A MAJOR MILESTONE
(or, Fighting the System with the System)
by Mike Lewis
Maryland State Director for the Helmet Law Defense League
March 5, 1997
Today marked a major milestone in a journey that has lasted over two years. The journey is far from over, but we arrived at a crossroad of tremendous importance. My good friend and legal counsel, Terry Nolan, faxed me a copy of the Judge's decision in a Declaratory Judgement case we have been building and fighting these past 24 months. Man, it seems more like a lifetime. Bottom line is that we won and the court has upheld the No List, No Law argument. I am not going to explain the decision because you can read it for yourself. What I really want to do is to try to impart some of the knowledge and experience I have gained along this road. So here goes.
A little over two years ago I was highly disturbed (like I'm not disturbed to begin with) with the way the legislative approach to ridding the "Free State" of Maryland of the Lid Law was progressing. I started to look for alternatives to genuflecting before the politicians as a means of fighting for my right to choose. I came across HLDL and started reading and learning about Buhl, Bianco, Maxwell, Alden, Chico. Well you get the idea. It did not take long before I was convinced that there was merit in a judicial challenge and it afforded a means to open a second front on the State and their fascist law. Problem was that I had never intentially tried to get a ticket before. In fact I had spent most of my time trying to avoid getting a ticket. The thought of civil disobedience was nothing more than a concept that did not look very appealing considering the way cops generally treat bikers. So here I am with a fair amount of new-found knowledge and a fairly decent background in the ABATE legislative approach. But still unsure about how to proceed. More importently still a little afraid to tackle the system on its own turf. Cops, courts, lawyers, judges, fines what the Hell am I thinking? I sure as Hell don't know enough about this shit to jump into a lake full of sharks that play by rules that I don't know. Undecided how to proceed, I remained quiet and started reading and studying everything I could get my hands on concerning helmet tickets and helmet laws.
Two events helped push me over the edge. First, a friend snagged a lid ticket and said he wanted to challenge the thing in court. He asked me for some advice and I offered to help. He won in court and that boosted my confidence. It also made me realize that I needed to learn more about the law and court procedure. Secondly, several of us were stopped on a memorial run for a special lady who had lost a tough medical battle. Short version, State Trooper tickets us for not wearing any kind of protective headgear. At that moment I was committed to fighting this law and the sheer stupidity of anyone telling me that I had to wear a lid anytime but especially while riding to celebrate the life and free spirit of another human being. Those two events launched the fight that has taken me to seek out justice through the courts. I decided to fight back and asked Terry Nolan, a rider and attorney, to help me out. Let me make something very clear for everyone, Terry Nolan is a good friend who has given many hours of his time and expertise to win this court fight. He has never charged me a dime in fees. He is dedicated to winning this case and I am proud to have him as my friend and attorney. I cannot thank him enough for his help. Back to fighting the law. Every time I read something or found a case that had some scrap of material that might be of use I fed it to Terry. Terry put all the legal documents together and has developed some rather impressive arguments.
Along the way I heard about some guy in Virginia who was making a large noise over the lid law. Some guy named Kelly Prince. Several phone calls and I introduced myself to him. Well from that time on things never were the same. I had already become an avid crusader and ticket collector. I was spending all of my riding time actively hunting tickets. Anyway, Kelly became my sounding board for ideas and information. He like Terry, has given me large doses of encouragement, knowledge and friendship. Don't think for a minute that you can take on the system alone. You need help from friends and fellow supporters. Anyway, having gotten numerous tickets and filed for a Declaratory Judgement, we continued to move to the day when we could get into a courtroom to argue No List, No Law and a few other choice points. That day happened June 14, 1996. But after the court heard the case the decision was delayed until 28 February 1997. I could tell you that the reason for the delay was political or some larger federal conspiracy or some other such nonsense. Truth is, I don't know for sure why it took so long and any other answer is just a guess. The importent thing is that the Judge ruled in our favor and placed the State of Maryland in the position of having to appeal a Circuit Court ruling on the lid law being unconstitutional. Terry has some additional rabbitts in the hat for the appeal and he and I are both chomping at the bit to get in the appeals court.
So what is the point of this long winded essay you ask? Just this:
1. There is an alternative to killing the Lid law in the legislature. It's done in the courts. The State hates it when their citizens challenge their laws in court.
2. You do not have to be a lawyer to get into the judicial fight to kill the lid law. Get a ticket, go to court, make yourself heard.
3. You do need to get smart about your rights and court proceedings. Yes, that means doing some homework.
4. A judicial challenge can be conducted year around, not just when the legislature is in session.
5. The judicial fight and the legislative fight should work hand in hand and compliment one another. Some folks just can't or won't get that concept into their thick skulls.
6. Fight the system with the system. As long as bikers spend time fighting amongst themselves, the State wins and we remain in chains. Focus your anger and effort on beating the system and killing the Lid law by whatever means possible. Take no prisoners, give no ground and always retain the attitude that no one can take away your freedom without paying too high a price. Exact that price from the State.