I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz and today’s video is about the new Mandatory Helmet Law for Delaware Motorcycle Riders. Please take a moment to leave us a comment on our Facebook page.
Transcript: Today, I want to talk to you about the topic of Helmet Law for Delaware Motorcycle Riders.
I’m in Delaware right now, and I’m close to Pennsylvania. I’ve got a motorcycle endorsement on my license. I have not ridden a motorcycle in a long time, but I used to! I remember that when we were out on a ride, we would have our helmets on the bike. In Delaware, you’re required to have a helmet on your bike, not on your head. When we would get to the Maryland line, we would have to stop and put on our helmets. Once you cross the line into Maryland, the helmet has to actually be on your head. It’s interesting that Maryland has a helmet law that requires a motorcyclist to wear the helmet on his or her head. Delaware has a helmet law that requires the motorcyclist only to have the helmet on the bike.
However, there’s a push in Delaware to pass new legislation. A bill is pending in the Delaware General Assembly that would require motorcyclists to wear helmets on their heads if it gets passed and signed into law.
I wonder what people think about that…is that a good idea? Or a bad idea? I think that if you would have asked me 20 years ago if it was a good idea or a bad idea – I would have told you that government has no business intruding into the private affairs of motorcycle riders. I might have said, “I enjoy going out and riding a motorcycle. You feel the wind in your hair. There’s no better freedom than that.” Twenty years ago, I would have been strictly opposed to it.
At this point, I pay a lot in taxes and I don’t ride a motorcycle any longer. I’m a personal injury attorney. Usually, once you see the carnage of personal injury accidents and wrongful death accidents you don’t really want to be involved in riding motorcycles any longer. At this point in my life, I hate to have a law that limits someone’s freedom. But at the same time, if you’re in a motorcycle accident and you sustain a head injury and you’re not able to work…and you lose your job and health insurance, you will need to go on Medicaid or Social Security Disability. I pay taxes and that money is going to go to Medicaid to pay for your medical treatment. Often, it costs tens of thousands of dollars every month. That money is going to go to the Social Security Administration to pay your Social Security disability (which is hundreds of dollars every month). After twenty years of riding motorcycles, I can see how interconnected everything is. I can see the consequences of people who get catastrophically injured. I see the consequences for their families.
I see the consequences for society as well. My point of view now has changed. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to require people to wear helmets. What I’m more interested in is not what I think – what I’m more interested in is what you think.
“Is it true that cops cannot stop you solely for window tint, if there is no other traffic violation? Is that an urban myth”?
This is a question I’ve run across several times and I think that there’s a rumor out there that basically the cops cannot, or will not, pull you over solely to check the darkness of your window tint. I can’t tell you what police policies or procedures say, and if there is a police policy or procedure that says don’t pull people over just for a window tint, I don’t know about it…
What I can tell you is that the law allows them to do it, unless there’s a state statute or case that says otherwise. Essentially it’s a Fourth Amendment issue. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. When the police pull someone over in a vehicle for a traffic violation, that stop is considered a seizure. Any stop has to basically be consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Which means it has to be reasonable. So, under the Fourth Amendment, as far as I’m aware, there’s no federal case saying that the police can’t stop you for window tint.
What it comes down to is, you’ve got to ask, where did the traffic stop occur? What state did it occur in? And what does that States law say about whether the police can stop a vehicle?
Now, in the two states where I have a license to practice law are Maryland and Delaware. I can tell you that there is a case in Maryland. It’s out of the Maryland Court of Appeals called State Vs. Williams 934 A. 2nd 38. Essentially, what the court of appeals said in that 2007 case, is if an officer chooses to stop a car for a window tint violation and the officer can articulate how in his observation it’s likely that the window tint on that car violated this Maryland state statute, or the Maryland State standard for window tinting, then a court could uphold that stop as being constitutional.
I also practice law in Delaware. In Delaware, it’s not entirely clear whether a police officer can stop you, or not stop you, solely for a window tint violation. There are two cases out of the Delaware Superior Court, which is not the highest court in the state of Delaware. The first case is called State v. Coursey, 906 A.2d 845 (Del. Super. Ct. 2006). That’s a 2006 case where a police officer stopped a vehicle for window tint violation, or a suspected window tint violation & found drugs in the vehicle. Of course, the driver of the vehicle filed a motion, or his attorney filed a motion, to suppress the evidence based upon what they thought was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The court actually did throw out the evidence. The court did suppress the evidence, because the police officer testified that he couldn’t see the occupants of the vehicle through the window tint; through the glass. He also acknowledged that that’s not the standard for whether a tint is too dark. So the court threw out the evidence on the basis of the police officers testimony.
The next year, the Superior Court issued a decision in another case called State Vs. Trower 931 A. 2nd 456. In that case, the defendant, the driver of the vehicle, was stopped again for a window tint violation. Again, after being stopped, the police found drugs in the car and arrested the driver. This time the superior court said that the stop was valid. It was o.k. to stop that car for that window tint violation.
We’ve got different decisions, different opinions coming out of the Superior Court. I’m not aware of any Delaware Supreme Court case that resolves it one way or the other. So, the answer in Delaware is, maybe you can be pulled over for window tint violation. Probably you can be constitutionally stopped, legally stopped, for a window tint violation. I’m not a hundred percent sure, because the Supreme Court of Delaware has never ruled on it. So, to answer the question, I think that it’s a very simple question with a very convoluted legal answer. Basically, what it comes down to is, that it depends upon the state you’re in, but probably they can stop you solely for a window tint violation.
Now this raises the question, should you have tinting on your windows?
My opinion is that, at least in, let’s say Delaware, you can get a tint waiver if you have a medical condition that requires you to have tinting on the windows. You go to your optometrist or get to your family doctor and get them to fill out paperwork for the DMV. You get a tint waiver and that lets you have window tinting. That doesn’t stop you from being stopped by the police for your window tinting. My opinion is that I would not want to have my windows tinted in my car. I would not want to just give the police a reason to stop me. In other words, sometimes the police find someone to be suspicious. If I’m driving around, I’m not sure where I’m going, I’m checking MapQuest or Google maps on my phone. I’m driving slowly. I’m stopping frequently. That’s suspicious activity. A police officer watching me do that might say, “Maybe that guy’s looking for his connection to buy some drugs”! I don’t want to give the police a reason to stop me.
If I have my windows tinted, now they have a reason to stop me. Just on basic principle, I would not get my windows tinted! I’m sure I’m going to get a bunch of hateful emails from window tinting companies now that I said that, but I personally wouldn’t do it. That’s my personal preference. It’s not legal advice. So Karen, hopefully that answers your question. I hope that for those of you who are watching this video you found this interesting and informative.
Ben Schwartz is the Managing Partner of Schwartz & Schwartz, Attorneys at Law. If you are searching online for a personal injury attorney, or if you’ve been pulled over for window tint, please contact Ben about your case. Ben and the other attorneys in the firm represent people who have been injured in car accidents, tractor-trailer and bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and dog bites. We have offices in Havertown (suburban Philadelphia), PA, Wilmington, DE and Dover, Delaware.
TRANSCRIPT: I’m attorney Ben Schwartz and today I want to talk to you about what is probably a little-known law in Delaware called The Move Over Law. It’s a law; it’s been on the books for about a decade now. As we’re shooting this video, it’s end-of-April, 2016. So it has probably been about a decade that it has been out there. It strikes me that there’s very few people that know about this law.
I drive up and down the state all the time. I’m in all the courts in the state of Delaware, in all three counties. I live in New Castle County. We have an office in Wilmington and an office in Dover. So, I am driving between Wilmington and Dover quite often, which means I’m going up and down Route 1.
On the shoulder of Route 1, I’m constantly seeing an emergency responder — a police car with lights all on; a tow truck with lights on; a DelDot vehicle pulled over. I notice that the vehicles in the right lane just keep going in the right lane. They don’t move over. So it strikes me that people must not know about this law.
There’s actually a law on the books in Delaware that says that if you’re on a roadway and there’s two lanes going in the same direction, and if there’s an emergency vehicle or a tow truck stopped on the side of the road or a DelDot vehicle stopped with its lights on, you have an obligation to move over, so you’re not driving past that vehicle closely. In fact the law in Delaware takes it even further than that.
If you’re driving along, you don’t move over, if you strike that emergency vehicle or that DelDot vehicle and you cause injuries to the driver, you’re looking at a felony. It’s a felony to cause injury to someone who’s in an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the roadway if you didn’t make an effort to change lanes to go around him or her.
I see this pretty consistently, maybe once a week or every other week. People just don’t move over! If you’re driving on a Delaware roadway, you should know about this law. It might mean the difference between going to jail or not going to jail if there’s some sort of incident. What we want to do is we want to make sure that the people that are out there driving around are safe.
Whether it is a police officer, fireman, fire woman, ambulance crew, emergency responder, tow truck driver, or DelDot worker, it doesn’t really matter. We want to make sure those people are safe if they have to stop on the side of the roadway if they have to stop on the shoulder.
So know about the law. It’s The Delaware Move Over Law. It’s title 21 Delaware Code section 4134 and we will link to it or embed the text of it in the notes from this video blog (editor’s note: the text of the law is below).
THE TEXT OF THE LAW, 21 Del.C. Section 4134: (a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible or visual signals, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersections and shall relinquish the right-of-way until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer. (b) Upon approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, blue, blue and white, red and white, red and blue, or red, white and blue lights, or upon approaching a stationary authorized vehicle of the Department of Transportation, which is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing amber or red and amber lights, or upon approaching a stationary tow truck, which is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing amber, white, or amber and white lights, or upon approaching a stationary vehicle owned or operated by a public utility, which is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing amber, white, or amber and white lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall: (1) Proceed with caution and yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of such vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a roadway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or, (2) Proceedwithcautionandreducethespeedofthevehicletoasafespeedwhilepassingsuchstationaryvehicle, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe. (c) This section shall not operate to relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway. (d) Any person violating subsection (b) of this section who hits, strikes, or in any way contacts an emergency responder, causing physical injury, with that person’s vehicle shall be guilty of a class F felony.
Ben Schwartz is the Managing Partner of Schwartz & Schwartz, Attorneys at Law. If you are searching online for a personal injury attorney, please contact Ben about your case. Ben and the other attorneys in the firm represent people who have been injured in car accidents, tractor-trailer and bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and dog bites. We have offices in Havertown (suburban Philadelphia), PA, Wilmington, DE and Dover, Delaware. Click the “Contact Us” button above and see if we can help you today!
Matt Brown and Hannah Reese were on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with their two children. They visited Nicola Pizza for dinner, but the young family was turned away because one of the children, Colton, was in a special, medically adaptive stroller that helps him to breathe, cough and take nourishment. Colton suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The hostess would not seat the family because the restaurant had a no-strollers policy. No exceptions. The dad, Matt, later called the restaurant and spoke to Nick Caggiano, Jr., the son of the founder. According to DelawareOnline, Caggiano laughed when Matt mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical disabilities. For more on this story, check out the DelawareOnline article HERE.
This is an equal accommodations case. This type of thing happens more frequently than one might expect. In my practice, I have seen several, similar cases. I have represented both the business that was accused of denying equal accommodation, as well as the patron who suffered unlawful discrimination.
If you are a business owner or if you work in a business that serves the general public, the last thing you want to do is deny someone equal accommodation. And you really don’t want the News Journal reporting you thought it was funny. And if you’re not in business, it’s good to know about this law just to be an informed consumer.
The cases I have handled were not filed in Federal Court as ADA lawsuits. Instead, my cases were filed as Delaware State Human Relations Commission cases under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law (DEAL). The DEAL can be found at Title 6 Del.C. Chapter 45.
The DEAL prohibits discrimination by places of public accommodation against any person due to race, age, marital status, creed, color, sex, physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. The law specifies that unlawful practices include refusing, withholding or denying accommodation, facilities, advantages or privileges.
Under the DEAL, the customer who is discriminated against has the right to file a Complaint with the State Human Relations Commission. The Commission may conduct a settlement conference, called a conciliation hearing. The Commission may also conduct a trial, a public hearing, to determine if a violation of the law has occurred and to determine the appropriate relief that is warranted.
There is a very short limitations period with the DEAL. Under 6 Del.C. § 4508(b), “No complaint shall be filed with the Division more than 90 days after the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory public accommodation practice.” Normally, you might expect the statute of limitations to be something like two or three years, but in these cases, it’s 90 days.
Interestingly, the DEAL permits and award of compensation plus attorney’s fees. If the public hearing panel decides that there is a violation of the equal accommodations law, then the panel may award relief to include money compensation for actual damages including humiliation and embarrassment, costs of prosecution, attorney’s fees, and injunctive or equitable relief. Further, the panel can assess a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each discriminatory public accommodations practice. So this law has real teeth.
I checked with one of the other attorneys in our firm, Joe Stanley, who told me that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act is similar to the Delaware one.
Here are some examples of cases that may implicate Equal Accommodations laws:
A deaf patient is denied reasonable accommodation at her dentist’s office because the dentist refuses to have an American Sign Language interpreter attend the patient’s office visit.
A blind passenger is told that he cannot bring his guide dog in a taxicab.
A black patron goes to Denny’s and is required to pre-pay for his meal. (That actually occurred. The US Department of Justice sued Denny’s in 1994 for discriminating against black patrons and Denny’s agreed to pay $28 Million to settle. Check out the settlement agreement HERE.
And I am sure there are many other, different ways to violate the equal accommodations laws.
If you have been discriminated against in connection with a denial of public accommodation, or if you are a businessperson whose business is being accused of denying public accommodation, we would like speak to you. Contact us for a free consultation.