Improper Enforcement


David asked: If a police officer decides to enforce a non-existent law or a misinterpretation of an existing law (e.g., a police office tickets me for not cycling in the bike lane even though I’m overtaking another cyclist in the lane) what recourse do I have?


Let’s assume you are riding alone or single file, and otherwise obeying all laws, leaving the bike lane, passing and returning to the bike lane in a timely manner.  The applicable statute is shown at this post:

You have a number of options.

If the opportunity presents itself, and if you are carrying a Law Enforcement Guide to Bicycling Laws produced by the Florida Bicycle Association, you can ask the officer to review the applicable section.

You can ask to speak to a supervisor while on scene to explain your case.

You can pay the fine and end it there.

You can wait and attend traffic court and explain your case.

You can retain counsel to explain the circumstances to the judge.

You can retain counsel and file a motion to dismiss before the court date.

The latter option is recommended.  Traffic courts are hurried and chaotic, and you cannot be assured of a full hearing and opportunity to fully explain the laws and circumstances.  Decisions are inconsistent in different jurisdictions.  See this post:

If the facts and statutes are laid out in advance in an office setting instead, there is ample time to receive a full review.   You also have the written evidence to use in an appeal if the decision is not favorable.

You can also write to the Mayor, Chief of Police, Sheriff, County or Municipality Commissions to bring the situation to their attention and ask for further education of the officer and others.

For the best results long-term, you can also attend your local Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee meetings to advocate for cyclists rights, or organize a joint cyclists/law enforcement effort to attain uniform compliance and enforcement in your community.  This is one example of such a successful effort in Palm Beach County.

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