Billy Lane Plea Deal

June 16, 2009

All Posts, News

Celebrity bike builder Billy Lane pleaded guilty to felony vehicular homicide last week.

Lane remains free. His next court appearance is scheduled for August 14th when he will be sentenced. He will probably avoid prison. The plea deal to which he has agreed mandates a lifetime suspension of his driver’s license. But Lane’s lawyer, Greg Eisenmenger said Lane can still petition the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for a hardship license.

Lane had faced up to 15 years in prison. According to published reports, his plea deal mitigates his maximum possible sentence to nine years. Lane may also be sentenced to house arrest or probation.

Eisenmenger said he thinks Lane deserves to remain free. The lawyer cited Lane’s clean criminal record and his charitable nature.

Billy Who

Lane, 39, owns a custom motorcycle shop and store called “Choppers, Inc.” in Melbourne, Florida. Casual observers of the American bike scene know Lane as a character in two Discovery Channel reality shows, Biker Build-Off and Monster Garage. Lane is the author of two books, Chop Fiction and How To Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers and Customs. And, he is also involved in the production of another, as yet unsyndicated, television show called The Next Great American Builder.

Lane’s plea almost concludes a legal drama that began in the summer of 2006.

Lane was arrested for driving drunk in North Carolina in June that year. Police claimed Lane was riding his motorcycle the wrong way on a two-lane road and was not wearing a helmet. Lane was charged with DUI after he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. He was eventually acquitted of that charge.

This Charge

The charge Lane is trying to resolve now began with a serious accident on Labor Day of 2006 in Melbourne, Florida. Lane drove his custom pickup truck across the double yellow line on coast highway AIA and crashed head-on into a Yamaha moped. The Moped rider, Gerald Morelock, was pronounced dead on the spot. Both Morelock and Lane were alleged to be legally drunk.

Lane’s criminal trial and several lawsuits have been dragging along ever since.

“Billy has been very remorseful from the start,” Eisenmenger said on the courthouse steps. “He understands how devastated the (Morelock) family is feeling. It is devastating to him as well, but he understands it’s nothing, compared to what the family’s feeling.”

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4 Responses to “Billy Lane Plea Deal”

  1. Kimo Says:

    Otherwise applicable law is irrelevant to Lane’s accident because, after all, the accused had consumed alcohol.

    I’m writing from Colorado. A few years ago, a Denver-area married couple began to argue. The argument escalated, so the husband/father decided that it was best for him to leave the house for a while and let the situation cool down. As he backed his pickup down his driveway, he accidently crushed his toddler son, who had been hidden behind the vehicle. The boy died.

    Naturally, the pop-news showed up and began questioning the police and prosecutors to find out, among other things, whether the driver would be criminally charged. A representative of the prosecutor’s office stated without hesitation that the driver was being tested for alcohol and, if his blood alcohol level exceeded the threshold for presumptive impairment, he would, in fact, be charged with negligent homicide/vehicular manslaughter.

    As it turned out, the driver had no measurable level of alcohol in his system; therefore, he was not charged with any criminal offense or civl infraction. The accidental death was considered nothing more than an unfortunate accident.

    Point is, alcohol involvement would have resulted in felony prosecution of the Colorado driver for actions that were otherwise not subject to prosecution.

    In Lane’s case, he was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash. That’s gametime in modern America. Hell, I’d bet that Lane would have been charged even if he had been stopped and the scooter rider rammed him intentionally!

  2. Mike Greenwald Says:

    Get the alcohol out of the equation. Neither, Morelock nor Lane, are charged with DUI, DWI, OUI or OWI.

    Morelock was legally drunk. Morelock was never charged with causing the crash (failure to yield, operating in an unsafe manner, failure to stop when entering a highway from a private driveway), which should have happened. Morelock caused the crash and died.

    It cost Lane and Chrysler Corporation millions of dollars and that has been settled in civil court.

    The prosecutor has stacked the charges against Lane in the press to make a profit for the county and the State by not posthumously charging and convicting Morelock of violation of 316.125 (1). The prosecutor knowingly and without ethics of office did this to create a case against Lane and increase the probability of financial loss for Lane.

    You need to clarify in your mind that the LEO determined that Billy Lane did not make an illegal pass and in fact initiated his pass in a passing zone. Although it may be different in various locations, in Florida, the pass does not have to be completed within a lawful passing zone, only initiated there.

    Understanding the applicable law in Florida is key to the understanding of the passing here and it is for this reason, upon investigation, that the LEO did not charge him with illegal passing or somesuch encompassing charge.

    The Accident scene report and diagram coupled with the witness accounts clearly show that Lane initiated the pass in a legal zone. Court cases that have set precedent have determined that, in Florida, if the pass is initiated in a “passing zone” that it may be completed in a “no passing zone”.

    The citing LEO was very concerned about this detail. Corroborating evidence led him to the conclusion that there were no infractions committed by Lane with regard to his passing other vehicles. You can get your copies through FOIA.

    The actual law?

    For Morelock, the first law that applies is :
    316.125 Vehicle entering highway from private road or driveway or emerging from alley, driveway or building. (1) The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a highway from an alley, building, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on the highway to be entered which are so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard. (2) The driver of a vehicle emerging from an alley, building, private road or driveway within a business or residence …

    For Lane the law that applies is:

    316.083. Overtaking and passing a vehicle

    The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

    (1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

    (2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, on audible signal or upon the visible blinking of the headlamps of the overtaking vehicle if such overtaking is being attempted at nighttime, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

    (3) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.


    316.085. Limitations on overtaking, passing, changing lanes and changing course

    (1) No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless authorized by the provisions of this chapter and unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction of any vehicle overtaken. In every event the overtaking vehicle must return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.

    (2) No vehicle shall be driven from a direct course in any lane on any highway until the driver has determined that the vehicle is not being approached or passed by any other vehicle in the lane or on the side to which the driver desires to move and that the move can be completely made with safety and without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the same direction.

    (3) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.


    316.0875. No-passing zones

    (1) The Department of Transportation and local authorities are authorized to determine those portions of any highway under their respective jurisdiction where overtaking and passing or driving to the left of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the roadway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones, and when such signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person, every driver of a vehicle shall obey the directions thereof.

    (2) Where signs or markings are in place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection (1), no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the roadway with such no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark such no-passing zone throughout its length.

    (3) This section does not apply when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway, nor to the driver of a vehicle turning left into or from an alley, private road or driveway.

    (4) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

    Lane complied with these laws and Morelock did not. The LEO that issued the citations and the prosecutor did not issue any citation or ticket to Lane for improper passing whereas it is clear that Morelock did not comply with 316.125.


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