HB137 - New Motorcycle Law Explained...

This Report: 9/16/2008

Summary:

An act relating to operating a motor vehicle; creating s. 316.1926, F.S.; creating additional offenses regarding motor vehicle operation;
amending s. 316.2085, F.S.; requiring an operator of a motorcycle or
moped to maintain both wheels on the ground at all times; requiring
that the license tag of a motorcycle or moped be affixed horizontally;
amending s. 318.14, F.S.; providing additional penalties for certain
offenses; providing for a specified fine and revocation of the person’s
privilege to operate a motor vehicle; providing an effective date.


Full Version is:
http://www.floridaabate.com/Library/Library/hb137sb802finaladj.pdf


This has not been a good day... I have spend several hours researching and talking about HB137 only to discover that it has more teeth then we first thought. I apologize for the length (not my style), but I believe it's important for all to understand the discovery steps involved in this new law.

Upon passage I took this new law to the City Police and the County Sheriff (my area) and asked what the fines would be for violation of these provisions. It was clear to both parties that the "Speed" portion of the bill was going to slap heavy fines and penalties for exceeding posted speed by 50 plus miles per hour and this provision was applauded.

My real concern was the fines for not having your legs on both sides and for having a license tag mounted incorrectly...

They did the same thing I did... look up 316.2085 F.S. to see what is says about the rewards for violating these laws. It clearly reads in provision 6 that "A violation of this section is a non criminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318". They checked out 318 and both came to the same conclusion... Fines would be $125.50 and 3 points for each violation with no escalation for repeat violation. I did not like the 3 points, especially for the tag, but left with some confidence that I had the answer I needed.

Unfortunately, I presented this information to a small handful of ABATE members that requested my findings - only to discover today that I, and the local law enforcement agencies were wrong...!

The I received this Bulletin from the Clerk of Courts Association in Tallahassee: (posted on the LIC site Library)
http://www.floridaabate.com/Library/Library/CourtClerkBulletin082008.pdf

This bulletin was distributed to every Court House in the State... and I got a copy sent to me. I think I picked myself up off the floor two or three times and began my review of the new law once again.

I found what I thought to be the problem section and wording, high-lighted it and called Tallahassee. I spoke to the person that wrote the bulletin and the conversation resulted in a match... unfortunately there are two phrases that changes the way that violations of the leg position and tag position become included in the speed penalties.

They are: (the red is the killer)

316.1926 Additional offenses.--

(1) A person who violates the provisions of s.316.2085(2) or (3) shall be cited for a moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.

A new "high-lighted" PDF version of this law has been posted on the LIC Library at:
http://www.floridaabate.com/Library/Library/hb137sb802finaladj.pdf

Because of the way this has been worded, it gives the new statute (316.1926) the ability to reach over to 316.2085 and suck these two issues (2 and 3) and stick them with the speed law and the violations associated with it.

Sneaky or a mistake... it still hits us hard.

The penalty portion of the Statutes dealing with the 1-2-3 punch on speeding is inclusive because it specifies 316.1926 violations as all inclusive...

318.14 Noncriminal traffic infractions; exception; procedures.—
(13)(a) A person cited for a violation of s. 316.1926 shall, in addition to
any other requirements provided in this section, pay a fine of $1,000. This
fine is in lieu of the fine required under...
(level one violation)

The results of these two sections completely changes the perception that we have had of this law and places unreasonable penalties on the license tag placement in particular. I personally have far less remorse for the violators of leg position, but the tag position is totally out of line.

I have discussed my findings with Doc (our Lobbyist) and we have already begun a level of communication to correct this situation. It is important to understand that virtually no one with certainty has interpreted this law the correct way until the Clerk of Courts offered an "official" position. While there have been questions and confusion, that I have tried to address myself, it is the court system that ultimately has defined the position and has distributed the answer.

It has never been anyone's understanding that the leg position and license tag placement would be a part of the heavy fines placed upon the speeding portion of this law. We, along with many others - including law enforcement, have interpreted the same. This comes as a complete surprise and is being dealt with as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, it will take the next legislative session to get this corrected.

Meanwhile, it is my "belief", naive as it may be, that the tag position citation levels will be very low unless you're being stupid. Remember that the original intent of this law was geared to control a segment of the motorcycle community that blatantly violates laws and places the public in danger.

I believe that we can buy some time if we express these thoughts to law enforcement in advance and certainly express these arguments if and when faced in a court situations. Unfortunately, there are those agencies that will enforce such laws blatantly and out of revenue building situations. Those will be more difficult to deal with.

Let's not be stupid and place ourselves in the position that the "horizontal" position of a license plate is used against law abiding bikers...

Meanwhile... ABATE is working on this issue.

Mike "Radar" Price
ABATE of Florida, Inc.
State Legislative Director
statelegislative@abateflorida.com
352-359-3005