Anti-Harassment Ordinance Gives Civil Court Advantage
You can read about it and download the ordinance itself here.
As we’ve discussed on CommuteOrlando many times, enforcing existing (or new) criminal laws against assaulting bicyclists is problematic. If it is not witnessed by an officer, there is usually no evidence with which to prosecute. This frustrating fact makes police departments reluctant to even send an officer when a bicyclist calls in a complaint. This, in turn, makes bicyclists feel helpless and disenfranchised.
LADOT recognizes this:
While it’s always been illegal to assault (or threaten to assault) a bicyclist, it has been extremely difficult in the past for authorities to prosecute drivers. That’s because if a police officer isn’t on hand to witness the altercation, there generally isn’t enough evidence to prosecute a driver in a criminal case. Cases of attempted assault are particularly hard to prove; a bicyclist using all their skill to avoid the assaults of an out-of-control driver is left with no physical evidence that an assault took place. There are also instances where the intentionally aggressive actions of a driver towards a bicyclist may cause a crash – just not with the driver that initiated it.
Rather than add a new criminal law, this ordinance gives bicyclists the right to go after harassers for civil damages.
Civil suits, however, carry a much lower burden of proof than criminal cases. That’s because civil cases are monetary in nature and never carry any jail time. Under the new ordinance, a series of actions taken against a bicyclist are grounds for a civil suit. They are:
- Assaulting, or attempting to assault, a bicyclist;
- Threatening to physically injure a bicyclist;
- Injuring, or attempt to injure, a bicyclist (this can include verbal and non-verbal threats); and
- Intentionally distracting a bicyclist with the intent of causing injury
The ordinance supplements, it does not preclude, criminal charges. So if there is evidence, an assaulting driver can still be prosecuted in criminal court.
So, what do you think about this?