Disabled Woman Sues Police After She’s Harassed For Not Wearing Helmet On Mobility Scooter
An appeals court has reversed the conviction of a disabled woman who sued police for harassing her over her mobility scooter.
Jennifer Gayman, of Oregon, has disabilities including a degenerative eye disease and a pulmonary disease, as well as asthma, lumbar degeneration that causes pain, and peripheral neuropathy, which can cause numbness or weakness in her hands and feet.
As a result of these conditions, Gayman cannot get a valid driver’s license and is therefore reliant on her mobility scooter, which she was using when the altercation with police took place in November 2018.
Two Brookings police officers stopped Gayman as she made her way home from a karaoke night and accused her of using her scooter on a sidewalk, failing to walk it across a crosswalk, and not wearing a helmet.
The accusations prompted Gayman to explain her disability and point out the rights she holds as a disabled person; that she was ‘was legally entitled to go anywhere on it that was open for pedestrian use pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act,’ however the officers still proceeded to cite her on multiple offenses.
According to a lawsuit filed by Gayman in 2020, cited by Vice, the officers told her she couldn’t drive back to her home without a helmet, leaving her ‘faced with the choice of exercising her rights to drive home [on the scooter], and face unlawful retaliation by the officers, or attempt to walk home in freezing temperatures.’
Gayman opted to defy the officers and drive home, with footage shared by The Oregonian showing a low-speed chase after which officers restrained Gayman in her garage and charged her with fleeing police. She was reportedly later convicted and sentenced to five days in jail.
The lawsuit states:
In a brazen and clumsy display of authority, officers pursued Plaintiff on her mobility scooter at approximately 15 miles per hour for the next several minutes, called for backup, and turned on full lights and sirens.
This pathetic and low-speed chase ended at Plaintiff’s home, where several officers took hold of and arrested Plaintiff.
Gayman’s lawsuit points out that ‘covered entities’ like cities must accommodate people who use mobility devices, per the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some local rules, such as wearing a helmet, also don’t apply.
This week, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Gayman’s conviction and stated that she should never have been convicted of ‘fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer’.
The court wrote:
An essential element of the offense of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer was that defendant had to be operating a motor vehicle.
The state did not put on any evidence that defendant was operating a motor vehicle when she, a disabled person, operated her motor assisted scooter in a sidewalk and crosswalk and then left the scene, after being stopped and cited by police.
It is as yet unclear whether the state plans to appeal the reversal.
Featured Image Credit: The Oregonian/YouTube
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