SC Supreme Court decision on helmet law still looms

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Despite ongoing anticipation, the South Carolina Supreme Court did not release a decision about the legality of the Myrtle Beach helmet ordinance Monday.

On April 13, 2009, Bart Viers, brother of Representative Thad Viers, and a group called Business Owners Organized to Support Tourism (BOOST) filed a lawsuit against the City of Myrtle Beach claiming the law is unconstitutional.

The suit claims state law addresses motorcycle helmets by requiring them for riders under age 21. Therefore, city law conflicts and is unconstitutional.

Myrtle Beach city attorneys argue the city can make laws to reduce nuisances, such as motorcycle noise. Furthermore, the city has argued the law is constitutional because it can be applied to riders aged 21 and older because the state law does not explicitly address those riders.

The South Carolina Supreme Court decided to hear the case in the fall. Earlier this year, both sides presented their arguments. Months later, a decision still hasn't come.

"Do we wish we already had a decision? Of course," commented BOOST spokesman Tom Herron.

Although many thought a decision would come about 90 days after the Supreme Court hearing, or at least before the May bike rallies, attorney Karen Sauls said there is now way to predict when the court justices will be ready to release a decision. She said the court is under no obligation to make a decision within a certain amount of time.

"When they're ready and feel like they have a final decision on the matter, then they'll release that to the public," Sauls predicted. "At this point, they must still be disputing or debating - whatever's going on behind the doors."

The South Carolina Supreme Court usually releases decisions on Mondays, but Sauls said the high public interest in the case may prompt the justices to make an exception and release a ruling on any day of the week leading up to the first May rally. However, she said the justices will likely only come to that decision at their own pace.

She said the Supreme Court justices are known to take their time, and in this case there is a lot to consider.

"In this situation the arguments were pretty complicated," Sauls said. "They're actually looking to Supreme Courts from other states, and they're looking at Supreme Court decisions from across the United States to help them decide and make the decision they feel is best for the State of South Carolina."

Although Herron said he would prefer a decision sooner rather than later, he says it would only be a hallow victory if the court overturns the helmet law.

"What we have is hundreds of thousands of people who were regular tourists here who don't want to come back," Herron said. "Whether we turn the helmet law over or not, they won't come back because they're offended."

Whenever the state Supreme Court makes a decision, it will take effect immediately.

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