Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on December 20th, 2006 at 3:57 pm
Local lawyer Mark Ginsberg just shared an interesting decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals today on a case involving a ticket given to a cyclist during a Portland Critical Mass ride back in September 2004.
Joseph Rowe (who represented himself) was standing on the sidewalk next to his bicycle as the monthly Critical Mass ride went by (he had been riding with the group moments earlier). Police officer David Sessum and his partner approached Rowe and, according to the official decision,
“The officers were concerned that the sidewalk was being blocked by pedestrians and bicycles. Sessum told defendant to “move along, please, because we need to keep the sidewalk clear.” When defendant asked why, Sessum responded that, if defendant did not move along, he would be cited for failure to obey a police officer. Defendant did not move, and Sessum cited him for violation of ORS 811.130 and ORS 811.535.”
811.130 is “impeding traffic” and 811.535 is “failing to obey a police officer”.
The lower court upheld the decision so Rowe appealed his case and today the State Appeals Court reversed the decision saying that the law says you must be actually “driving a vehicle” in order to impede traffic,
“ORS 811.130 has no potential application to a person–like defendant–who merely stands next to a bicycle that is not moving. We agree. Consequently, the trial court erred in concluding that defendant violated ORS 811.130(1).”
And as for failing to obey a police officer. Well, turns out that you only have to obey if the officer is enforcing an actual law. Again, from the decision,
“The state further acknowledges that, in light of its concession that defendant was not impeding traffic, it can identify no authorization in substantive law that would apply to the officer’s order that defendant “move along.” Again, we agree and accept the concession.”
Check out the full text of the official decision.
A nice victory for a guy standing next to his bike, who just happened to be near a Critical Mass ride.
Read this comment from defendant Joseph Rowe for more details on the case, including excerpts from the official transcript where Officer Sessum says, “I hate critical mass” and “it’s an illegal procession”.