A bill with bi-partisan sponsorship has been introduced in the United States Senate to prohibit the use of federal funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints. The bill is sponsored by Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and by Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Shaheen, Manchin, Ayotte and Manchin introduced a similar bill last March. Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin introduced a companion bill in the House in May, 2013.
The “Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act” would forbid the Secretary of Transportation from issuing “funds to any government entity for a program to check helmet use or to create checkpoints for an operator of a motorcycle or a passenger on a motorcycle.”
AMA And MRF
The American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation have lobbied on behalf of the Senate bill.
In a press release, AMA vice president for government relations Wayne Allard said, “Motorcycle-only checkpoints are discriminatory, forcing riders and their passengers to do something not asked of other citizens, simply because we choose to travel on two wheels, or three, instead of four. The AMA believes the money used for these operations could be better spent supporting programs that conduct rider education, reduce distracted driving and encourage motorist awareness of motorcycles.”
Jeff Hennie, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation said, “”We are excited to work on this most important issue. It is imperative that we end the discriminatory act of motorcycle only checkpoints.”
Motorcycle only checkpoints, often described as “safety checkpoints,” have skirted around the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution for years. That Amendment forbids unreasonable searches but it is gutted by a legal theory supported by case law called the “special needs doctrine.” The doctrine is used to justify “sobriety checkpoints,” for example.
Georgia has set up motorcycle only checkpoints to detain, question and search bikers on their way to Bike Week in Daytona Beach. In 2011, police set up a checkpoint in Northern Virginia to harass bikers on their way to the Rolling Thunder patriotic rally in Washington.
California, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia have outlawed motorcycle only checkpoints. Illinois and New Hampshire allow the checkpoints but forbid the use of federal funds to pay for them. Eleven more states, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming forbid all checkpoints.