Court rules Myrtle Beach helmet law invalid

Myrtle Beach, SC - COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) -  The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that Myrtle Beach's law requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet is invalid.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2009 by 49 people after the city enacted the helmet law in 2008, requiring DOT-approved helmets for all riders in city limits. Under South Carolina law, anyone over the age of 21 is not required to wear a helmet.

The lawsuit argued the law, which required motorcycle riders to wear helmets in the city limits of Myrtle Beach, was invalid because it preempted state law. The court's decision also applies to a similar lawsuit filed by Businesses Owners Organized to Support Tourism (BOOST) and Bart Viers.

Click here to read the entire decision.

"Were local authorities allowed to enforce individual helmet ordinances, riders would need to familiarize themselves with the various ordinances in advance of a trip, so as to ensure compliance," the decision stated. "Riders opting not to wear helmets or eyewear in other areas of the state would be obliged to carry the equipment with them if they intended to pass through a city with a helmet ordinance."

The court added that local authorities might enact ordinances imposing additional and even conflicting equipment requirements, and such laws would unduly limit a citizen's freedom of movement throughout the state.

"We find that the City Helmet Ordinance fails under implied field preemption due to the need for statewide uniformity and therefore issue a declaratory judgment invalidating the ordinance," the judgement concluded.

The city initially sought to enforce its motorcycle ordinances by administrative hearing, but later repealed the ordinance that established the system. The petitioners contended the city's repeal caused the entire motorcycle ordinance scheme to fail.

The SC Supreme Court agreed, noting the city enacted a number of ordinances and amendments in response to the motorcycle rallies. The court says the ordinances were enacted to be enforce with the administrative hearing, but they cannot be reconciled with an ordinance that abolishes that system.

"In general, repeal by implication is disfavored, and is found only when two statutes are incapable of any reasonable reconcilement," the decision states, noting that the city's designating infractions accommodations restrictions and parking trailers on public streets or unlicensed private lots remains in effect as a misdemeanor.

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