Man issues citizen citation after police decline to investigate red-light collision

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Knoll’s mangled bike.
(Photo: Cedar Knoll)

A man nearly crushed last week by a large box truck whose driver allegedly ran a red light on Martin Luther King Boulevard has issued a rare citizen citation after Portland police declined to investigate.

According to Cedar Knoll, a food courier for the local company SoupCycle, the man drove his truck at high speed through what would have been a well-established red light at the intersection of NE Dekum Street and MLK Boulevard (map). Knoll said the driver only stopped the truck and returned to the scene after a witness drove after him and flagged him down.

A police officer who came to the site told Knoll, accurately, that it would be against Portland Police Bureau policy to investigate the incident or issue an officer-initiated citation because Knoll didn’t need to leave the scene in an ambulance (for more on the PPB’s investigation policy, read our report from 2008).

Here’s Knoll’s account of what happened, written before he issued the citizen citation:

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Lawyer creates DIY toolkit for citizen prosecutions

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Lawyer Ray Thomas during a press
conference earlier this month.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Portland lawyer Ray Thomas has released a do-it-yourself toolkit of resources and case studies meant to help anyone who seeks to bring violators of traffic laws to justice.

The process, known as a “citizen initiation of violation proceedings,” is based on an Oregon law (ORS 153.058) that gives a citizen the right to file a traffic citation against another citizen.

Back in February, we followed a high-profile example of this process.

In that case, Christopher Heaps (a lawyer by training) and several volunteers spent hours requesting paperwork from the police and negotiating the court system to force a driver of a car who had hit a woman on a bike to show up in court and face justice.

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Updated: Police Bureau denies information request for citizen initiated citation process

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[Note: I’ve updated the post (at 3:45pm) to include a response from the Deputy City Attorney.]

The denial.
Click to enlarge, (240k, jpg)

The Records Division of the Portland Police Bureau has denied a request for information made by lawyer Christopher Heaps in an ongoing effort to utilize an Oregon statute to file “citizen initiated citations,” in a series of recent traffic collisions.

Claiming that they made a mistake in releasing information about Lisa Wheeler that led to her no-contest plea in the case where she was at fault for hitting cyclist Siobhan Doyle but did not receive a citation at the scene, the Records Division has now denied a similar request for information made by Heaps in a separate case.

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Citizen citation yields success; driver pleads “no contest”

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Lawyer Chris Heaps was not
satisfied with the Police response
to a bike/car crash, so he
pursued justice himself…and got it.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Christopher Heaps, the Portland lawyer who mounted a “citizen initiated” campaign last December to bring the driver who hit Siobhan Doyle to justice, says we can “chalk one up for the good guys.”

Heaps learned this morning that the driver, Lisa Wheeler, has plead “no contest” and will have to pay a $182 fine for violation of ORS 811.050, or “failure to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane”.

Back in November, Doyle was riding her bike down N. Interstate Ave. when Wheeler, who was also traveling on Interstate turned right onto Greeley, hitting Doyle in the process. The collision put Doyle in the hospital with serious injuries, but due to Police policies that (used to) only require investigations when “Trauma-level” injuries were sustained, no investigation was performed at the scene, and therefore, no citation was issued.

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Guest article: The Citation Odyssey

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Christopher Heaps

The article below was written by Christopher Heaps. Heaps is a lawyer with Stoel Rives who has volunteered to carry out the “citizen-initiated citation” process (as outlined in ORS 153.058) to retroactively cite Lisa Wheeler (the woman who hit Siobhan Doyle at N. Interstate and Greeley back in October) for “failure to yield”.

The article below chronicles his experience in making the first significant step in that process. It’s a fascinating look into the challenges a citizen can face when trying to work for justice within the system.

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Citizen initiated citation will be filed tomorrow

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Lawyer Christopher Heaps.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Christopher Heaps, the Portland attorney who’s leading an effort to bring a motor vehicle driver to justice for failing to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane, plans to file the formal citation at the Multnomah County Courthouse tomorrow.

Heaps has completed an Oregon Uniform Citation and Complaint (a.k.a. a traffic ticket, scroll down to see it) that lists Lisa Wheeler as the defendant.

Wheeler was driving south on N. Interstate Avenue on the morning of November 6th when she made a right turn onto Greeley Avenue and collided with Siobhan Doyle. Doyle (who has been in contact with Heaps and supports this effort) was riding her bicycle in the bike lane and the collision sent her into the trauma center at a local hospital with serious injuries.

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Full account of citizen initiated complaint process

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Cyclist Mike Reuter was the first person to utilize a little-known legal procedure known as the Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings. This legal process allows crash victims to take the law into their own hands. It was first brought to light by Portland lawyer Ray Thomas and I posted about it back in January.

Back on April 6th of this year Reuter successfully used this procedure to issue a citation to a driver that hit him back in September 2005 yet was never charged with wrongdoing at the time of the crash.

In order to help other people that might find themselves in a similar situation, Reuter has provided a detailed account of his experience. I have published it below.

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Cyclists fight back in court…and win

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Allan Folz is the third cyclist in as many weeks to successfully defend himself in court. Earlier this week, he fought a citation he got while riding to work in Beaverton back in February (read his story in the Forums). His victory follows the cases of Sean Barrett and Mike Reuter who also took the initiative and won respect from a system that still caters to car culture and leaves cyclists guilty until proven innocent.

We’re still many years away from garnering the same respect in the system as motorized vehicles, so it’s up to us to demand it. We need to educate ourselves and be willing to fight for our rights when necessary. Here are some great tips from Allan about how your can increase your chances of victory in court:

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New campaign to bring motorists to justice


Local bike lawyer Ray Thomas is working on a new campaign to empower injured cyclists to literally take the law in their own hands. His is distributing a new pamphlet titled, “Action Pamphlet #1; Do-it Yourself Guide to Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings.” You can find it at local bike shops, download the PDF here or read it below.

This is very important and timely information and I strongly recommend taking a few minutes to read it. Here’s my background commentary followed by the complete text of Ray’s pamphlet:

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