Category: Motorist Freedom

Morning Links

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The More Things Change . . .

Friday, October 19th, 2012

In this week’s issue of Huffington, they’ve published an updated version of my March article on Terrance Huff, drug dog searches, and asset forfeiture.

If you aren’t familiar, Huffington is the tablet magazine spinoff of Huffington Post, focusing on long-form journalism. If you have a tablet computer, I’d encourage you to check it out. One of the main complaints I hear about the Huffington Post site is its clutter and busyness. The magazine is very clean. No ads, no extras.

Anyway, while researching my book I recently came across the passage below from The New York Times Magazine. It has almost on-the-nose relevance to the issues at play in Huff’s case.

See if you can guess when it was published. Answer in the comments.


 . . . a number of judges [have begun] questioning police testimony that relie[s] on such legal passwords as “in plain sight” and “furtive gesture.”

“The difficulty arises,” New York Criminal Court Judge Irving Younger wrote last year, “when one stands back from the particular case and looks at a series of cases. It then becomes apparent that policemen are committing perjury at least in some of them, and perhaps in nearly all of them . . . Spend a few hours in the New York City Criminal Court nowadays, and you will hear case after case in which a policeman testifies that the defendant dropped the narcotics on the ground, whereupon the policeman arrested him. Usually the very language of the testimony is identical from one case to another. This is known among defense lawyers and prosecutors as “dropsey” testimony. The judge has no reason to disbelieve it in any particular case, and of course the judge must decide each case on its own evidence, without regard to the testimony in other cases. Surely, though, not in every case was the defendant unlucky enough to drop his narcotics at the feed of the policeman. It follows that in in at least some of these cases the police are lying.”

In California, where many drug arrests are made during highway patrols, Judge Stanley Mosk of the State Supreme Court recently questioned the police reliance on furtive gestures in justifying arrests.

“The furtive gesture,” Mosk wrote, “has on occasion been little short of subterfuge in order to conduct a search on the basis of mere suspicion or intuition.” In so doing, he said, policy imply guilty significance to gestures that are no more illegal than reaching for one’s driver’s license or turning off a car radio.

Sunday Afternoon Links

Sunday, October 14th, 2012
  • It appears that a Utah state trooper has been falsifying arrest records for DUI cases. Bonus: Higher-ups probably knew, covered it up. Double bonus: In 2007 she was named “Trooper of the Year.
  • Attempted puppycide.
  • Mark Bittman wants food labels to include what mood the workers were in when it was picked and manufactured. Okay, not quite. But awfully close.
  • Headline of the day. For your amusement, please note the improbable name of one of the two researchers.
  • I’m pretty sure that if anyone who didn’t happen to be a cop responded to a colleague’s teasing by taking out a gun and shooting toward colleague’s feet, they’d be charged with some sort of crime.
  • Milwaukee cop charged with sodomizing people performing several illegal body cavity searches is let out on $0 bail. Chief Ed Flynn referred to the officer’s actions as “noble cause misconduct.” You remember Ed Flynn. He’s the one who instructed his “troops” to tackle, detain anyone carrying a gun in the city, even though it’s allowed under state law.
  • Houston Police Department admits to pre-writing traffic violations.

Local News Catches Illegal, Forfeiture-Driven Traffic Stops

Monday, August 27th, 2012

This story is a year-and-a-half old, but I missed it when it came out.

I’ve posted about Nashville’s News 5 before. They’ve been all over the forfeiture story. Can’t praise them enough for bucking the local news cliche and performing real, relevant acts of journalism.


Florida Deputy Uses Spidey-Sense to Establish Probable Cause

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Last May, Sarasota, Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Dominic Fornal followed Joseph McNeal’s Jaguar out of a parking lot, then pulled McNeal over. The reason? Dep. Fornal claimed he could smell marijuana coming from the car. Even though the car was traveling at 35 mph. And the windows were up. Oh, and there was no marijuana in the car. Fornal did arrest McNeal and charge him with a DUI, though, even though McNeal’s BAC was about half the legal limit.

Fornal’s dash cam and wireless microphone clearly show McNeal, denying the search. More deputies arrived. They brought in a drug dog, which miraculously didn’t alert. They searched the car anyway, based solely on Dep. Fornal’s obvious olfactory gifts. He must have some bloodhound in him.

It was a thorough search. They went through all the stuff McNeal and his girlfriend had in the car. They made McNeal take off his shoes and socks. They made him turn the socks inside out.  They ripped up the interior of McNeal’s car. They pulled down trim and fabric lining. They found nothing. They then brought in another dog. They searched a second, third, and fourth time. Still no sign of the drugs that beckoned Dep. Fornal’s nose like a fresh chess pie cooling on the neighbor’s windowsill. For some reason, Dep. Fornal then turned off his wireless microphone. Shortly thereafter—we’re a good 90 minutes into the stop, now—another deputy miraculously found a single burnt marijuana cigarette in the trunk. They had missed it during all of those prior searches. They must have been distracted by Dep. Fornal’s live mic. I mean, that’s the only explanation I can imagine.

The state’s attorney later dropped all charges against McNeal. Once he was released, McNeal was free to pick up his car, which the deputies had graciously left in a muddy field. They didn’t bother repairing the damage.

And what about Fornal?

Fornal’s supervisor, Maj. Kevin Kenney, described that search as “going a little too far,” though overall, he stands by the deputy’s actions that night. Kenney said his deputy operated entirely within department policy.

Everyone together, now: Then there’s something wrong with your goddamned policy.

On the plus side, that admission could help McNeal establish “pattern or practice” in his inevitable lawsuit.

But don’t think the sheriff’s department didn’t learn anything from all of this. In fact, they learned a pretty darned important lesson about how to prevent an embarrassing incident like this from happening again:

Fornal will no longer have a camera in his car.


Maggie’s Harvest of Links

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

(Thanks to Radley for the first two items, Jesse Walker for the third, Grace for the fourth, Walter Olson for the fifth and Brooke Magnanti for the sixth.)

Maggie’s Teatime Links

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

(Thanks to Radley for the first four items, to Amy Alkon for the fifth and to Mike Siegel for the sixth.)

Saturday Links

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Morning Links

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Morning Links

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Raise Your Hand If You’re Surprised

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Wait. You mean when we give cops more excuses to pull people over, we also give them more excuses to harass people, profile, and conduct illegal searches?

I mean, who could possibly have known?

SCOTUS Denies Cert to Cops Who Tasered a Pregnant Woman

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Here’s what happened:

The U.S Supreme Court has refused to grant cert in an appeal by Seattle police officers who say they did not use excessive force when they used a Taser stun gun on a pregnant woman.

The court denied cert today, report SCOTUSblog, Reuters and CNN.

The woman, Malaika Brooks, was seven months pregnant when she was pulled over for going 32 miles an hour, 12 miles an hour over the limit in a school speed zone. She refused to sign the ticket and refused to exit her car.

But check the last sentence:

The en banc San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that police used excessive force, but they had immunity because the law was unclear.

So these cops were already off the hook for damages. They appealed anyway (with support from a number of police organizations), because they wanted the Supreme Court to forever preserve a police officer’s power to Tase pregnant women who drive 12 miles per hour over the speed limit and refuse to sign their speeding tickets.

Morning Links

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Morning Links

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Vehicular Homicide by Proxy

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

This actually happened a few hundred feet from where I live, though I don’t remember hearing about it at the time. An intoxicated man apparently struck and killed two pedestrians at a roundabout, then collided with a taxi.

It’s a really poorly designed intersection. There’s a smooth, three-lane, one-way road that runs for about a mile, then stops abruptly at a roundabout with quite a bit of pedestrian traffic, especially at night. So people fly up the road, then zip around the circle without looking out for people crossing. It’s especially bad late at night when people coming home from the strip of bars on the street where this happened are probably in a state where they’re less prone to be looking out for cars. (I mean, so I’ve heard.)

Of course, poorly designed or not, it doesn’t excuse the this guy, who was apparently pretty drunk. He was been charged with vehicular homicide. I’m not sold on the appropriateness of that charge for drivers in these cases (although this guy didn’t help matters by fleeing the scene—twice).

But what happened to the guy’s girlfriend seems way over the top.

Erin Brown’s boyfriend was charged with vehicular homicide and assault. She had been in the passenger seat. But in a rare use of the law, police also are charging Brown with the same crimes.

She faces as many as three decades in prison.

Police and prosecutors says Brown violated a part of the highway safety section of the Tennessee Code that makes it unlawful for the owner of a vehicle to direct, require or knowingly permit the operation of a vehicle in any manner contrary to the law.

Allowing someone to drive your car when you know they are drunk, prosecutors say, makes you criminally responsible for their actions.

The District Attorney’s Office commonly charges vehicle owners with driving under the influence for allowing a drunk person to drive their car.

But the vehicular homicide charge, a felony, against Brown is the first of its kind in Nashville.

Brown apparently was drunk too, and in her state of intoxication,she improperly gauged the level of her boyfriend’s intoxication before handing him the keys.

I’m okay with finding some civil liability for Brown, here. But it seems awfully excessive to take this woman’s life away from her for a split-second error in judgment that indirectly led to her boyfriend unintentionally striking and killing two people.

Brown apparently set herself up for the charge by telling police she gave her boyfriend the keys because he seemed “less drunk” than she was. So she basically admitted she knew he was intoxicated. (Again—never, ever talk to the police. Get an attorney.) But I wonder. What if she hadn’t made that statement? Could she have been charged if she should have known her boyfriend was drunk? How obviously drunk would he have needed to be? What if he was, say, just a hair above the legal limit? How much of a duty do you have to determine someone’s sobriety before you allow them to drive your car?

Seems to me that this is a pretty good example of “just because you can charge someone with a crime doesn’t mean you should.”