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How is that the dark side of registration?

Let me guess -- the officer found both?

The correct answer is "drugs".

It's the dark side because mandatory bike registration will be used as a pretext for conducting what would otherwise be unlawful and intrusive searches and seizures.

The 4th Amendment to the Constitution states that U.S. citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into, among other things, their persons and property. Using an unregistered bicycle as the sole reason for searching a citizen sounds pretty unreasonable to me. I fail to see how the absence of a sticker on a bicycle alone could suggest that there is a strong possibility that the owner is guilty of other violations of a more serious nature.

If you don't understand the danger there, you need to step away from the Xbox more often.

Wow, Krickey7, you really don't read very well, do you? This explains a lot.

In point of fact, the officer found neither drugs nor weapons in A.L.T.'s possession.

Whoa, somebody got their chest hairs caught in the zipper this morning.

I was more surprised that juveniles can waive their Miranda rights.

I saw this case because they actually found something on this particular kid. But what one can imply is that this kind of search is pretty regular, and so for every person who is searched and found in possession of something illegal, there is another (or two or ten) who are searched and are innocent.

The same thing happens with helmet laws and lights. It's used as a pretext to search a cyclist. I'd bet that more young black men are pulled over for these infractions than elderly white women (even on a per capita basis) and - if I'm right - that's wrong.

Not to take away from the major point here, which I agree with you on, but I'm wondering if they also end up impounding the unregistered bikes?

That was certainly the case in DC.


The cyclist was at fault for what, not having lights, not having a helmet, dressing in dark clothes, not yielding to the car (presumably), or what?

No lights and unsafely leaving the sidewalk - at minimum.

The cyclist was probably cited for lights and for getting hit.

§ 46.2-924. Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs; penalty.

"No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic."

Of course, one could argue that the driver could also be cited as well, since any pedestrian
or bicycle rider has right of way over vehicular traffic at a trail-crossing/crosswalk without a signal. Since there are typically a large number of pedestrians at the nearby 7-11, drivers should be on alert for pedestrians in that neighborhood.

At a crosswalk Virginia courts have held “the pedestrian has a superior right -- that is, the right to cross from one side of the street to the other in preference or priority over vehicles -- and drivers of vehicles must respect this right and yield the right of way to the pedestrian. The pedestrian's right of way extends from one side of the street to the other. It does not begin at any particular point in the intersection nor does it end at any particular point. It begins on one side of the street and extends until the pedestrian has negotiated the crossing.” (Marshall v. Shaw. Supreme Court of Virginia, 1955)

"The duty of a motor vehicle driver on approaching an intersection is to keep a vigilant lookout for pedestrians between curbs on the traveled portion of the highway, and when pedestrians are negotiating the crossing, or about to step from the side into traffic lanes, to operate his car at such speed and under such control that he can readily turn one way or the other, and, if necessary, bring his machine to a stop in time to avoid injury to pedestrians." (Sawyer v. Blankenship, Supreme Court of Virginia, 1933)

What route did that cyclist take into DC on the sped up ride? i would like to try that.

Sorry, still no pity. the kid was stealing wallets from old ladies.

Bike registration as a pretext for a search seems far less a 4th amendment violation than, well, just about anything. It's up there with having a broken tail-light.

The point is not that you pity that kid, but rather his honor roll cousin who walks the straight and narrow, but has to put up with periodic searches based on trumped up concern about bike registration.

Please. You really think the police want to pull everyone over with an unregistered bike and frisk them. They'll do that with cars, because there is some revenue.

What happened here is the cop was looking for a pretext. Looking suspicious isn't probably cause, but the bike tag was. That's rude and mean, but in terms of what the police do to violate our rights it's pretty minor. Maybe a 1 out of 10.

Pulling over every mexican in Fairfax and asking for papers -- yeah, that would be pretty bad. Considering half of them take bikes to avoid that problem while they drive.

You really think the police want to pull everyone over with an unregistered bike and frisk them.

No. If they did that, that would be fair. They want to pull over all "suspicious" people - aka selective enforcement. I suspect that falls more heavily on young, black men. "Looking for a pretext" is exactly what I don't like about this.

I had a friend who moved back to my hometown along I-10. He had New York plates for three weeks and was pulled over 5 times during that time on some made up pretext. Black guy - New York plates, must be a drug runner right? On the 5th time he refused to let them search his car. So they had a judge brought out and had him sign a search warrant. When they found nothing (after 4 hours, a drug sniffing dog and taking off his tires) they continued to hassle him for being difficult.
This is similar in action if not scale.

1 on the civil rights violation scale is still too high for me.

When DC had bike registration pretty much the only thing it was used for was harassing visible minorities*. You couldn't even actually register a bike -- if you went to your local police station they would tell you the machine was broken. Bike registration was only required of DC residents, and the cops have no way of knowing your residency by looking at you where you live, so it was essentially unenforceable. It was also a significant source of complaints of police misconduct.

*(Actually, it was also used to ticket cyclists who had been in accidents).

@washcycle and @John -


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben Franklin

While not essential liberty (but liberty is essential), being pulled over by a cop for not having a tag, or being bothered by one, is a little nuisance that I'd like not to go through. One reason to bike is not to have to have your bags searched randomly by WMATA, espcially when a change of underpants from being a hot sweaty mess is inside.

@charlie, to be blunt, no one asked for your pity; you asked why it was the dark side, and I did my level best to educate you about a matter on which you, as an American (I presume) citizen, may want to get up to speed. The broken tail-light comparison is bogus--an unregistered bike presents no safety hazard.

Your comment about the qualitative degrees of 4th Amendment violations is perplexing. Are you suggesting that their are degrees of violation of the 4th Amendment? There are different ways in which it can be violated, but I can't seem to find any discussion about qualitative degrees of violation (not so bad violation, bad violation, really bad violation, and so on).

As for your latest post, I'm curious to know at what point on your 1 to 10 scale you become upset about rights violations? And how do determine where violation events lie along that scale?

Lastly, the concern here isn't so much about whether the police want to do something; it's about whether they have (or should have) the right to do something.


I never had that experience. I will say, you could only do it with a steel bike with a thick frame--otherwise you'd void the warranty on your bike, if not actually do serious damage.

I wanted to add - registration has little benefit for the biker, anyway, as once a bike is stolen, it's often only found as part of a larger bust. I had a bike stolen years ago and it's still not been found. It was registered, too. My wife's bike was stolen last year and we filed a police report and still have the serial number should that day arrive - which we're not hopeful for. Cops don't look for stolen bikes.

Unless they're questioning a minority, if I'm following the discussion correctly.

@washcycle; no, it's not. Your friend wasn't committing a crime.

@Blue-eyed devil, you're clearly not a lawyer, because you didn't read the "unreasonable" part of the constitution. Everything in the law is about drawing a line.

I personally get stopped at every airport security checkpoint and singled out. Is that a federal case -- no.

Singling out black youth -- or in my example hispanics in fairfax -- isn't a problem with 4th amendment protections. Sorry. Other amendments kick in there. Or in my case not, since apparently dark skinned young men traveling alone on airplanes aren't a protected class.

Exactly how is an expired vehicle registration tag -- same principle -- NOT grounds for pulling someone over, then conducting a search.

Likewise, you could (if you were the cops) say everything in the bike is already in plain view, and you don't need a pretext to look at it. That might be a bit too far.

One of my stolen bikes was recovered this way. Police say a suspicious youth -- in this case they thought he was a drug dealer -- with a nice bike on this porch. They saw the registration, ran it, saw it was stolen, and raided the place. Got something like 300+ bikes in that haul. So yes, there is a lot of value.

Jason -- here is a Google directions link that's pretty close:

If that doesn't work, just as for Lake Artemesia to Washington DC in the bike directions, and that will give a general approximation.

I don't see how the registration had anything whatsoever to do with this search incident. The officer ASKED PERMISSION to search. He could have done that to anyone, whether or not they had an unregistered bike. The cyclist could simply have said no. He gave permission. No illegal search, and no pretext needed.

It's not clear from the brief, but it's possible the cop was checking to see if the bike was stolen. Cops recovering stolen bikes and catching thieves is a good thing.

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