Bill to ban motorcycle profiling sent to Senate for changes
BOISE — Idaho lawmakers agreed Wednesday to send a bill that would ban motorcycle profiling to the full Senate for amendments, after hearing testimony from people both for and against the measure.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, bans motorcycle profiling for the purposes of traffic stops, detentions or other actions. SB 1109 defines motorcycle profiling as “the arbitrary use of the fact that a person rides a motorcycle or wears motorcycle-related paraphernalia as a factor in deciding to stop and question, take enforcement action, arrest, or search a person or vehicle.”
The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee suggested language be added to the statute to ensure it won’t create a “private cause of action,” or wouldn’t invite new lawsuits, which would prevent motorcyclists from arguing that they were profiled after a legitimate traffic stop.
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, cast the only vote against the motion.
“The primary responsibility of this legislation is to help manage and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the citizenry,” Heider said. “Profiling is unconstitutional. The principles have been established judicially, so codifying these principles legislatively ... clarifies, strengthens and solidifies these concepts.”
Heider said that although he believes most Idaho law enforcement officers don’t profile, reasons dictate that motorcycle profiling is happening to a degree “that’s damaged the relationship between motorcyclists and law enforcement.”
Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, voted in favor of amending the bill, but before that said she’d support the bill as-is because she thinks it “starts the conversation.” She added that if the bill were used to justify criminal actions by gang members, she’d be the first to support its repeal.
Mike Kane, lobbyist for the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association, and Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue, spoke in opposition of the bill. Kane said that though he doesn’t consider himself “anti-motorcyclist,” he believes the bill is unnecessary because it bumps against existing constitutional law that already prohibits profiling.
“Does this imply a new cause of action?” Kane asked. “If the answer is yes, we have a problem with that because now we’re going to see new causes of action being brought against police officers by disgruntled people that get pulled over, and we don’t think that’s appropriate — we’re not profiling, we have not been profiling, we don’t profile and we won’t profile anybody.”
This isn’t the first time a bill to ban motorcycle profiling has come to the Legislature. In 2017, a similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Robert Anderst, R-Nampa, and later died in the Senate.
Motorcycle profiling has been the subject of discussion not only in Idaho, but across the nation. In December 2018, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to promote awareness of and discourage motorcycle profiling. Anti-motorcycle profiling laws have passed in several other states, including Washington and Maryland.
“The bottom line is profiling is wrong — period,” Anderst said.