Mixed Signals: Dallas Drops Ticket Against Bike Helmet Law Opponent, Then Deals Another for Three-Month-Old Complaint
Paul Woodfield doesn't remember what he was doing on April 8 -- but to help jog his memory, the city of Dallas sent a deputy city marshal to his door yesterday with a subpoena. According to the complaint he was handed, Woodfield was riding his bike around White Rock Lake that day, and he was doing it without a helmet.
Well, "on or about April 8," anyway. (Jump for a look at the full complaint.) Woodfield says he has no idea how he's supposed to defend himself in court next month without knowing what time his crime was supposed to have occurred -- or even which day exactly. "I was never stopped. I was never asked to identify myself. I don't even know I was biking that day."
Woodfield, you'll recall, is the guy who filed a federal civil suit last month against the city, Dallas County and the State of Texas, complaining the city's bicycle helmet law is unconstitutional. One week after he filed his suit, the city dismissed his previous ticket -- one he got in-person back in March -- when he showed up for his June 10 court hearing. Now he's got another court date on August 25, thanks to an affidavit signed two weeks ago by Dallas police officer Olivia Watts issued by Dallas police officer Olivia Watts. It's his third ticket for riding without a helmet, but the first he hasn't received in person.
"Far as I know, I've never met this lady. And she certainly hasn't stopped me," Woodfield tells Unfair Park this morning. "They're just trying to punish me, and waste my time, and make me take time off of work, and harass me."
"We've got hundreds of people riding around white rock lake every day, and they're not hunting them down and issuing them tickets," Woodfield says. "I've complained this law is used for selective enforcement -- they only use it to prosecute people they don't like -- and this is proof of that."
When the city dismissed his first ticket back in January, it derailed an earlier long-running lawsuit he'd filed in Dallas County civil court. That suit was turned over to criminal court during the appeals process, and the dismissal of his ticket left him without any grounds for complaint.
Back on June 10, Woodfield spent five hours waiting around Dallas Municipal Court before judge Julie Clancy told him that second $25 ticket had been dismissed as well. This time, though, his latest suit's in federal civil court, so he doesn't expect the ticket's dismissal to affect the suit.
Woodfield tells us this third ticket may end up affecting his civil case, though. "I'm probably going to be amending my federal lawsuit to include this officer," he says.
"They've got warrants and criminals to deal with -- it's ridiculous to waste their time on bicycle helmets," Woodfield says. "And she's just now getting around to writing a complaint?"
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.