Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Fight a Helmet Ticket in California

richard quigley
Richard Quigley
Roughly seven years ago, one of the more well-respected figures in California motorcycle rights organizations died. Richard Quigley is not a name the average motorcycle rider knows about, but if you've spent a lot of time championing the rights of motorcycle riders, you've certainly heard of him.

Quigley established the group known as "Cal BOLT" (California Bikers of Lesser Tolerance).  He was known for fighting the helmet law...
In 1999, he decided to start riding his motorcycle wearing a trucker's cap, instead of the typical head gear other riders tend to wear. Between the years 1999 to 2006, he had been stopped over 100 times by police, cited only 34 times for helmet law violations, and managed to get 25 of those citations dismissed or declared unconstitutional. 
Each time he was stopped, he turned on his pocket tape recorder and then proceeded to interrogate the officer's understanding of the helmet law and what a "DOT Helmet" actually is. His intricate knowledge of the helmet law and how the DOT is involved with helmets, along with these tape recordings, is how he managed to get so many tickets overturned.
Before he died, he left behind a wealth of information on how to fight a ticket for not wearing a "DOT helmet".

He pointed out the flaws in California's "safety helmet" law and how riders could exploit it to win their case in court.

As it turns out, California Vehicle Code 28702 establishes safety requirements for motorcycle helmets.  However, it doesn't actually require helmets to meet the safety standards of the federal Department of Transportation.  It only says that manufacturers must certify that their helmets meet the DOT safety standards.  If anything, the law requires that these helmets be labeled as compliant (DOT sticker).

The law also requires that the helmet have some kind of strap to secure the helmet on.  It doesn't say that it has to be a chin strap.  Just a strap.

The California Highway Patrol also says it's legal to manufacture your own helmet.

The court system has also ruled that helmet law violations are "fix it tickets", and you cannot be fined.  Which is how Quigley got many of his tickets thrown out.

So, Quigley used to ride with a truckers cap with the letters "DOT" sewn into the back.  The cap had a strap that tightened around the head, just like any other cap.  Quigley argued that his cap was tested against the DOT standards, and was found to comply, because that's all that needed to comply (just your word).

You can read the full details on how to beat a helmet ticket in California at this page...


I point this out because a guy like Quigley went through a lot of trouble and hassel by the Man just to give the rest of us motorcycle riders some ammunition when getting hasseled ourselves.  Even at his funeral, at least one motorcycle officer came by to pay his respects to a man who knew the law so intricately and had the guts to take a stand.

What Quigley left behind works only when a cop is citing your helmet as not being "DOT".  It doesn't work if you've been cited for not wearing any kind of hear gear at all.

The truth is that most of us don't want to spend the time fighting a helmet citation.  We don't want to break out tape recorders and argue at length with a cop about the helmet law.  We'd just rather pay the ticket and be done with it, and that's what local governments want you to do also.

But maybe you'll find yourself with the time to fight it in court, and will want to have all that ammunition with you.  That's what Cal BOLT is dedicated to helping you with.


  1. I love this article! Being Libertarian, I want to see laws back in the hands of the local government and out of the Feds hands. I detest these sweeping guidelines set forth that are supposed to affect us all equally, but in reality, penalize only a few.

    I love a clever person, as well and someone with the gumption to fight the good fight. Remarkable man!


  2. During his last few years he did a noon hour call-in radio talk show on KSCO in Santa Cruz, CA. I always listened during lunch. BOLT has a lot archived plus court transcripts. Damn interesting reading.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)