Motorcycle Club Members In New Jersey Win Legal Skirmish Over Right to Wear Colors
Nothing hacks a biker more than getting pulled over for something trivial like a “helmet violation” or a “quick safety check,” and three motorcycle club members have exacted a measure of retribution in New Jersey over a traffic stop they say infringed on their constitutional rights.
U.S. District Court Judge Jerome Simandle, in an opinion written on the case, said two members of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club and one member of the Tribe Motorcycle Club member can continue their efforts to bring a lawsuit over a July 30, 2009, traffic stop involving six motorcycles in Burlington County. The riders say New Jersey State Troopers ordered them to remove their “colors,” the members’ patched jackets, before they’d allow them to continue.
The bikers refused.
“The court has basically said, ‘yes you have a right to wear a patch, these logos,” said the rider’s attorney, Boyd Spencer.
Spencer is handling the case for the Eastern Pennsylvania Confederation of Clubs and says the group of bikers were on their way to an event when they were pulled over. The bikers were ticketed for not having approved helmets, but the part of the incident that really raised their hackles was when the authorities at the scene insisted that they remove their “colors” if they wanted to leave the scene. The traffic stop lasted more than an hour and the entirety of the event was recorded by mounted cameras in police cruisers.
“Now you’re all going to take your jackets off, because on this highway, these are the only colors,” said one of the state troopers after almost an hour. The “only colors” reference was to the trooper’s State Police blue and gold. None of the bikers removed their colors and a municipal court hearing following the stop found that the helmets the bikers were wearing were legal. The prosecution dismissed the charges.
The State of New Jersey filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit but Judge Simandle was having none of it and his ruling said the bikers suit showed “sufficiently alleged deprivations of a clearly established constitutional right.” The judge did dismiss an allegation of conspiracy a claim which alleged that the bikers were denied due process as a result of the traffic stop.