Friday, February 12, 2010

Ellis County Demands a Public Showdown

Hello, dear Reader.

I received a dispatch today here at my bunker.

The authorities at the Ellis county jail last month released me with instructions to contact Judge Polk in Waxahachie for a court date.

His long-suffering clerk will be glad that I will no longer be pestering her about it. It is now evident that my charges were forwarded to a different court. I’m glad they let me know!

My case has been forwarded to Ellis county’s precinct 1, in Ennis. It will be heard or overseen by Justice of the Peace Bill Woody. (ChipSeal wonders if he voted for him…)

The dispatch is notification that a pre-trial conference will be held February 25, and that all motions must be filed seven days prior to the conference. (No motion will be entertained beyond February 25th.)

They have again changed the charges leveled at me. I am now required to defend myself from the scurrilous charge of “obstructing traffic”. I am thinking of filing a motion for a pledge from the prosecution to not change the charge again!

I still do not know the name of my accuser. (Motion 1) I do not yet know what law they think I am in violation of. (Motion 2) Did the deputy actually see me obstruct traffic? I don’t think so. (Motion 3 for dash-cam footage) What exactly was said by both me and him? (Motion 4 for audio captured by the deputy.) What did my arrest file say? What did the Deputy claim in his arrest statement? (Motion 5 for my arrest report.)

Empty Threats

I have been sternly warned that if I fail to show up for the pre-trial conference, that my driver’s license could be denied when I try to get it renewed. I guess that will be after I get one in the first place.

Let’s work through how this works, shall we? They arrest me for using a bicycle rather than an automobile to get around. Now, to compel me to submit to the judicial process, they threaten to cause me to get around on a bicycle!

Alternately, I could have a warrant for my arrest issued against me. Huh. That seems rather formal to me, seeing how they will arrest me for simply traveling on the public road!

The judicial system in this county seems particularly ill prepared to deal with bicycle issues.

Unusual Plea-bargain Proposed

I look forward to the pre-trial conference. I think that I will consider a plea bargain. If the prosecutor apologizes for violating my right to travel on the roadway in writing, I won’t insist on a public trial. Yeah, something like that.

In another forum, a commenter who claims to be a lawman, made this statement regarding this arrest; “I feel this rider attempted to be excessive in his interpretation of his individual rights to the extent that it impeaded [sic] on the rights of others.” He therefore approves of my arrest.

I either have the right to travel on the roadway or I do not. It is a right expressly granted to operators of bicycles in Sec. 551.101. What statute removes it?

What right do motorists possess that I infringed? Do drivers have the right to proceed at the speed limit? Did I prevent any driver from proceeding down the road? No, it was me who was prevented from traveling home.

Which Will Prevail? Cultural Bias or the Law?

This is the perfect expression of the windshield view of the world. No slow moving traffic allowed! Traffic flow tramples everything in it’s way- even express statutory rights.
The letter from Justice Woody’s clerk reeks of it.

The ever changing charges betray a frantic search for a statute to justify their point of view, rather than seeking to find what the law actually says- which is their sworn duty to enforce.
No, this is far more important to me than it is for them. I want a public trial. The law is clear, and I was acting lawfully.

Their windshield view is also clear to all who wish to see it. Inconveniently, it is contrary to Texas law. Nonetheless, their view may prevail. The culture of speed is pervasive in our society.
It will be a public spectacle in either event.

The stakes are high for both sides of this issue. Do they decide the case based on the law, or do they substitute their notion of what the law ought to be “had the legislators thought about it” instead? Dare they display their willingness to override the law in favor of their prejudice in a public forum?

They need not worry that I won’t show up.

I want a public trial.

Sincerely, ChipSeal AKA The Menace of Ennis


  1. Perhaps I should tell them something to really threaten you with. Like suspending your right to use reflective tape, or leave encouraging comments all over the Internet, or ride any cycle that has a seat.

    Wait! Wait! I'm on your side... forgot myself for a second there, sorry. I can tell from your writing that you've got your game face on... I'm sending all the good vibes my brain can produce your way.


  2. So what will prevent them from arresting you when you ride to the pre-trial conference and/or trial? They could win by default.

  3. The only flaw that might be apparent in your thinking is providing too many details here. Some of your comments seem appropriate as trial strategy and I suggest keeping them confidential.

  4. Yup. Pondero's made a good point...

  5. I'm off from work on the day of the pre-trial...can we attend?

  6. Worry not dear Pondero, I have not revealed anything anyone else could find with a few moments to look.

    I have reserved much which will be revealed in court, and publicly after.

    Please, though, pray that I may have a winsome demeanor! Thanks!

  7. Winsome: Like a sheep among wolves, be as wise as a snake, and as gentle as a dove.

  8. This may help, though it is from Ohio.

  9. The jury is in, and WE (not just Chipseal) lost on all three counts. :-(. However, the link to the Selz case posted above is relevant here, as is the corn combine case it is based on, Smith v. Lott.

    Chip lost because of the way jury instructions were written, just as they were in Lott v. Smith.

    The fundamental point in Lott v. Smith, a Georgia civil case, is that a corn combine driver cannot be negligent for obstructing traffic if he is traveling as fast as he reasonably can, for, if he could, that would be tantamount to removing his right to the road.

    In Trotwood v. Selz the Ohio appellate court ruled that "The facts in the case before us are virtually identical, except that a bicycle is substituted for the corn combine." In Selz they ruled that "a bicyclist is not in violation of the [impeding traffic law] when he is traveling as fast as he reasonably can.

    In Chipseal's case, like in Lott v. Smith, the judge provided instructions to the jury that presupposed that a bicyclist is guilty of impeding traffic essentially if he is moving slowly.

  10. I don't understand why you don't think it's safe to ride on the shoulder of the highway? If you ride on the shoulder you still get to where you're going, the cops probably wont hassel you, and you're less likely to get killed by a car. I'm all for letting bikers on the roads, but seems to me that you are a lot safer on the shoulder than in the lanes wih 70MPH traffic.

  11. I guess this also a loss for the Ennis FFA as they put on a charity ride in the fall. I've enjoyed that ride in the past, but cannot see supporting it when cyclists would be subject to arrest. They will just have to put on bake sales, although I won't be there to spend my money.

  12. cmsdw24,

    You are correct that he would not be hassled if he chose the shoulder.

    However, as logical as it may seem, cyclists on the shoulder are just as vulnerable (and possibly moreso) to getting killed by incompetent drivers. Quite a few were killed last year by distracted drivers who veered onto the shoulder.

    A distracted driver might be more likely to notice a cyclist in the lane ahead because most distracted drivers pay minimal attention to the lane directly in front of them (tunnel vision). Distracted drivers unconsciously allow their vehicles to drift to the right - partly do to the crown of the road, partly due to an unconscious notion that the right is safer than the left.

    Since ChipSeal has ridden tens of thousands of miles in the lane on these roads without incident, he has good reason not to fear being run over.

  13. "most distracted drivers pay minimal attention to the lane directly in front of them (tunnel vision)".

    I agree though I would expand on this assertion: "all distracted drivers must pay at least minimal attention to the lane directly in front of them (tunnel vision) every few seconds for a 'course check' and possible minimum adjustment, or they won't just drift into the shoulder, but will drive off the road entirely"

    It is simply impossible to drive for even the most inattentive driver without giving the lane ahead frequent (every few seconds) periodic minimal attention.

    However, giving attention as to whether the shoulder is occupied or not is not required at all, and subconsciously assuming the shoulder is unoccupied, despite the presence of an unnoticed bicycle in it, is all too easy to do, especially for any driver who is even just slightly preoccupied by thought, not to mention any that is more significantly distracted (like by texting).

    It might seem like any cyclist who is visible in the lane ahead would also be visible in the shoulder, but research on "inattentional blindness" (google it) indicates that there is a big difference between "sensory conspicuity" (visibility) and "cognitive conspicuity" (being noticed), and relevance is a key factor in the distinction. A cyclist in a driver's lane is clearly relevant to that driver, while a cyclist in the shoulder, is not (because most drivers do not intend to drive in the shoulder, though that does not prevent them from unintentionally drifting into the shoulder anyway from to time - but by then it's too late to notice the cyclist).

    Anyway, that's why I, for one, believe crashes into bicyclists in shoulders (and bike lanes) sometimes occur (all too often), and why riding in the lane might very well be safer, especially if the cyclist is monitoring how traffic behind is reacting to his or her presence with a mirror.

  14. I think I found the relevant section of the law.

    person commits an offense if, without legal privilege or authority,
    he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
    (1) obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, railway,
    waterway, elevator, aisle, hallway, entrance, or exit to which the
    public or a substantial group of the public has access, or any other
    place used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances,
    regardless of the means of creating the obstruction and whether the
    obstruction arises from his acts alone or from his acts and the acts
    of others; or
    (2) disobeys a reasonable request or order to move
    issued by a person the actor knows to be or is informed is a peace
    officer, a fireman, or a person with authority to control the use of
    the premises:
    (A) to prevent obstruction of a highway or any of
    those areas mentioned in Subdivision (1); or
    (B) to maintain public safety by dispersing those
    gathered in dangerous proximity to a fire, riot, or other hazard.
    (b) For purposes of this section, "obstruct" means to render
    impassable or to render passage unreasonably inconvenient or
    (c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.