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  1. #1
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    headset/earplug law challenge

    This may interest some of you who might wear an ipod when you ride. I do in some situations (mainly around here in pacifica when i'm not in traffic).

    A few weeks ago I was cited under CVC27400 while wearing my iphone headphones. Fine amount: $174. I'm going to challenge this ticket, first by written declaration and then in person if that fails. It is my contention that the police have been citing people under this for years even when they shouldn't be. Here's what the law actually says:

    A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears. This prohibition does not apply to any of the following: (deleted various exceptions for emergency vehicle operators, etc. since this won't factor into my case)

    The actual prohibition is against wearing of "headsets" that cover the ears (like earmuff type ear protectors), or earplugs that go into the ear. One assumes the reason for this prohibition is that both of these items are designed to block out outside sounds and therefore make it hard for the driver/rider to hear emergency vehicles and other things we are supposed to be listening to.

    The officer wrote on my ticket "cvc27400 wearing headphones". Does the law mention headphones? No, it doesn't. Do ipod headphones block out outside sound? No, they don't and aren't designed to. (there are such headphones on the market though: noise cancelling types). They do not form a seal around the ear canal and one can easily have a conversation with them in place and hear whatever is going on around him. I suspect they block out a few db at most.

    Now, you say, what if you turn on and crank up the volume on the ipod: wouldn't that be blocking out other sounds? Perhaps, in the same way turning on one's car stereo would. But the law does not mention this at all. It is clearly only outlawing devices which in themselves are designed to keep sound from reaching the ear by either covering the ear or plugging it. It doesn't mention speakers or "phone" or anything of the sort. If the legislature wants to outlaw such things, they need to write a law about it.

    Well, that'll be my argument anyway. Wish me luck...

  2. #2
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    what you state in the lower part of your post is what I do.. I have the Nike Flight headphones and place them just under my ears and turn the volume up.. Loud enough to hear my music but not in the ear in to interfere with hearing cars behind me.. I know other riders who ride with just the right earbud in since the law does state both ears..

  3. #3
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    Good luck! Please update this thread when you get any responses to your legal challenge.

    I agree that the law is poorly thought out and that the MP3-player headphones by themselves do not block outside noises even as much as closed car windows do. Certainly when the volume of the player is increased it disrupts the ability to hear other sounds, but the same is true of many car drivers who can't hear much outside their vehicle due to the volume of their audio system.

    When I lived in NJ there was a similar law enacted which also applied to pedestrians. One man chose to deliberately challenge the law and walked in the downtown area wearing a pair of open-air headphones with the cord obviously dangling loose (no connection to any electronics). When he was cited he showed up in court still wearing the headphones. AIRC, the judge commented that he understood the point the man was trying to make but would still find him in contempt of court unless he removed the headphones. The man also lost the case on the grounds that even if the headphones used as he did might not pose any hazard, the ban was still within the authority of the legislature to enact. Don't know if there was any appeal.

  4. #4
    Ooohh, shiny things! kyle16's Avatar
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    Good luck, you are going to need it. I really don't think you are going to win. I will agree that the law is poorly written out, to the extent that it did not include enough specifics to types of listening devices that should not be listened to while driving or riding. Really, it is for your own safety. So you are going to hear just as well when you are listening with your headpones/headset/listenining devies/ etc on. Ride, but ride with your own safety in mind. Listen hard to hear when someone else is coming up. Do not depend on the driver to keep you safe. I never wear headphones while riding, but I still get very caught off guard when I hear a Prius or something with an electric motor passing by. I can't hear it.

    Pacifica, why do you think it is ok for you to ride with earpieces of any sort? How does it make you safer? How does it make you different or better than the motorist? Why do you have different rules than a motorist on the road?

  5. #5
    This steel horse I ride Skones MickLoud's Avatar
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    From http://www.merriam-webster.com/

    • Main Entry: headˇset
    • Pronunciation: \-ˌset\
    • Function: noun
    • Date: 1921

    1 : an attachment for holding an earphone and transmitter at one's head
    2 : a pair of headphones

    -and-


    • Main Entry: earˇplug
    • Pronunciation: \-ˌpləg\
    • Function: noun
    • Date: 1904

    1 : an ornament inserted in the lobe of the ear especially to distend it
    2 : a device of pliable material for insertion into the outer opening of the ear (as to keep out water or deaden sound)


    Might as well send a check with your contest. Save both the State of California and you some postage.
    Last edited by Skones MickLoud; 09-18-09 at 04:07 AM.
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  6. #6
    It's MY mountain DiabloScott's Avatar
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    I think the law is pretty clear, I think you violated it, and I think you're going to lose. A written declaration is a good way to challenge your ticket but I think you'll need a more compelling argument than "earbuds are not headsets".

    If it were me, I'd concentrate on how safe you were being despite the iPod, and how you pose so little safety risk to the community while riding. If you're persuasive maybe the fine will be reduced but I can't see a "not guilty" coming out of this.
    Last edited by DiabloScott; 09-18-09 at 07:18 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyle16 View Post
    Good luck, you are going to need it. I really don't think you are going to win. I will agree that the law is poorly written out, to the extent that it did not include enough specifics to types of listening devices that should not be listened to while driving or riding.
    That's not it. The law isn't about listening devices at all. It's about ear protection devices like earplugs and over the ear protectors. It does not mention audio at all. When you look at the exemptions, it becomes even more clear what type of ear coverings they were talking about:

    (a) A person operating authorized emergency vehicles, as defined in Section 165.

    (b) A person engaged in the operation of either special construction equipment or equipment for use in the maintenance of any highway.

    (c) A person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment who is wearing a safety headset or safety earplugs.

    (d) A person wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of earplugs or molds that are specifically designed to attenuate injurious noise levels. The plugs or molds shall be designed in a manner so as to not inhibit the wearer's ability to hear a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle.

    (e) A person using a prosthetic device that aids the hard of hearing.


    Other than (e) these are all PPE type devices, designed to block out sound. Music earphones of the ipod type do not do this.


    Pacifica, why do you think it is ok for you to ride with earpieces of any sort? How does it make you safer? How does it make you different or better than the motorist? Why do you have different rules than a motorist on the road?
    Who said anything about having different rules? The earpiece may not make me safer, but it doesn't make me any less safe, but that is beside the point: my argument is that the legislature did not intended to make what I did illegal when they wrote that law. If they did, they would have mentioned audio somewhere in the law, or use the word "phone" to do that.
    Last edited by pacificaslim; 09-18-09 at 07:35 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
    I think the law is pretty clear, I think you violated it, and I think you're going to lose. A written declaration is a good way to challenge your ticket but I think you'll need a more compelling argument than "earbuds are not headsets".
    To be more accurate, my argument is earbuds do not cover the ear, nor do they go into the ear, therefore they are not the type of item that the law prohibits.

  9. #9
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    I think you're going to lose. If you had had one in just one ear and not both, then you wouldn't have been in violation as the law you cited above was specific about them covering both ears. Good luck though.
    -------

    Some sort of pithy irrelevant one-liner should go here.

  10. #10
    This steel horse I ride Skones MickLoud's Avatar
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    Again:

    * Main Entry: headˇset
    * Pronunciation: \-ˌset\
    * Function: noun
    * Date: 1921

    1 : an attachment for holding an earphone and transmitter at one's head
    2 : a pair of headphones
    You've already stated that they are in fact headphones. Any court is going to flip open a dictionary and point to the definition of headset.

    Furthermore, the law states that you cannot have earplugs in your ears. As Messrs. Merriam and Mr Webster have it:

    * Main Entry: earˇplug
    * Pronunciation: \-ˌpləg\
    * Function: noun
    * Date: 1904

    1 : an ornament inserted in the lobe of the ear especially to distend it
    2 : a device of pliable material for insertion into the outer opening of the ear (as to keep out water or deaden sound)
    Deaden sound does not mean block sound:

    * Main Entry: deadˇen
    * Pronunciation: \ˈde-dən\
    * Function: verb
    * Inflected Form(s): deadˇened; deadˇenˇing \ˈded-niŋ, ˈde-dən-iŋ\
    * Date: 1613

    transitive verb 1 : to impair in vigor or sensation : blunt <deadened his enthusiasm> <deadened the pain>
    Having an object of size enough to stay in place on it's own, in the outer opening of your ear will impair the vigor of sound around you. You may still be able to hear everything fine, and carry on a conversation, but the sound is still impaired.
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  11. #11
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ygduf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacificaslim View Post
    To be more accurate, my argument is earbuds do not cover the ear, nor do they go into the ear, therefore they are not the type of item that the law prohibits.
    You're so going to lose. they don't go into the ear canal, but the do hook into the cartilage of the ear. If they didn't, they wouldn't stay up there.

    No judge, cop, jury or lawyer is going to care for the distinction you're trying to make.

    Sorry.

  12. #12
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    this is stupid. go and pay the fine. and change your habits before a prius sneaks up on you

    actually, over here, we also have to worry about a tesla sneaking up too...
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  13. #13
    Senior Member SaiKaiTai's Avatar
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    Wow! Nailed by Pacifica's finest... must have been a slow day
    How many did it take to cite you? Seems it always take two or more patrol cars to pull someone over in this town. What were the circumstances, anyway? I've never been pulled over or cited and I've stopped to talk to "Johnny" with my earbuds in.
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  14. #14
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    I think it's a good law. Riding while distracted by music through earphones decreases your ability to hear what's comming up from behind you, like another bicyclist or, as demonstrated by a recent incident involving a Tesla vehicle, an electric car. Add wind noise and you're really impaired. So I come up behind you on the bike path while you're listening to music as you ride, wanting to pass, and you swerve into me as I do because you didn't hear me. Good show.

    Pay the fine. Drop the sound track. That's for sitcoms.

  15. #15
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    You'd have to look in the legislative history to see why the law was passed and what was considered a "headset" or "earplugs". If what you were wearing is consistent with that, and the reason for passing the law was pertinent what you were doing, you're toast.

    The commissioner or judge you'll face is very unlikely to dismiss your citation based on that kind of argument, but you might have better luck on appeal.

    Course, that's a lot of trouble for $175.

    In any case, good luck to you.
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  16. #16
    the dream shall never die galyons's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RapidRobert View Post
    I think it's a good law. Riding while distracted by music through earphones decreases your ability to hear what's comming up from behind you, like another bicyclist or, as demonstrated by a recent incident involving a Tesla vehicle, an electric car. Add wind noise and you're really impaired. So I come up behind you on the bike path while you're listening to music as you ride, wanting to pass, and you swerve into me as I do because you didn't hear me. Good show.

    Pay the fine. Drop the sound track. That's for sitcoms.
    +1
    Good law, regardless of how it is perceived to be "written". You did the crime, pay the fine, stop the whine!

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  17. #17
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    Ah great another topic that should be in A&S: "THE GREAT HEADPHONES DEBATE".
    If you do want to fight it, do it by written declaration. Chances it will be dismissed just because the cop will not file the paperwork from his end.

    UD
    Last edited by UmneyDurak; 09-18-09 at 12:11 PM.
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  18. #18
    Spinning like a gerbel spingineer's Avatar
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    Agreed ... this should go to A&S ... the law is pretty clear ... headphones/headset, earplugs ... whatever, in both ears is illegal. If you do use ipods, use in one ear.
    I'm in it to finish it.

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  19. #19
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    First off, I would fight it despite everyone else's 'you will lose' attitude. For these two simple reasons:

    1) You win if the police doesn't file a response to your written declaration.

    2) If you are found guilty and request a trial, and the cop doesn't show up, you get off.

    3) If the cop shows up, you can admit you are guilty but ask for a reduced fine.

    I did this to beat a speeding ticket where I was probably speeding. And its better to challenge these then to simply pay for them because it puts a bigger drain on the resources and may stop the police from issuing these pointless tickets. I would also use google to see what arguments people have used and whether they were successful or not.

  20. #20
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ygduf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
    If you do want to fight it, do it by written declaration. Chances it will be dismissed just because the cop will not file the paperwork from his end.

    UD
    This is the best point that has been made so far.

  21. #21
    Bourbon junkie ricebowl's Avatar
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    I'll echo the comments be a good little sheep and pay the fine without argument. The law's there for your own good
    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    Show me just one law that says that a person has a right to exercise their judgement or common sense, just one.

  22. #22
    Carbon compliance tester
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skones MickLoud View Post
    From http://www.merriam-webster.com/

    • Main Entry: headˇset
    • Pronunciation: \-ˌset\
    • Function: noun
    • Date: 1921

    1 : an attachment for holding an earphone and transmitter at one's head
    2 : a pair of headphones

    -and-


    • Main Entry: earˇplug
    • Pronunciation: \-ˌpləg\
    • Function: noun
    • Date: 1904

    1 : an ornament inserted in the lobe of the ear especially to distend it
    2 : a device of pliable material for insertion into the outer opening of the ear (as to keep out water or deaden sound)


    Might as well send a check with your contest. Save both the State of California and you some postage.
    Main Entry: 1covˇerˇing
    Pronunciation: \ˈkəv-riŋ, ˈkə-və-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 14th century
    : something that covers or conceals


    I cannot fathom why anyone would recommend "being a good little boy and paying your fine" when you don't feel that you broke the law as written.

    That said, I've never ridden a bicycle with any kind of headphones or earplugs. I do use one or the other frequently on the motorcycle though. I thought I was taking my chances with the law, but after reading the law as written, I think I'm better off running my Shure E2's all the time (even with no music on) than I am using earplugs, which are explicitly banned.

  23. #23
    Never enough miles... Fueco's Avatar
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    Here's a much simpler way to win the argument:

    "I was wearing my iPhone hands-free headset. I wasn't listening to music..."

    But I absolutely agree that people should not listen to music while riding. I don't even care if you only have one earbud in. It's still distracting you from what you are doing.
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  24. #24
    This steel horse I ride Skones MickLoud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reidconti View Post
    Main Entry: 1covˇerˇing
    Pronunciation: \ˈkəv-riŋ, ˈkə-və-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 14th century
    : something that covers or conceals
    Read closer:

    A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears
    One or the other applies, and I've already defined earplug. Twice.

    Quote Originally Posted by reidconti View Post
    I cannot fathom why anyone would recommend "being a good little boy and paying your fine" when you don't feel that you broke the law as written.
    Not being able to correctly read a law doesn't mean the law is improperly written.
    Last edited by Skones MickLoud; 09-18-09 at 03:58 PM.
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  25. #25
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    Thanks for the comments. FYI, the reason I posted this here instead of A&S is it is a California specific law issue. I didn't want comments from people whose states do specifically mentioned headphones or audio devices or whatever, or to turn this into a safety debate. I wished to merely discuss what this law says and if ipod earbuds actually meet the definition.

    I still find it hard to believe that any reasonable person would look at someone wearing ipod earbuds and claim that they either cover the ear or are "in" the ear. And dictionary definitions are one thing: common usage is another. Searching google images for the terms and seeing what types of items come up is probably more accurate for determining common usage. Headset brings up both audio headphones and hearing protection type headsets that cover the entire ear. Earplug brings up the type you roll and stick into your ear to block out sounds, not audio earphones.

    Perhaps my written declaration should consist of simply the following sentence: "I was not wearing a headset that covered my ears, nor was I wearing earplugs that go in my ears." Or perhaps add this, "I did have an audio listening device up on my ear lobe, but this is neither a "plug" nor was it covering my ear. The officer was under the impression that the law mentions "earphones," since that's what he wrote on my ticket, but the law does not mention anything about "phones" or "audio" devices at all. It is clearly about hearing protection type earwear."

    FWIW, you have to pay the fine amount ahead of time before you are allowed to file your written declaration or contest the ticket.

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