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  Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

Friday, 04 December, 2020

The Virginian (part one of two)

Date: 15 September, 2010

By: Chief

Imagehis actually happened to me in 1996 while I was stationed (sentenced) in Norfolk, Virginia. I wrote this story back in 1997 - 98 and forgot about it until a week ago. So with that said — here it is.

A funny thing happened on my ride to work on very cold Monday morning. I got pulled over and cited for wearing an "Unauthorize [sic] Helmet." The citing officer was one Officer Goode of the Norfolk City Police Department. What was not so funny was Officer Goode confiscated my beanie and left me on the side of Interstate 264.

To say I was not pleased is a prize understatement. So after the cop split I decided to ride to work — free. Let me tell you — it felt great. However, here I am in a strange city, real strange state and didn't know a soul. Hadn't even found the law library. Bluntly stated, I had been in town a total of seven days.

The call

First thing I did as a "stranger in a strange land" was call a bike shop and this dude really hooked me up good. His name is "Tom" and he is the proud owner of "Tom's Customs Cycles" in Yorktown, Virginia. I owe Tom a great deal of credit, so if you are ever near Yorktown Virginia, look him up. Real good people. He provided me with a copy of the lid law, a copy of the 'approved helmet list' and a copy of Virginia approval procedure. He also pointed me toward the nearest public law library (they actually had one).

With the information I got from Tom I was armed for bear or so I thought. So I wrote a motion to dismiss and filed it with the court and commonwealth attorney's office. What I did not realize, and in due time would find out much to my consternation, was Virginia's court system is more or less based upon the theory of 'trial by ambush'.

Now my motion requested the court to declare Virginia's lid law unconstitutional based on the following:

I also threw in Buhl, Bianco and Easyriders for good measure. You know, cover all the bases. Face it, I'm from California and now I'm in Virginia only because my ship is here. At the time I had no idea of the power the "Bianco" decision and its effects in Virginia. But that comes later.

Well, my day in court finally arrives. Myself and Officer Goode stand before the Honorable Judge "Lawless" (I'm not kidding, that is his name) and before we can do battle, Judge Lawless states:

"You have written a fine motion Mr. [redacted]. But ya see, I don't give written decisions and opinions. However, you do have some points which deserve to be ruled on. So, what I am going to do is find you guilty and impose a $25.00 fine. Please step over to the clerk and sign your appeal paperwork. . .it's already been filled out" (emphasis added).

Oh my God. In less than a minute:

I don't even remember if I had the opportunity to say anything. Efficiency in action and all that.

And now I'm on my way to a gen-u-wine court of record, you know — written decisions and all that. Can you believe it, I am now in the big leagues. At the same time I was wondering 'what is going on'? It was just way too weird.

So, I called Tom and filled him in and I also asked if he knew of an attorney who could carry the ball for me. Let me tell ya, it can be rough working upwards of 7 days a week and 14 hour days trying to get a 600 foot ship through overhaul and out of the shipyard on time and under budget (we didn't make it either). In other words, I needed some help. Well Tom gave me a number of an attorney up in Richmond who had heard about me, my case and wanted to talk to me about it.

Enter the Virginian

I gave this lawyer a call and yes, his name was Tom as well. Tom McGrath, Attorney at law or as I call him — "The Virginian." We scheduled a meeting and got together. Cool dude. Real quick study and I could just tell he knew what he was about. I explained to him that I was not interested in a "not guilty" on appeal. I wanted the whole bloody law. Nothing less would do. We discussed strategy and I explained the Helmet Law Defense League (HLDL) and Bikers of Lesser Tolerance (BOLT) battle cry of "no list, no law."

At some point in the discussion the conversation went something like this:

[Tom]: "Virginia has a list.

[Me]: "Can't have one base on interstate commerce clause, federal law, NHTSA doesn't approve anything and Juvenile Products supports and re-enforces that.

[Tom]: "What's this 'Bianco' decision?

[Me]: "In two words 'actual knowledge'. It was and continues to be the lynch pin in the Easyriders decision. No Bianco, no injunction, period."

With my new trial looming closer and closer Tom drafted a motion to dismiss based on:

Continue to part two.

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