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Need Legal Advice

Hello PGH Bikers. My name is Christopher, but you can call me crunch. if you like. I've been working at the South Hills location of Pro Bikes since June/July. I've been commuting to that location by bicycle, especially since winter, when I put my motorcycle away to keep her out of the cold. These days I'm riding sixteen miles, from Wilkinsburg, to get to work each day. I just moved, from Friendship, but either way my commute takes me through Castle Shannon on Library Road, and this is where my troubles begin. as has happened in the past, a suburban police department has decided that I am a Problem, and has decided to Take Action against me and my "scofflaw" ways. except that they are trying to cite me for things that I'm doing which, simply put, Aren't Illegal. to date, I have been charged with Disorderly Conduct and Failing to drive on the right half of the roadway. I'm concerned that my interactions with the police will increase in number and in severity if nothing is done to decisively win these battles for me. the Disorderly Conduct charge stems from a very brief scuffle that I had with a motorist who took aggressive action when I slapped his wing mirror after he failed to pass me with sufficient space and caution for my personal safety. after I slapped his driver side mirror, he chased me down and forced me off the road, proceeded to step out of his vehicle and threaten to begin a fight with me. eventually, probably because of his ego and his machismo, he worked himself up to shoving me in the chest, which I responded to with the height of my ninth grade wrestling skills. I'm about to plead "not guilty" to this charge, because I didn't start that fight, and in fact had very little choice about getting into it in the first place. however, I'm not sure how to proceed. do I need a lawyer? should I use a public defender? pertinent factors include, the guy who started the fight was long gone in his car by the time the police showed up. several witnesses were there, and I was told that they had the guy's license plate number, but I'm not sure what became of that. did they charge him with anything? should I press charges against him for anything? the second charge, of "Failure to drive on the right half of the roadway" is totally bogus, I know, I've looked it up. but it's also really important for me not to lose, because I really need to be able to ride through Castle Shannon to get to work. can I trust the magistrate to judge me fairly? do I need a lawyer? should I get a public defender? further, the officer who stopped me was super shady about the whole thing, and didn't have probable cause. he wouldn't tell me what crime he suspected me of committing, or whether I was being charged with a crime, until after I gave him my identification. I think that might be illegal. at any rate, it demonstrated to me that he didn't actually know which law to charge me with breaking until he took my identification back to his vehicle and looked it up. pretty upsetting that I'm being policed by people who don't know what my rights are. anyway, I know I should just refuse to speak to law officers without a lawyer present. and I also know that I should always, always, record the cops. but I haven't gotten into that habit. any advice from cyclists would be much appreciated.
2016-02-22 19:45:30
I don't know the answers to most of these questions but cops are allowed to demand ID and check it for warrants, etc.
2016-02-22 19:55:06
If you've got a spare $100 (used, a bit cheaper): Get a camera. Record every safe, legal thing you're doing. It may even implicate others if they endanger you.
2016-02-22 20:17:20
Get a lawyer. The system is not your friend in this case. It's ok to ask for contributions to cover your costs. Actually, why is there not a cyclist defense fund for this sort of crap? (Calling
2016-02-22 21:26:00 Actually, the police don't have the right to demand identification unless they have probable cause. In this case, I specifically asked the officer if I was being charged with anything, to which he replied "I'll tell you what's going on after you give me your I.D." as I said above, I'm prettysure that's illegal. But of course I forgot to record the officer, so I have no evidence that he said this to me.
2016-02-22 22:15:45
First advice: don't post evidence or detailed accounts of what happened on public message boards 2nd advice: Don't touch other people's property. If you don't want a motorist tapping your bike every time you run a stop sign, don't tap somebody's car when they pass you too close. Try and talk to them about why passing you with a safe distance is preferred. Getting in a fight with a guy, I doubt, is going to make him be more respectful, courteous, and safe around cyclists down the road. Outside of that, you could be killed. You don't know the guy, whether or not he's packing or crazy or whatever. Egging somebody on isn't worth it. On top of that, you could be facing a lot worse charges. We have a guy and woman who are serving several years in jail because they got into a fight with an old guy in similar circumstances. Is it worth it? On police, here's a related page: You don't have to show ID, but then they can detain you to find out who you are. Again, is it worth it? If this post is indicative of how you spoke with the cop, I can see why you're in legal trouble. I'm not saying it's right, but you're asking for advice. Advice is be courteous and calm with police, even if they're not. Arguing with them while they're with you is seldom conducive. Better to hold your tongue and talk to a supervisor later, when they're not there with a ticket book in hand, with the incident fresh in their mind. We have another guy who fought a right of the lane charge, it cost him $500 and he lost anyways. Maybe it will get decided in your favor, maybe not. But if the cops get to know you and they win, they'll keep ticketing you if they come across you. Like that Kentucky woman. But maybe they won't come across you. It sucks that we have to deal with harassment from both stupid drivers and the police, but when it comes to the latter, I think keeping your head low during stops will save you a lot of grief
2016-02-22 23:26:16
Your advice is very unhelpful, mainly because instead of telling me what I can do now, you're telling me what I should have done then. I'm writing here because I can't afford to have this kind of thing continue, and you're talking to me as if it inevitably will continue, and I should just accept it. I don't appreciate the basic fact that I'm a victim, and you're essentially saying it's my fault and it's my responsibility, neither of which is true. All of that was written in text, and so of course tone does not come through. I mean it politely, and I, not being an idiot, see the bits of truth in what you wrote. No, I don't talk to cops in a way that is intentionally rude or offensive. But I do tend to talk to them as equals, as humans. If there are cops who don't appreciate that (there are), it certainly can create more problems for me. But that doesn't mean I should accept their abuse of authority. Similarly, if I touch a person's property, it is wrong to suggest that I should accept or expect that motorists will put my life in danger. The two are not the same. Especially noteworthy, the one I do only ever happens in response to the other one. Nobody can be grievously injured or killed by my slapping their wing mirror. Further, if somebody might pull out a gun and shoot me dead on account of my slapping their wing mirror, then I am not long for this world anyway. Luckily that isn't the world we live in. I'm not going to live my life in fear. If the "you could be killed" argument were going to work on me, I wouldn't be riding a bicycle across sixteen miles of Pittsburgh roads to get to work every morning. Speaking of not living my life in fear, I do intend to mount a camera on my bike. I don't know which one I should get, yet, and whether I can afford it in the first place, but being able to record the motorists who recklessly disregard my life would certainly reduce my desire to retaliate. Meanwhile, none of this has anything to do with my current situation, which is the two charges I'm facing, which I'm very keen to win. Any help would be appreciated.
2016-02-23 07:45:58
It seems that you like to instigate. Hitting that mirror was a big mistake. Plus, if you are impeding the flow of traffic..( going 15 mph in a 35 mph zone) get the heck over to the side. Let me tell you, you have no case now, because you opened your big mouth up on this forum, which is dumb on your part. I can't blame the driver for getting angry. If I were the driver, I would have just called the cops and told them what you did. Yes, you are lucky you are still alive, with the way you act and ride your bike. SHAME SHAME SHAME!
2016-02-23 08:26:49
I think your best bet at this point is to contact the law firm that Pierce posted above. They are supporters of Bike Pgh and will most likely be the ones to give the best advice since they specifically handle bicycle crashes, etc. And I agree with Pierce's other statements about confronting drivers too. I know it is hard in the heat of the moment to remain calm and such, but it is the best advice (and something I have a hard time following myself).
2016-02-23 08:27:31
I agree with Marko and Pierce. Talk to the lawyer linked on the sidebar. Very few people on this forum are qualified to give you any legal advice...plenty will be delighted to tell you all the things they think you did wrong, but, assuming you are looking strictly for information on fighting the charges, you're better off with a professional. (This is not intended to be dismissive, or a suggestion that "you don't belong here"...just an acknowledgement that this is not the best place to get the solid legal advice that you need.) One concrete suggestion: avoid posting details until the matter is resolved. Please do keep us posted in general terms, however, especially when it comes to hearing dates and's not unheard of for a handful of folks wearing bike helmets to sit in on such things when time permits...a show of support, if nothing else.
2016-02-23 08:59:38
A couple comments: I know Crunchy & advised him to post here, hoping he'd get sympathy & help -- maybe somebody knows somebody in Castle Shannon who can talk with the cops? Also, I'm the guy who fought the ticket for taking the lane; I lost at the District Magistrate level, but won in the Court of Common Pleas, when I had a lawyer. That's what cost $500, though I got a lot of help here. I'd also be willing to kick in to help Mr. Sacks. I agree about getting a lawyer to help; it's expensive but important to make sure your rights are respected. I agree about slapping mirrors, etc. It's not a good idea in general to have any physical interaction with the car of the motorist who buzzed you -- even when they're clearly in the wrong. It can be construed as a criminal offense. And, of course, always be polite & respectful to officers -- though I know from personal experience that when a cop decides that you're breaking the law when you aren't simply standing up for your beliefs reads as defiance to the officer.
2016-02-23 09:17:43
Yeah get actual trained legal advice. From what I'm hearing, at this point your best option may be to work your way thru the system, be (act) repentant, do whatever needs to be done to move forward with as little negative impact to yourself as possible. Going forward, be knowledgeable about your rights (as you seem to be becoming), keep a cool head, get a camera, if you can afford it. There is somebody doing a thing called Safe Streets South Hills, if you do FB, I don't know if they might have some suggestions for you. There is also a guy who commutes to town down Washington Road, I can't remember his board name, who dealt with harassment out that way. I don't know that he had much success, but you might at least talk and/or commiserate, if someone knows who I am talking about, or I can remember the name. Sorry for your experience.
2016-02-23 13:20:27
If you're trying to lay low in terms of street visibility, I do recommend using the T or a bus to get through the nastier part of your trip. Usually I recommend a transit assist because of foul weather or one's inability to surmount a hill, but in your case, reducing the chance of irritating the local cops is a legitimate use of $2.50.
2016-02-23 14:09:45
> There is also a guy who commutes to town down Washington Road, I can’t remember his board name, who dealt with harassment out that way. I don’t know that he had much success, but you might at least talk and/or commiserate, if someone knows who I am talking about, or I can remember the name. I believe that was @ajbooth.
2016-02-23 14:25:22
Not sure about legal advice but do have advice for future police interaction... Picking your battles is important. It can be hard to sway police to understand the law. Anyone that starts by arguing about giving ID will never win over the cop's opinion. That will set them on edge and that won't be your advantage. It would be wise to install both a front and rear camera if wanting to be able to prove the events in a future incident. Just one or the other won't provide a full picture. Also, you can print ou the cycling related laws and keep them in a ziploc bag. Offer to give them to the officer in a future encounter. Perhaps also useful would be the ruling finding in favor jonaweb. If the cop feels respected and that you're offering to fill in missing information... there is at least a tiny chance that they might come around. You could also proactively approach the department in charge of the area in question. That approach has worked elsewhere.
2016-02-23 15:51:46
Yes - ajbooth. Thx.
2016-02-23 16:18:38
Yes, @Buffalo Buffalo, it was me. And I'd be happy to chat, @Crunchy Fat. Send me a private message, because as others have eloquently shared, this is probably not the best forum. And @look out, no answer with multiple tags in it would be complete without pointing your assholedness. Wow dude.
2016-02-23 16:55:35
Can you get a public defender for this? I may go that route since it is such a little thing. You could call around to a hire attorney though, just to get an idea of price. Sometimes things are slow out there and they will take a little case like this for a low fee. Good luck. I feel your pain with drivers out there and understand your frustration. I may have done the same thing or worse, but I tend to avoid all drivers at all cost these days. I am getting too old.
2016-02-29 19:30:50