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The curious case of how a police officer lifting a motorcycle cover is about to break the USA’s 4th amendment




Should Police be allowed to search your motorcycle on private property if it’s under cover?

In essence, a motorcyclist causing issues on public roads was tracked down to a local property, where a police officer had to lift up a bike cover in order to confirm that this was, indeed, the very same motorcycle being used in the alleged incidents.

But should the Police officer have been allowed to peek under the tarpaulin?

Strap in for a long, meandering journey through the US legal system…

The Supreme Court this May or June will decide the case of motorcyclist Ryan Austin Collins Vs. Commonwealth of Virginia.  This case has few real ramifications for motorcyclists who cover their motorcycle to protect it from prying eyes, weather or sun.

However, this case could be a scratch upon Americans’ ever-eroding 4th Amendment protections from illegal searches and seizures preformed by the police.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The question presented to the Supreme Court for its ruling is:

Does the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception permit a police officer, uninvited and without a warrant, to enter private property, approach a home, and search a vehicle parked a few feet from the house?

Here’s the back story:

Mr. Ryan Austin Collins, on two separate occasions and on a very speedy motorcycle, allegedly did a runner from the same police officer. Getting a tip that it might be Mr. Collins on the motorcycle, and that said motorcycle might be stolen (probable cause), the officer monitored Mr. Collins’ girlfriend’s public social media account and found a picture showing a motorcycle, which was a close match to the bike that eluded the officer.

The officer then staked out the girlfriend’s home, where Mr. Collins was also a resident for a majority of the week (his primary residence). The officer walked up to the front door and knocked; no one answered. The motorcycle was not visible from the front door of the home or the road. The officer then left the porch and path to the front door and proceeded, without consent or a warrant, around the side of the house. He found a car in the driveway in front of a three-sided alcove, which contained a covered motorcycle.

This case hinges on two principles:

Curtilage is the immediate space outside the home, usually enclosed, encompassing the grounds and other structures used in daily domestic life activities.

The Auto Exemption ruling allows the police to search a car on the open highway without a warrant, if they have probable cause.

The Plaintiff’s contention is that searching the curtilage requires the same warrant as searching the home and the Auto Exemption should not take precedent.

The following statements illuminate the court’s previous rulings on similar cases:

“[W] hen it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals.” Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 6 (2013). “At the very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.” Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511 (1961).

And From English Common Law:
“So particular and tender a regard to the immunity of a man’s house, that it stiles as his castle, and will never suffer it to be violated with impunity.” 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 223 (1769 ed.).

That castle doctrine not only protected property, but also stood as a bulwark for all individuals against arbitrary governmental power. As William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham stated, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter.”

Lastly and most importantly:
As in the Coolidge plurality warned, “the word ‘automobile’ is not a talisman in whose presence the Fourth Amendment fades away and disappears.” 403 U.S. at 461.

So what does all this mean?

At a time when warrants are available with unprecedented efficiency, there is no legitimate law enforcement need for a categorical automobile exception on private property or within the home and its curtilage. i.e. when in doubt, get a warrant if the auto is close to a house on private property.


The officer certainly had no invitation to strip off the motorcycle’s cover

The officer’s search of Collins’ motorcycle thus violated the Fourth Amendment. The motorcycle was parked on private property and was covered within a few feet of the house, on a concrete slab in an alcove. This is classic curtilage and should have been apparent to the officer.

To reach the motorcycle, the officer had to veer off the customary invited path to the front door (trespassing).

The officer certainly had no invitation to strip off the motorcycle’s cover or to run the VIN number to investigate its legal status further. The officer also violated Collins’ reasonable expectations of privacy in that location.

The officer thought wrongly that the “auto exemption” and the possibility of stolen property were justification enough to poke around the curtilage (home) looking for evidence of a crime.

The Plaintiff (Mr. Collins) should win this case, however with the appointment Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, a new conservative Justice with authoritarian leanings, Mr. Collins will likely lose 5-4.

As will the USA’s expectation of privacy anywhere, especially the home.

Source: The Drive

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My name is Dana Sterling from the United States and I am a new contributing writer to MOTOFIRE. I have 20 years of riding experience and my current motorcycle is a 1999 Kawasaki Ninja 250R. I am a schoolteacher by trade and I live with my wife and young son in Southeastern Connecticut.


One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden




The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto




BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.

This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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