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Old 05-23-13, 12:00 PM   #1
WheelsByTheBay
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What to do about unfair fines for biking in Houston

Two Latino men who don't understand English well were riding their bikes on a road in Houston when they were stopped by police, each given a $200 ticket, and told by the police that they should ride on the sidewalk, not in the road. This seems to be a case of discrimination and misinformation, since as far as we know the law here makes road biking legal and sidewalk biking illegal. We're looking for suggestions about who to contact and what to do in order to get these tickets reviewed and hopefully cancelled, and in order to change the attitude and knowledge of police officers in Houston.

So far people have suggested we contact bike-friendly elected officials (Rodney Ellis and Carol Alvarado) and the organization Bike Houston. Who else could we contact? Do you know of other similar cases?

thanks for your attention.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:08 PM   #2
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Two Latino men who don't understand English well were riding their bikes on a road in Houston when they were stopped by police, each given a $200 ticket, and told by the police that they should ride on the sidewalk, not in the road. This seems to be a case of discrimination and misinformation, since as far as we know the law here makes road biking legal and sidewalk biking illegal.
What traffic infraction do the tickets indicate?
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Old 05-23-13, 12:10 PM   #3
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BikeTexas might be able to assist.

Based on a lot of incidents like this, it appears that police can issue tickets for just about anything they decide is a violation, without there needing to actually be any law. My daughter, who lives in the Shreveport area, had a cop stop her from riding her bike across a bridge (not a freeway and I biked across it myself many times when I lived there), telling her it wasn't permitted. I contacted an advocacy group and was told by an attorney who consults for them that there is no such law and the officer was deciding for themselves what they thought the law should be.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:13 PM   #4
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Two Latino men who don't understand English well were riding their bikes on a road in Houston when they were stopped by police, each given a $200 ticket, and told by the police that they should ride on the sidewalk, not in the road. This seems to be a case of discrimination and misinformation, since as far as we know the law here makes road biking legal and sidewalk biking illegal. We're looking for suggestions about who to contact and what to do in order to get these tickets reviewed and hopefully cancelled, and in order to change the attitude and knowledge of police officers in Houston.

So far people have suggested we contact bike-friendly elected officials (Rodney Ellis and Carol Alvarado) and the organization Bike Houston. Who else could we contact? Do you know of other similar cases?

thanks for your attention.
This is bad. I'd check with the legal clinics at the local law schools (University of Houston and South Texas College of Law) as this might be the kind of issue that would really interest some students.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:17 PM   #5
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bikers get harassed here a lot like that too. And at least to my knowledge we aren't allowed to ride on the sidewalk anyway.

If this is a traffic ticket of some kind is there a court date? The elcted officials, etc can assist more long term, but in the short term i'm concerned about two people getting fined hundreds of dollars, and maybe the court date could take care of that.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:21 PM   #6
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Based on a lot of incidents like this, it appears that police can issue tickets for just about anything they decide is a violation, without there needing to actually be any law.
Doubt it. Any traffic ticket that I am aware of cites the specific code or law that was allegedly violated. An LEO might stop a bicyclist and say anything is or isn't legal, but when/if the LEO writes the ticket he has to cite something more concrete than "I say so."

I suspect the OP might be misunderstanding what occurred at the traffic stop and why the ticket was issued. Perhaps the language difference may explain it.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:30 PM   #7
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How about reviewing the statutes and going to court on the date the summons specifies to make your case? The courts I've been to out West supplied translators if needed.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:54 PM   #8
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If they were cited for something like "unsafe riding" or "speed imprudent" or something similarly discretionary, you're going to have a real hard time. Small town judges are spectacularly biased, they'll simply nod along with whatever they're told by a cop.
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Old 05-23-13, 02:12 PM   #9
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Doubt it. Any traffic ticket that I am aware of cites the specific code or law that was allegedly violated. An LEO might stop a bicyclist and say anything is or isn't legal, but when/if the LEO writes the ticket he has to cite something more concrete than "I say so."

I suspect the OP might be misunderstanding what occurred at the traffic stop and why the ticket was issued. Perhaps the language difference may explain it.
Tend to agree with you on this one.

In fact the only thing I have to add is that the OP has 2 whole posts, so I'm not going to be explicit in saying this could be a troll.
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Old 05-23-13, 02:25 PM   #10
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I'd even think about contacting the ACLU on the grounds that they were targeted because they're Latino.
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Old 05-23-13, 02:42 PM   #11
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I'd even think about contacting the ACLU on the grounds that they were targeted because they're Latino.
Why not contact the United Nations too about their illegal use of black helicopters in targeting these two lads for Texas Death Squads?
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Old 05-23-13, 03:10 PM   #12
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Sounds odd to me, but if an attorney is needed, consider contacting Jim Harrington at the Texas Civil Rights Program, since there may be more at play than a simple infraction of statutes.

http://www.texascivilrightsproject.o...im-harrington/
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Old 05-23-13, 03:43 PM   #13
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If they were cited for something like "unsafe riding" or "speed imprudent" or something similarly discretionary, you're going to have a real hard time. Small town judges are spectacularly biased, they'll simply nod along with whatever they're told by a cop.
It does really suck, but the officers might not show and typically there is an appeals process to get in front of an actual judge.
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Old 05-23-13, 03:51 PM   #14
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I'd fight the ticket. It would be surprising if the cop showed up in court. Houston's streets are no more barred from cycling than any other city.
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Old 05-23-13, 03:58 PM   #15
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I'd even think about contacting the ACLU on the grounds that they were targeted because they're Latino.
Nothing in the OP that indicated that they were targeted for anything but riding on the sidewalk.

$200 seems a bit steep.
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Old 05-23-13, 04:22 PM   #16
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Nothing in the OP that indicated that they were targeted for anything but riding on the sidewalk.
The OP says they were ticketed and then told to ride on the sidewalk (not ticketed for riding on the sidewalk.) With no real information on what they were cited for I'd guess it was the "ride as far ride as practical" statutes most states have.

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Old 05-23-13, 08:39 PM   #17
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It is Houston, it is not like the cops there do not ticket whites for the same stupid made up crap. It has more to do that they were riding bicycles. Get off the race card.

Just go to court with a copy of the pertinent laws and that should be the end of it.
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Old 05-23-13, 08:48 PM   #18
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Summary of bike laws in Houston: http://www.houstonbicycleclub.org/Pa...yBikeLaws.aspx
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Old 05-23-13, 08:50 PM   #19
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Go to court and fight it...
Most people don't go to court and just pay the tickets... which is what all police departments everywhere count on
for their big money grabbing schemes.
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Old 05-23-13, 11:24 PM   #20
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The OP says they were ticketed and then told to ride on the sidewalk (not ticketed for riding on the sidewalk.) With no real information on what they were cited for I'd guess it was the "ride as far ride as practical" statutes most states have.
Or possibly there was no ticket at all, just a "misunderstanding" of the OP. Perhaps he/she might return and clear up the confusion before the National Guard is called out to protect the rights of the oppressed in Houston.
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Old 05-24-13, 09:09 AM   #21
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In an ideal world we would have an advocacy group - something like the League of American Bicyclists, who when an american such as Reed Bates tries to defend his right to ride a bicycle on the road, would support him. Alas, no such advocacy group exists, so Texas Law enforcement is able to make up laws with no fear of being challenged.

Next step for law enforcement will be to take on the job of sentencing and carrying out the sentence themselves.
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Old 05-24-13, 10:24 AM   #22
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Or possibly there was no ticket at all, just a "misunderstanding" of the OP. Perhaps he/she might return and clear up the confusion before the National Guard is called out to protect the rights of the oppressed in Houston.
And there's the rub with any online legal advice that isn't completely generic...if you don't see the ticket, and don't have a thorough understanding of the particulars, nothing you say is really relevant. Not to mention that local and state rules and court systems vary and you'd have to really understand the applicable process and law to say anything intelligently.

At the base level - you have a right to some form of due process at some point...that right can vary, and if it involves administrative law and quasi-Government entities, it's a royal PITA a lot of the time. Read the ticket and appeal through the process sited.
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Old 05-25-13, 04:19 PM   #23
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We're looking for suggestions about who to contact and what to do in order to get these tickets reviewed and hopefully cancelled, and in order to change the attitude and knowledge of police officers in Houston.
.
Often the best resource in situations like this is the media, especially the local TV station. Many have "help me Howard" segments where they help people recover losses to crooked businesses, or property owners unfairly fined. If this situation is as clear as you describe, ie. an illegal citation where no law was violated, it should make a good story for the local news' "help me" segment.

Otherwise, for the specific violation, there should be a local storefront lawyer, or one in a community activist group who can usually have it dismissed with a phone call to the prosecutor. In most stares, if you ask for a hearing, the local prosecutor must appear and make his case. They know a non-starter when they see one, and will generally drop it on request.

In one case, where I was wrongly cited (motor vehicle violation) I appeared ready to make my defense. Before the case was even called, the prosecutor sought me out, and explained that he'd be entering an application for dismissal, and said I could go home immediately. I asked it it was a trick and he said I could trust him, and it turned out that I could.
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Old 05-26-13, 05:09 AM   #24
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The cops around my area are complete chumps. I've never had an interaction with them that was positive. I've received two tickets from them, both for "operating a vehicle unsafely," i.e., I took the lane to be safe.

Both times I've pleaded not guilty, gone to court and had them nollied.

I know there are good policemen working to do a tough job out there somewhere. But the police in my small town are too stupid for words and prone to 'roid rage. It's a bad combination, and you can bet if my house is broken into, the absolute last thing I would do is call 911.
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Old 05-26-13, 05:22 AM   #25
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it appears that police can issue tickets for just about anything they decide is a violation, without there needing to actually be any law.
this is news to anyone? Cops can ticket or arrest people on pretty much any charge and then just "let the court handle it".. there is no consequence for the cop if the case is dismissed, charges dropped, etc.

Last edited by frantik; 05-26-13 at 05:28 AM.
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