Law enforcement investigates and takes statements at the scenes of serious vehicle accidents. They interview anyone who is directly involved, assuming they are medically able to remain and answer questions, along with potential witnesses.
Motorcycle riders accused of causing an accident may have a challenging path ahead of them.
Myths about motorcycle riders
Following a 1947 motorcycle riot in California, The American Motorcycle Association stated that while 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, 1% operated outside the law. Embracing the one-percent notion of motorcycle outlaws, rebel biker gangs began brazenly wearing 1% patches. The United States Department of Justice categorizes one-percenter motorcycle gangs as organized crime syndicates. Members commit murders and engage in other high-profile criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and extortion that unfairly cast a shadow over the majority of law-abiding motorcyclists and clubs.
Hollywood films have glamorized the cult of dangerous motorcycle gangs. Motorcycle riders, while possibly enjoying their bigger-than-life image by association, are on the whole, law-abiding citizens. A biker—like any other vehicle operator—may occasionally yield to the temptation to speed, drive under the influence or engage in unwise distractions such as texting while riding—but irresponsible behaviors do not make a motorcycle rider a violent criminal.
Motorcyclist profiling and the law
Because of wide-spread prejudice against motorcycle riders, Senate Resolution 154 urges law enforcement to develop policies to end discriminatory profiling against motorcycle riders. Motorcycle riders involved in serious traffic collisions can face charges of criminal negligence or manslaughter simply because of pre-existing prejudices. Witnesses are subject to the same outdated stereotypes that portray motorcyclists as dangerous and aggressive menaces on American roadways. Adding to the difficulty for a motorcyclist accused of a criminal accident-injury, many criminal defense attorneys are not familiar with the physics of motorcycle operation.
To successfully defend a motorcycle rider, it is essential that counsel understands the dynamics involved in balance, starting and stopping, turns and other factors where motorcycles may operate differently than standard motor vehicles. An attorney who is also a motorcycle rider or has substantial defense experience with riders may need to educate accident scene investigators for insurance companies. Accident investigators can often misunderstand how motorcycles differ in operation from standard vehicles; as a result, they may misinterpret critical data that would exonerate the motorcyclist.
Juries may also believe biased stereotypes of motorcyclists; they typically have no familiarity with motorcycle dynamics. A well-informed criminal defense attorney can educate a jury and defuse any misunderstandings that could cause an unfair ruling against the motorcyclist on trial.