The War of Attrition to Regain Our Liberties:
Fighting NC’s Helmet Law
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.
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.