New Cyclist Anti-Harassment Law in Berkeley

In February Berkeley passed a new law that allows cyclists lawful recourse in civil court.  Los Angeles and Berkeley are the only two cities to have instituted this so far.   Harassment and assault on a cyclists has always been illegal, but the burden of proof is much more difficult to prove as a criminal offense versus in civil court.

Photo by Nancy Ruben, from Berkeleyside.com

The article, Cyclist anti-harassment law live in Berkeley from today, explains:

“What does this new ordinance do?
This new ordinance in Berkeley allows bicyclists who are harassed or assaulted to take a driver to civil court. According to personal injury lawyer Hughes & Coleman a bicyclist may bring suit against a driver who:

1. Assaults, or attempts to assault, a bicyclist;

2. Threatens to physically injure a bicyclist;

3. Injures, or attempts to injure, a bicyclist;

 

4. Intentionally distracts a bicyclist with the intent to cause injury; or,

5. Intentionally forces a bicyclist off the roadway.”

“The ordinance adopted by Berkeley and Los Angeles is groundbreaking because it makes harassment and assault of a bicyclist a civil offense as well as a criminal offence. There is a lower burden of proof for civil cases as the penalties are financial and remedial. Making this harassment a civil offense also puts legal tools directly in the hands of bicyclists, letting them bring suit rather than having to go through the District Attorney’s office in a criminal case.

In the case of a successful civil suit for harassment of a cyclist, a driver will be required to pay:

1. Three times the damages incurred from the offending incident or $1,000, whichever is larger;

2. The attorney’s fees of the plaintiff; and,

3. Any other damages awarded by a civil judge or jury
(Source: Nehora Law).

These awards are essential in making civil suits viable, because they increase the likelihood an attorney will take the case, according to Alex Spiro. The awards also ask as a strong deterent to wrong behavior on the roadway. Frivolous lawsuits are unlikely, as a harassed or assaulted bicyclist must not only have enough evidence to convince a lawyer to take a case, but also enough evidence to convince a judge or jury. In the six months since the ordinance was enacted in Los Angeles not one case has yet been brought to court.”

Check out this article on Berkeleyside.com: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2012/02/16/cyclist-anti-harassment-law-applies-in-berkeley-from-today/

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