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SB 50 Amended to Remove Profiling Language, but Intent Remains

racial profiling

We talked about motorcycle profiling in a recent post, encouraging our readers to fill out the 2023 National Motorcycle Profiling Survey. Motorcyclist profiling is a rampant problem in San Francisco and across the country. The American Motorcycle Association and other motorcycle rights organizations have been engaged in efforts to curb biker profiling by advocating for legislation at the state and federal levels.

Motorcycle rights advocates saw opportunity in a recent bill proposed by the California legislature targeting racial profiling. Recent amendments to that bill have made it less clear whether it could be expanded to cover biker and biker club profiling. At the moment it appears the bill would crack down on profiling, although the practice itself might not be explicitly mentioned. We discuss the bill in its original and amended forms below.

If you’ve been unlawfully detained or otherwise had your rights violated as a motorcycle rider in the Bay Area, call a zealous Bay Area motorcyclist civil rights lawyer.

California Senate Bill 50

Senate Bill 50 was introduced in the wake of rampant police violence, particularly violence targeting racial minorities in the State of California. The bill aimed to stop “pretextual” traffic stops. The police have a long history of choosing trivial, non-safety-related traffic infractions as a justification for pulling someone over and detaining them when their motivations are much more insidious.

SB 50 was specifically targeted at race-based stops. As drafted, the bill explicitly stated the “intent of the Legislature to enact legislation relating to limiting a peace officer’s authority to initiate pretextual stops to reduce racial profiling and the harm stemming from such stops.”

Advocates for biker civil rights sought to engage with the legislature to expand the intent of the bill to cover other forms of pretextual stops; namely, unconstitutional traffic stops of individuals based solely on the fact that they were riding motorcycles or that they were wearing the colors of a biker club. As we’ve discussed before, the vast majority of motorcycle riders report that they’ve been targeted by law enforcement based on their appearance alone. Pretextual stops are a common nuisance for bikers, violating their rights and their freedom.

A recent amendment to SB 50 removed the language specifically targeting “racial profiling.” Now, the preamble of the bill simply discusses the effect of the bill, which is to “prohibit a peace officer from stopping or detaining the operator of a motor vehicle or bicycle for a low-level infraction, as defined, unless a separate, independent basis for a stop exists.”

Although the amended bill no longer explicitly discusses profiling of any kind, if passed, SB 50 would still be a boon to bikers. The law would prevent police officers from using low-level infractions such as a lapsed registration or a broken taillight as a pretext for pulling over drivers or bikers. Even if the law was not drafted to help motorcycle riders avoid profiling, in practice, it would help bikers fight back against unlawful police action.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of SB 50. If it is ultimately passed and signed by the governor, we’ll be celebrating a much-needed check on police abuse of authority.

If you’re a California motorcyclist and have been targeted by law enforcement for exercising your constitutional rights of free speech or expression as a biker, find out if you have a right to take legal action based on that harassing conduct by contacting the professional, dedicated Bay Area motorcycle rights lawyer William E. Weiss at 415-362-6765.

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