every time we lose we will come back and continue the fight. But then again they are lawyers so I guess that can be expected.
    Though this approach is approved by many I believe the motorcyclist of New York should also use other methods as well. How about contacting your legislators in Washington DC and suggest they cut funding to the NHTSA and other agencies funding state agencies doing these stops. Watch how quick the stops go away if the outside funding does. Hey times are hard and money is tight all over the country and the Federal Government is saying they have to cut programs. Well where better that the NHTSA and those who benefit from harassing people with taxpayer money.
    Of course one of my favorite things and something that has worked for me is to Ride To The Capitol and Talk to your state legislators. Explain to them you do not like what is going on and you want them to Stop It. You can also mention is depending on how they respond and vote will affect how you vote the next time they come up for election.
    Beside that the rides are fun and so are the parties after business has been taken care of.
    Just Sayin.

  5. 5 BobS Dec 7th, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Except Guitarslinger a state law or constitution cannot violate the federal constitution. As a citizen I am federally guaranteed equal protection and freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, in all 50 states. New York is making an end run with a “yeah but” clause claiming my 4th and 14th amendment rights don’t apply because the ends justify the means. Well, if we ban and seize all motorcycles that will be even more effective than discriminatory checkpoints so….

  6. 6 Mike Greenwald Dec 7th, 2012 at 12:01 pm


    No State government has “rights”.

    “Pardon me if that wisdom might require a certain level of Maturity as well as Historical Knowledge in order to be comprehended.”

    And you look so good in print.

  7. 7 Racetrack Style Dec 7th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    …and in the meantime, use technology to spread the word about the checkpoints, & ride the two lane roads.

    Then, maybe they’ll realize the real value in their time spent is going after distracted drivers.

  8. 8 deadwood1783 Dec 7th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Just like pre WWII Germany. They keep chipping away at the rights of citizens. Even as they are cheered on by well meaning “do gooders” who think all laws are passed to protect the ignorant masses from themselves. I was under the impression the American Revolution was fought at least in part, because our citiizens did not want to obey a totalitarian government. Motorcycle Only CheckPoints. Why not Mercedes only checkpoints? Is that OK with you too Slinger?

  9. 9 Dave Blevins Dec 7th, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I still think these motorcycle roadblocks are aimed toward monitoring the movement of “patched” riders rather than everyday or occasional riders, they handily group all riders in the same bag to make it seem less strategic. Plus, if they get to write a ticket here and there, so much the better (and easier) it is for them. Lazy and cowardly in my opinion.
    Plus they get to tell all the other motorists how much safer they are from all us dangerous hooligans out here terrorizing the streets on our motorcycles. Until more of us vote, we should keep our license, registration, and proof of insurance handy for the next harassment stop.

  10. 10 BobS Dec 7th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Federal tax dollars were used to set up road blocks that netted 1069 tickets. I bet with all that extra revenue they paid back the federal government for my tax dollars that were used to violate the motorcyclists rights, right?
    But violating the 4th and 14th is ok because doing so may or may not have had something to do with motorcycle fatalities going down 17%. What a freakin country. Why don’t they pull over every car and confiscate ever drivers cell phone to see if any messages were sent and every driver get a mandatory breathalyzer? Lets see the reduction in motorcycle fatalities after that!

  11. 11 Rob Dec 7th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Dave,this has nothing to do with patched riders or safety! It’s about $$$!! Distracted /impaired driving is a much bigger safety concern. Most of the collisions i see these days are rear enders,It’s why i have big mirrors and a bright auxilliary brake light…………………………….

  12. 12 Highrider Dec 7th, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    This is another reason, we as a country are doomed to face America as it was for so long disappearing. Lawyers are now the biggest threat to our way of life and freedom, however good luck on getting Sam and Sally American Lazy A^s to actually recognize the danger here.

    New York you should not stand for this, nor should any self serving politican who is supposed to guard against this stuff

    Our Courts are a REAL Problem !!!!!!

  13. 13 ROGUE Dec 8th, 2012 at 8:36 am

    If you want to stop the bullshit STOP THE MONEY!!!!
    To do that Contact Your Legislator. It is as easy as posting here. Simply let them know you are against this type of thing and request they put a stop to it.
    If you do not know who your legislator is you can find them on the internet. Places like the AMA and I believe the MRF have special sections as well.
    Now is especially a good time to do this because of all the issues with the budget. Suggest they Cut Wasteful Spending starting with the NHTSA. The Federal Money being used starts with them goes to other agencies.

  14. 14 biker64 Dec 8th, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Being from New York and riding my whole life here. I can tell you it is all about the state making money. It is not just on the highways but also in the city. Any summer weekend you drive into Madhattan they have rollin check points, targeting mainly bikers, that stay in one location for about an hour and half and then set up in another spot of the city. They have a flatbed tow truck with them to confiscate the bike on the spot if they feel you are in violation. Between the potholes, pedestrians who walk into the street at any given time without looking, cars stopping with no warning and taxis who don’t give a f@ck. Every time I ride in the city I feel like I am in a video game trying to make it alive. Your not missing much if you don’t ride in at least in New York city.

  15. 15 Chacha Dec 8th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Rouge is correct…stop the money and stop the tactic. We did that here in Virginia and it was a pretty easy sell to the legislators that these stops were not in the interest of the state and would tie up tax dollars to defend. People get that. We also made the point that tourist dollars were at risk and pointed to the NY roadblock issue as an example of how to do it wrong.

    Ain’t no love loss between Virgina and New York — we’ll be happy to accept the biker’s tourist dollars if New York is too stupid. Gslinger does have a point — don’t ride in a state that doesn’t want you there. I don’t ride to NYC or Myrtle Beach anymore. Giant country out there with more than enough great places to go. Come to Virginia, we like motorcycles and we’re working on repealing the mandatory helmet law this next Legislative Session!

  16. 16 jimubudo Dec 8th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    smells like Nazi Germany…..

  17. 17 Highrider Dec 8th, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Don’t know about you fellas, but my elected officals do what they want

  18. 18 ROGUE Dec 9th, 2012 at 9:11 am

    It does seem that many elected officials do what they want and in most cases that has to do with who is slipping money to them. Lobbyist, campaign donations, or even an envelope to one of their aids.
    Since motorcyclist are unlikely to be able to compete with large corporations with supplying money and further more unlikely be willing to do so. There are other ways.
    Something that I have done personally and in some cases with the help of friends is to show up when a specific legislator is going to speak and ask them questions they do not want to answer.
    I have done this many times over the years and one time in Florida a legislator was against repealing the mandatory helmet law because his father fell of the back of a motorcycle and got killed. We brought up the fact that good ole dad was drunk and should have never been on the motorcycle in the first place. He was upset that we brought up the fact that dad was a drunk and even went so far as make the statement that he did not care what the people in his voting district wanted he was going to do what he wanted. We used that against him at local events he spoke at and he lost re-election. He did try to run again and we informed him every time he would we would be there. We got one legislator that was against motorcyclist out of office and you can too!

    There was another time when we had a helmet law repeal bill in and the head of the transportation committee was holding it up and not letting it go to the floor for a vote. A group of us decided to ride to his voting district party and talked to the people who lived there.
    Now the bars and other business loved it but law enforcement got a little nervous with so many fun loving bikers coming into their town all at once unannounced. Yea I am sure some of the crew might have had a little too much fun But what they hey.
    We did tell everyone who would listen we would appreciate it if they would contact Fred and suggest he let the bill out of committee so others could vote on it. After the second weekend of visiting the town Fred did let it out of committee and a Full Helmet Repeal with no restrictions was voted on by the Florida Legislator.
    Bob Graham was governor at the time and he had made the statement that he was against the repeal and if one got passed he would not sign it But would Not Veto It Either. It appears he was counting on Ole Fred not to let it out of committee.
    Well Governor Graham Lied To The Motorcycle Riders of Florida and Did Veto the Bill. Many feel because of influence from his banking and insurance buddies in south Florida.
    Some years later ABATE of Florida was able to get the law modified so that if you carry x amount of insurance you had freedom of choice to wear a helmet or not while operating a motorcycle.
    I should Note That The State of Florida Still Has A Mandatory Helmet Law. There is an exception to it if you anti up a vig to the insurance industry.
    So if you have Bad Elected Officials You Can Get Them Out Of Office and Laws Can be Changed if You Work to Make It Happen

  19. 19 bigalyts Dec 9th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    What a bunch of Bullshit, “BULLSHIT”!

  20. 20 loki Dec 10th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Hmm. I don’t believe this has anything to do with raising revenues via citations. NY motorcycles are required to pass safety inspection to operate so why are they doing roadside checks? Why were most of the citations for loud pipes? Since when are loud pipes a safety violation? The biggest question is why did NY state have anti-gang officers performing motorcycle safety checks? Motorcycle safety my ass. This was nothing more than patch holder targeting and harassment. Think there were over 1000 1% members going through those checks? No, they were predominately religious, veteran and civil support M/C’s and R/C’s mixed in with 1% members. Constitution? What the hell is that? It used to mean something, not any more. Our government has deemed the US constitution a rag they can wipe their ass with at their leisure.

    Georgia has started these motorcycle only road side safety check tactics. How long before it hits your State? Contact NHTSA, the U.S. DOT and most importantly by asking your own federal legislators to support H.R. 1498 by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to retain a ban on NHTSA’s ability to lobby State Legislators using our federal dollars through the “Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration” grant
    program (DTNH22-10-R-00386).

  21. 21 nicker Dec 10th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    “…Just like pre WWII Germany. ..”

    Spot on…. good to see someone knows their history.

    Remember all that “biker talk” about “…don’t bother me with politics, all i wanna-do is ride…”
    Well boys and girls, welcome to the new Nanny-state, Socialist reality.
    Welcome to a “fundamentally changing America.”


  22. 22 Sark Dec 13th, 2012 at 1:53 am

    We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! … And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time… We are gonna have a party.

  23. 23 The Gooch Dec 13th, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    ^^^^ Peter Fonda in the classic “Wild Angels” ^^^^

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