PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The American Motorcyclist Association filed an amicus brief with the highest court in the land Nov. 20 defending the rights of motorcyclists against unlawful search and seizure as protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The amicus brief was filed in case No. 16-1027, Ryan Austin Collins v. Commonwealth of Virginia. The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that, because Collins' vehicle was a motorcycle and not a car or truck, the officers who searched under Collins' motorcycle cover did not need a warrant to do so. The AMA's brief argues that the judgment of the lower court should be reversed.
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman stated that the amicus brief points out an example of how motorcyclists' rights can be threatened at all levels—and branches—of government.
"The AMA and its members must be vigilant at all times, because we can never know where the next threat will be," Dingman said. "The U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbiter on matters of Constitutional rights, and the Court's decisions direct the enforcement of law across the country at all levels. When motorcyclists' freedoms are before the Court, it's critical that we speak forcefully and convincingly to defend those rights."
The AMA's brief states: "This Court's analysis should not be affected by the fact the vehicle searched was a motorcycle rather than a car or truck. ... There is nothing inherently suspicious—and no inherent justification for a search—in the use or ownership of a motorcycle."
The brief points out that a motorcycle cover is commonly used to protect motorcycles from the elements, to provide privacy and to prevent theft.
"By removing and looking beneath the cover of the motorcycle parked in the curtilage of the home, the police conducted a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment," the brief continues.
While the AMA's brief expresses no opinion regarding the petitioner's ultimate guilt or innocence of the alleged crime, it emphasizes that motorcycles should not be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. The consequences of the erosion of motorcyclists' protections under the Fourth Amendment would be severe.