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MMA ALERT - Reports of possible Police Harassment regarding Motorcycle Sound Emissions

Published on 5/15/2009

A few motorcyclists, some members of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA), have reported incidents of being stopped in the Northeastern part of the Commonwealth by a Massachusetts State Police Officer, most often seen in a semi-marked patrol SUV.  The officer is reported to be citing a violation of “title 41” with regard to a lack of an OEM stamp on Exhaust Systems and other infractions such as Motorcycle License Plate Mounting and Helmet Markings.  Thus far, no motorcyclists have been cited for an infraction which is why we are concerned that this is a case of possible rogue behavior aimed towards harassing motorcyclists in the Commonwealth.


Reports have included improper sound testing, threats of arrest and towing of the motorcycle, and verbal abuse.  Motorcyclists being stopped have included MMA members who seemingly were within the speed limit and not creating excessive noise at the time of being pulled over.


The facts concerning the law in Massachusetts:...


Regarding License Plates, in Massachusetts, it’s illegal to obscure or otherwise render a License Plate unreadable.  This would include rotating the plate to a vertical orientation, bending the plate to a contour, covering it, or riding with a plate on which the numbers are no longer readable.  Many states including Massachusetts have begun enforcing the readability of license plates for a variety of reasons; these actions are NOT specific to Motorcycles.


Helmets are required in Massachusetts.  While the MMA supports Choice for experienced adults, we continue to pursue those changes by legal means, including legislation passed allowing helmet-less riding during permitted parades.  The MMA has a sponsored bill  in this year’s legislative session which was accepted by the Joint Transportation Committee in last year’s session.


Massachusetts Law states, “Every person operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle or in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle shall wear protective head gear conforming with such minimum standards of construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe.”  In Massachusetts, the existing General Law does not require a DOT approved helmet by writ and there is no published list of approved helmets from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).  Further, while a “DOT Sticker” does raise the presumption of “good faith” relative to testing, Federal Standards do not mandate application of a “DOT Sticker” on the helmet, and the lack of a DOT sticker on the helmet is not an indication of lack of compliance, nor one that is “illegal”.


As for Exhaust Modification, the officer has been quoted on at least 2 occasions citing “Title 41”.  There is no such law in the Massachusetts General Law.  Calls to the Registry also confirmed no such requirement for an OEM stamp on their exhaust in Massachusetts.  Further research identified the following reference to federal emissions requirements for Manufacturers:


This reference to “Title 40: Protection of Environment” is close to “Title 41” and is a standard for Motor Vehicle Manufacturers to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Noise Emission Standards at the time of manufacture.  This does NOT apply to Motorcycles after sale.


So, what do you do if you’re stopped?


Without question, you want to be respectful and cooperative.  While perhaps ill informed, this is still a duly authorized Law Enforcement Officer.


Obtain the officer’s name – he should be wearing and/or carrying identification.  You have every right to it.  If the officer refuses to provide any, you have the right to call 911 and inform them you’ve been stopped by someone who has refused to identify themselves.


If possible, identify the vehicle.  State vehicles will be marked on the bumper and/or license plate.


Make notes (and if possible take pictures – many cell phones have cameras today) of the procedures being used to inspect and test your motorcycle.  You are NOT legally required to assist in those tests.


You are NOT legally required to answer any unreasonable questions.


Contact the MMA with the name and description of the officer and any other details you can provide regarding the incident.  If you are issued a warning or citation, we would like a copy of that document and will work with you to fight it in a Massachusetts court of law.


For additional information, please contact or