Category Archives: Traffic Stops

Vermont: Federal Lawsuit Challenges Bogus Traffic Stop

ACLU files federal lawsuit against Vermont police officer for writing a bogus traffic ticket and lying about it in court.

MacIver traffic stopA man slapped with a bogus traffic ticket in Shelburne, Vermont is fighting back against the police officer who issued it. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, Rod MacIver filed a suit in the US District Court for the District of Vermont on Thursday over the December 9, 2012 traffic stop. Officer Jason P. Lawton pulled over MacIver’s truck and accused him of running a red light, even though a dashcam video of the incident confirms that did not happen (view video). When MacIver began arguing with Officer Lawton, he was slapped with a $214 ticket and two points against his driver’s license.

“What Rod encountered is everyone’s nightmare,” said Vermont ACLU executive director Allen Gilbert said in a statement. “He was out at night, alone, and was stopped by a cop who accused him of doing something he hadn’t done. And when he told the cop that he hadn’t broken the law, he got a ticket for arguing.”

Lawton then filed a complaint about the rookie officer with the Shelburne Police Department, and Sergeant Allen Fortin emailed Lawton back claiming that he had reviewed the video and it showed a violation.

“I reviewed this tape you were in violation and when you were stopped you asked (screamed at) the officer to issue you the ticket so please feel free to contest the ticket,” Fortin wrote in the email. “I would like the judge to see your actions at the time of the stop and see what we have to deal with.”

Weeks later, after being a charged a $45 fee, Lawton obtained the video which clearly showed he legally entered the intersection of Allen Road and Route 7 while the light was yellow. Officer Lawton testified in court that Lawton broke the law. At the March 6 hearing on the case, MacIver showed the video and the judge was angry that the officer had seen the video before entering the courtroom but continued to say MacIver ran a red light.

“Please explain to me why you testified under oath that the light had turned red before he entered the intersection?” Superior Court Judge Howard A. Kalfus asked Officer Lawton.

Officer Lawton said he testified to what he thought happened, which was different from what actually happened. MacIver was found not guilty, but he was not willing to let the police department get away with this bad conduct.

“He lied to me,” MacIver explained in court. “He didn’t see me go through a red light. He didn’t like my attitude, so he gave me a ticket for that, and I’m extremely unhappy about it. I’m particularly unhappy because Sergeant Fortin tried to cover it up, and it makes me think that there’s a pattern of abuse in the Shelburne Police Department that’s totally inappropriate.”

The lawsuit alleges Officer Lawton illegally seized MacIver in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and then violated his First Amendment rights by ticketing him for arguing over the bogus stop. He seeks a jury trial on the matter.

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Prohibiting Federal Funds for Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

Jeff Hennie, the Vice President in Charge of Governmental Relations and Public Affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, published an alert concerning a bill being introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner that would prohibit the use of federal funding for motorcycle only checkpoints.

Motorcyclist’s rights organizations and many independent motorcyclists oppose motorcycle only checkpoints as a discriminatory practice that unfairly singles out motorcycles as posing some special danger. This is despite the fact that the latest census numbers show that motorcycles make up only 4.7 % of all crashes in which there is injury or death.

We have no objection with safety checkpoints as a whole.  The objection we have is stopping only motorcycles.  There is simply no justification for this practice.  For one, motorcycle only checkpoints tend not to be fruitful.  An example is the large checkpoint that was set up during Rolling Thunder a few years ago.  Those conducting the checkpoint stopped 579 motorcycles over a period of seven hours and managed to write only 11 tickets.  This and the discriminatory aspect of these checkpoints is what has led some states such as North Carolina and Virginia to prohibit these checkpoints within their borders.  That being said, motorcyclists travel across state lines so this legislation is important to all motorcyclists regardless of what their particular state does.

Our position is that we support safety checkpoints for all vehicles.  If I am on my bike and there is a safety checkpoint stopping all motorists than I will gladly cooperate and subject myself to the brief detention connected with such a stop.  What I object to is being singled out from the motoring population as a whole due to the fact that I operate a motorcycle.

You may read Jeff Hennie’s alert below.  If you believe that motorcycle only checkpoints are a discriminatory practice which should not be conducted with federal funds than please contact your congressional representative and urge him or her to become an original cosponsor of this legislation.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about anything that I have written please feel free to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
MotorcycleLawGroup.com

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) reports, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, announced Monday, April 15th that he will file a bill to prohibit the federal funding of motorcycle only roadside checkpoints.

Sensenbrenner had this to say in a “Dear Colleague” that is circulating in the House of Representatives. “In the 112th Congress, I introduced H.R. 904, a bill to prohibit the Department of Transportation (DOT) from providing funds to state and local authorities for the purpose of creating motorcycle only checkpoints. Section 1 of the Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act contains the same language as H.R. 904. However, this bill also contains language to force the DOT to focus motorcycle safety efforts on crash prevention programs, not national helmet mandates.”

The bill will officially be introduced on May 6, 2013 and get its official bill number then. However, we must start the push now. It’s important to contact your sitting member of the House of Representatives and ask them to be an original cosponsor of this important legislation. Ask them to contact Congressman James Sensenbrenner and lend their support. An “Original Cosponsor” is someone who supports the bill before it is made public and is a way to strongly support a new bill.

Source

Motorcycle Only Checkpoints

The American Motorcyclist Association began tracking motorcycle-only checkpoints when they first appeared in New York in 2007. In 2011, using funds provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the state of Georgia conducted roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints as thousands of motorcyclists rode through the state on their way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for Bike Week, March 4-13. Another motorcycle-only checkpoint was conducted in northern Virginia during one of the nation’s most visible motorcycle rallies — Rolling Thunder — over the 2011 Memorial Day weekend. Motorcycle-only checkpoints were also conducted in Utah when thousands of riders attended a world-class roadracing event.

Five states have since outlawed the practice — Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Illinois, California — and legislation to prohibit them has been introduced in Missouri and New Jersey.

See below for information on what AMA members have done so far on this issue.

 

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  • April 17, 2013-The AMA issued an alert to urge support for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s Stop Motorcycle Checkpoint Funding Act.
  • July 16, 2012-The AMA sent California Gov. Jerry Brown a thank you letter for signing Assembly Bill 1047 into law.
  • July 16, 2012-California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1047 into law. The bill prohibits motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • July 6, 2012-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs House Bill 930 into law, banning any Illinois law enforcement agency from accepting federal funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • July 2012-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on California Assembly Bill 1047 and Missouri Senate Bill 897 (page 17).
  • July 2012-AMA News & Notes article reports on Illinois House Bill 930, passed by both House and Senate, and sent to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn for consideration.
  • June 12, 2012-AMA testifies in support of California Assembly Bill 1047 at Senate Transportation Committee hearing in Sacramento.
  • June 11, 2012-The AMA sent thank you letters to every U.S. representative who signed onto the Sensenbrenner/Petri letter addressed to the leadership of the House-Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference Committee in support of including H.R. 904 in the conference report.
  • June 11, 2012-The AMA sent a thank you letter addressed to U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) for taking the lead on a letter addressed to the leadership of the House-Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference Committee in support of including H.R. 904 in the conference report.
  • June 2012-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on Illinois House Bill 930 and Missouri Senate Bill 897 (page 19).
  • June 2012-AMA News & Notes article reports on Missouri Senate Bill 897, passed by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 30.
  • May 29, 2012-The AMA sent a communication to every U.S. representative in support of U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Tom Petri’s (R-Wis.) congressional letter addressed to the House-Senate Highway Conference Committee urging them to include H.R. 904 in the conference report.
  • May 29, 2012-AMA Action Alert: Lawmaker urges committee leadership to include language to prohibit funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints in transportation bill.
  • May 2012-American Motorcyclist magazine reports on passage of Virginia House Bill 187 (page 18).
  • May 2012-AMA News & Notes article reports on California Assembly Bill 1047.
  • April 30, 2010-AMA California Action Alert: Help stop motorcycle-only checkpoints in California!
  • April 26, 2012-AMA Action Alert: Support language to prohibit the funding of discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints in final transportation bill.
  • April 26, 2012-The AMA sent a letter addressed to the House conference committee conferees dealing with transportation issues urging them to include the motorcycle-only prohibition language in the highway conference report.
  • April 25, 2012-The AMA sent a letter addressed to the Senate conference committee conferees dealing with transportation issues urging them to include the motorcycle-only prohibition language in the highway conference report.
  • April 25, 2012-AMA letter of support for California Assembly Bill 1047 sent to Senate Transportation and Housing committees.
  • April 24, 2012-AMA Missouri Action Alert: Motorcycle-only checkpoint legislation scheduled for April 25 hearing.
  • April 2012-AMA News & Notes article reports on Missouri Senate Bill 897, passed by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 30.
  • March 9, 2012-AMA Action Alert: Georgia may utilize federal grant for motorcycle-only checkpoints during Daytona Bike Week again.
  • March 7, 2012-AMA New Jersey Alert: Bills introduced to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • March 7, 2012-The ABATE of the Garden State and the AMA sent a joint letter of support addressed to the state Sen. Jeff Van Drew for sponsoring Senate Bill 1685. The bill would prohibit motorcycle-only checkpoints in New Jersey.
  • March 7, 2012-The ABATE of the Garden State and the AMA sent a joint letter of support addressed to the state Reps. Nelson Albano andMatthew Milam for sponsoring Assembly Bill 508. The bill would prohibit motorcycle-only checkpoints in New Jersey.
  • March 2, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Governor signs bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • March 2, 2012-The AMA sends a thank you letter addressed to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for signing House Bill 187 into law. The law prohibits motorcycle-only checkpoints in the commonwealth.
  • Feb. 28, 2012-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed House Bill 187 into law, which prohibits motorcycle-only checkpoints. The law takes effect July 1.
  • Feb. 13, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints heads to governor for signature.
  • Feb. 8, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Senate committee passes bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Feb. 1, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: State Senate considers bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Feb. 2012- AMA News & Notes article reports on Assembly Bill 1047, legislation to prohibit any California law enforcement agency from using grant money received for a motorcycle safety program funds from being used for motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Jan. 31, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Assembly passes bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Jan. 30, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Assembly to vote on bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Jan. 27, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Assembly to vote on bill to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Jan. 16, 2012-The AMA sends a letter of support addressed to Virginia state Rep. Todd Gilbert for sponsoring House Bill 187. The bill would prohibit motorcycle-only checkpoints in Virginia.
  • Jan. 16, 2012-AMA Virginia Action Alert: Bill introduced to end motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Jan. 3, 2012-AMA letter of support for California Assembly Bill 1047 sent to Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (bills author/sponsor).
  • Sept. 2011-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on North Carolina House Bill 381 (page 16).
  • Aug. 2, 2011-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell responds to the AMA’s letter, dated May 31, 2011, regarding the motorcycle-only checkpoint implemented during the annual Rolling Thunder event.
  • Aug. 2011-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on New Hampshire House Bill 148 (page 17).
  • Aug. 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports that North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue signed House Bill 381, legislation that prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing patterns of vehicle stops at checking stations based on a particular type of vehicle, into law on June 23.
  • Aug. 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports on Virginia House Bill 187, legislation that would prohibit motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • July 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports that New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed House Bill 148, legislation that would prohibit any New Hampshire law enforcement agency from accepting federal funding to establish motorcycle-only checkpoints, into law on May 20.  The law took effect July 15, 2011.
  • June 22, 2011-Arlington county police chief responds to AMA member regarding motorcycle-only checkpoint during the annual Rolling Thunder event.
  • June 13, 2011-AMA Action Alert: Support federal legislation to prohibit the funding of discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • June 2011-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on North Carolina House Bill 381 (page 18).
  • May 31, 2011-AMA Virginia Action Alert: County implements motorcycle-only checkpoint during Rolling Thunder.
  • May 31, 2011-The AMA sent a letter addressed to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell regarding the implementation of a motorcycle-only checkpoint during the annual Rolling Thunder event.
  • May 28, 2011-The Arlington County Police Department of the Commonwealth of Virginia implemented a motorcycle-only checkpoint during the annual Rolling Thunder.
  • May 25, 2011-Lawmakers sent letter addressed to the leadership of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of including H.R. 904 in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.
  • May 2011-American Motorcyclist magazine publishes article, “Lawmakers Target Motorcycle-Only Traffic Checkpoints” in the Rights section (page 16).
  • May 2011-American Motorcyclist magazine reports in StateWatch column on New Hampshire House Bill 148 (page 17).
  • May 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports on North Carolina House Bill 381, legislation that prohibits law enforcement agencies from establishing patterns of vehicle stops at checking stations based on a particular type of vehicle.
  • April 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports on New Hampshire House Bill 148.
  • March 9, 2011-The Georgia State Patrol implemented a motorcycle-only checkpoint during Daytona Bike Week.
  • March 3, 2011-AMA Action Alert: Federal bill introduced to prohibit funding discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • March 3, 2011-The AMA sent a letter addressed to U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) thanking him for introducing H.R. 904. The bill would prohibit federal funds for the implementation of motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • March 2011-AMA News & Notes article reports on New Hampshire House Bill 148, legislation that would prohibit any New Hampshire law enforcement agency from accepting federal funding to establish motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Feb. 28, 2011-The AMA sent a letter addressed to the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce to inform them of the possible motorcycle-only checkpoint in the state of Georgia and the effect on local businesses.
  • Feb. 22, 2011-AMA Georgia Action Alert: State of Georgia may utilize federal grant for motorcycle-only checkpoints during Daytona Bike Week.
  • Feb. 15, 2011-The AMA sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia requesting he suspend the implementation of the federal grant until questions raised by the motorcycling community are addressed.
  • Nov. 17, 2010-AMA Action Alert: Administrator Strickland responds to AMA’s letter regarding grant program to fund motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Nov. 15, 2010-NHTSA Administrator Strickland responds to the AMA’s letter, dated Aug. 9, 2010, on the use of motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Oct. 26, 2010-The AMA sent a letter addressed to the Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue requesting he suspend the implementation of the federal grant until questions raised by the motorcycling community are addressed.
  • Oct. 21, 2010-AMA Georgia Action Alert: The state of Georgia is the only recipient to receive grant to conduct motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Oct. 19, 2010-AMA Action Alert: Update: Congressional letter aims to suspend NHTSA program to fund discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Sept. 30, 2010-AMA Action Alert: Congress members urge U.S. transportation secretary to suspend funding for motorcycle-only law enforcement checkpoints.
  • Sept. 27, 2010-AMA Action Alert: Sept.29 deadline for representatives to sign congressional letter to suspend motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • Aug. 13, 2010-AMA Action Alert: AMA seeks suspension of grant program that targets motorcyclists with checkpoints.
  • Aug. 9, 2010-The AMA sent a letter addressed to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland urging him to suspend a grant program until questions about the use of motorcycle-only checkpoints have been addressed.
  • July 13, 2010-The NHTSA posts a grant notice for states seeking federal funds to implement motorcycle-only checkpoints.
  • June 9, 2010-The Utah Highway Patrol responds to the AMA’s communication regarding our concerns with the May 30, 2010, motorcycle-only checkpoint.
  • June 8, 2010-The AMA communicates with the Utah Highway Patrol regarding a motorcycle-only checkpoint near the Miller Motorsports Park on May 30, 2010.

Source: AMA

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More than 150 Hells Angels, other bikers block road during police showdown on Vancouver Island

Police say that more than 150 motorcyclists breezed through a roadside check that police tried to set up on Vancouver Island.

Police Profiling Patches: These type of traffic check points are unconstitutional as they are profiling bikers and violate the right of people on motorcycles.

More than 150 motorcyclists — including members of Hells Angels — flouted police authority Saturday when the group refused to stop at a roadside check on Vancouver Island.

According to Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, police had information that the bikers would participate in a group ride Saturday and set out to conduct safety checks. Police officers from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. and other integrated road safety units then gathered near Duncan to monitor and halt the large group of motorcyclists, who had plans to travel from Nanaimo to Victoria on the Island Highway.

“The bikers, many of whom were observed allegedly ignoring red lights at intersections, speeding, and unsafely passing other vehicles on the road after leaving Nanaimo, were stopped on Highway 1 southbound near the North Cowichan Municipal Hall shortly after 2 p.m.,” Houghton said.

However, the bikers refused to pull into the roadside check area that had been set up and instead, blocked the highway, refusing direction from officers. The showdown ended when outnumbered officers were faced with no choice but to let the group pass. Houghton said police “documented the refusals” and would follow up with appropriate enforcement.

“Seeing a large group of bikers rolling down the highway and through towns can be intimidating for the public and that is their intention — to intimidate,” Houghton said. “Today was yet another example of groups like the Hells Angels thinking they are above the law. CFSEU-BC and its policing partners will continue to monitor events like today’s and ensure the public’s safety by seizing every available and appropriate enforcement opportunity against those involved in organized crime.”

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/More+than+Hells+Angels+other+bikers+block+road+during+police+showdown+Vancouver+Island/8339590/story.html#ixzz2SWStd6U8

 

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Kansas Supreme Court Rules Passing Sobriety Test Is Meaningless

Roadside sobriety tests can be used only to gather evidence to convict a driver, not to exonerate him, under a decision handed down last week by the Kansas Supreme Court. The court found passage of such tests is only one of many factors that play into the “whole picture” of whether someone should be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

The decision came down in the case of Bruno Edgar, who was stopped at a driver’s license roadblock on July 29, 2007. A police officer at the checkpoint asked Edgar for his license (which was suspended) and noticed a “real light smell of alcoholic beverage” coming from Edgar’s white Dodge pickup truck. The officer decided to conduct three of the standard field sobriety tests.

Edgar passed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, passed the one-leg stand and “did fine” on the nine-step walk-and-turn test. At this point, the officer testified he would not have arrested Edgar, but he decided to try a preliminary breath test (PBT) — a handheld portable breathalyzer-like device. The officer then told Edgar he had no choice but to submit and that he had no right to consult an attorney regarding the test. Edgar failed and was convicted of DUI.

Edgar appealed, arguing the reasonable suspicion needed to conduct the breath test evaporated when he passed all three sobriety tests. The district court ruled having the initial suspicion was enough to “run a gamut of tests” and that officers should not be hampered by an arbitrary order of which test needs to be performed before another. The high court narrowly sided with Edgar that the sobriety tests must be considered as a factor in determining whether there was reasonable suspicion, but the court punted on the harder question of whether passing all the tests eliminated suspicion.

“We are asked simply whether the results from Edgar’s three successful field sobriety tests should have been considered in deciding whether reasonable suspicion existed to request the PBT,” Justice Dan Biles wrote for the court. “The answer to that question is yes. And while the Court of Appeals continued the analysis to consider whether there was reasonable suspicion in light of the field sobriety test results in Edgar’s case, we need not address that question, which may be a close call at best, given our holding on the next issue.”

Edgar had also appealed the preliminary breath screening because the officer falsely told him he had no right to refuse the test. Under Kansas law, refusal to use the handheld breath-testing device is a “traffic infraction.” The court treats the test as a search for Fourth Amendment purposes and consent to the search must by voluntary. The high court found it did not matter that the state has an implied consent statute covering the handheld test device.

“So even though Edgar impliedly consented to the PBT under the terms of the statute by driving, such consent may always be withdrawn — an event made unlikely when a driver is affirmatively misinformed by a law enforcement officer that he or she cannot refuse, which effectively contradicts the statute,” Justice Biles ruled. “We hold that the officer’s misstatement that Edgar had no right to refuse the PBT rendered the test involuntary… Accordingly, the district court erred by not suppressing the PBT results. And that error also invalidates Edgar’s DUI arrest and the subsequent blood-alcohol test.”

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West Virginia: Traffic Stop Cannot Be Used to Justify Home Search

Police may not use a traffic stop as a pretext to enter a man’s “crib,” a federal judge ruled last week. US District Judge Irene M. Keeley last week adopted the findings of a federal magistrate overturning the evidence a Morgantown police officer obtained by following a West Virginia man, Samad Harvey, into his home. Harvey had been one of three black men in a silver Jaguar stopped by Officer Kenneth Walker Murphy on University Avenue at around 9:45pm on December 16, 2010. “My original reason for the stop was because there was no registration,” Officer Murphy testified. The vehicle, in fact, was properly registered. A New Jersey temporary registration card was visible in the rear window, as required by that state’s law. Even after he saw the valid registration, Officer Murphy believed it was illegal to drive without a license plate. Under a New Jersey law in effect at the time, the temporary tag “shall be carried in the cab of the vehicle” (New Jersey has since switched to the use of temporary paper plates). Judge Keeley found display in accordance with New Jersey law violated West Virginia law and a city ordinance. “In the circumstances of this case, the placement of the registration in the rear window of the vehicle rendered it not ‘clearly visible’ under Morgantown City Code Section 351.03, and Officer Murphy was justified in pursuing the normal incidents of the traffic stop,” Judge Keeley wrote. As the traffic stop proceeded, Officer Murphy questioned the Jaguar driver, Rashawn Billingsley, who was not carrying his driver’s license. Three other officers arrived on the scene, and they agreed that they smelled marijuana. The Jaguar and its three occupants were searched. A bong was found in the trunk. Officer Jason K. Ammons asked Harvey, a passenger, for his license. “My ID is in my crib,” Harvey responded. Officer Ammons ordered him to go into his house, which was nearby, to retrieve his identification. Ammons followed him into the house. Harvey’s lawyer insisted this created the opportunity for a search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. “When Officer Ammons followed Mr. Harvey into the residence without consent, he reportedly smelled marijuana and saw a Rice-a-Roni box ‘that was open and had a blunt and a plastic bag sticking out of it,’ while Mr. Harvey located his identification,” public defender L. Richard Walker argued. “A so-called police ‘escort’ of a citizen who is not under arrest or detained, without any type of consent or permission, is not an accepted, valid exception to the warrant requirement.” On the basis of what he saw, Officer Ammons decided to obtain a search warrant, and a subsequent search uncovered a .22 pistol. Prosecutors argued Officer Ammons was justified walking into the home because by not stopping Ammons, Harvey gave implied consent. The argument failed to persuade the court. “Notably, the government has cited to no case stating that consent to search can, in the first instance, be inferred solely from the silence of a defendant who was never asked,” Judge Keeley ruled. “Rather, the weight of authority holds that the government may not show consent to enter from the defendant’s failure to object to the entry. To do so would be to justify entry by consent and consent by entry.” With the evidence suppressed, the state no longer has a case against Harvey. A copy of the ruling is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: PDF File US v. Harvey (US District Court, Northern West Virginia, 10/25/2012)

Study Admits Yellow Times Too Short at Intersections

A report by state transportation officials released last week tacitly admitted drivers are being shortchanged when the light at an intersection turns yellow. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) released its guidelines on how municipalities can best time their signals for safety. The net result is that most intersections would see yellows extended by roughly half-a-second if the recommendations were adopted.


Signal timing has become a highly political issue due to lobbying by the National Motorists Association and the 2001 release of a report on the issue by the US House Majority Leader (view report). Various changes to the signal timing formula and other techniques have been used so that yellows are roughly one second shorter in the current Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) formula compared to what the prior formula used in 1976 generated. The states of Ohio and Georgia responded in the past three years by enacting laws mandating an extra second of yellow, resulting in a documented reduction in red light running. The NCHRP report admits the benefit of longer yellows.


“Increasing the yellow change interval to the duration calculated by current ITE guidelines has been shown to reduce red-light running occurrences between 36 and 50 percent,” the report explained.


As the report detailed, there is no one standard system for determining yellow timing. Some states, such as Virginia, mandate the ITE methodology for intersections that have red light cameras. Other states spell out minimum standards in their regulations as codified in their state Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). California, for example, says a 30 MPH intersection must have a yellow of no less than 3.2 seconds. A specific provision of California’s red light camera law reminds traffic engineers that they may implement longer yellows, but not shorter yellows. Other states use a rule-of-thumb where the yellow duration is determined by dividing the speed limit by 10, so that a 30 MPH intersection has a 3.0 second yellow. The appendix of the new NCHRP report suggests the same 30 MPH intersection should have a 3.7 second minimum yellow time. For a 40 MPH intersection, California’s minimum is 3.9 seconds, the rule-of-thumb is 4.0 seconds while NCHRP suggests it should be no less than 4.5 seconds.


NCHRP has not modified the current ITE formula to arrive at these figures. Instead, the researchers concede municipalities do not measure the actual speed of traffic when deciding how much time motorists need to stop safely when approaching an intersection. Instead, local engineers commonly plug the posted speed limit into an equation that needs the “85th percentile” speed to work properly. The 85th percentile is a measure of how fast at least 85 percent of traffic is flowing. The researchers also concede that traffic engineers tend to deliberately post speed limits far below the actual speed of traffic. This results in yellow times that are too short, as the researchers documented by studying actual intersections.


“For 3,632 vehicles sampled, the mean approach speed typically exceeded the speed limit at locations with a posted speed limit of 35 mph and below,” the report determined. “However, at nearly all locations, the 85th percentile approach speed was found to exceed the posted speed limit… Therefore, speed limit in itself does not provide an accurate estimate of 85th percentile speed.”


To remedy this, NCHRP recommends calculating yellow times at by adding 7 MPH to the posted speed limit to more closely approximate the actual speed of traffic. The NCHRP research was conducted by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies and sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration.


An excerpt from Appendix A of the report appears in a 650k PDF file at the source link below.

Excerpt: Guidelines for Timing Yellow and All-Red Intervals (National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 10/28/2012)

Red Light Cameras Become Hot Campaign Topic in Texas Town

Red light camera proponents on League City, Texas city council are targeted for defeat by photo ticketing opponents.

Three city council seats are up for grabs in League City, Texas and the candidates are lining up in opposition to the use of automated ticketing machines. The Houston suburb is one of five municipalities in which voters today will have an opportunity to ban or recommend a ban on the use of automated ticketing machines.

A League City resident attempted to circulate an immediate ban on the use of red light cameras on the November 6 ballot, and city leaders responded by proposing their own camera ban initiative that would only take effect in 2014 after the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems runs out. Redflex filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the measure from coming before voters. Councilman Mick Phalen, a vocal supporter of keeping that contract, is looking to defend his council seat against challenger Heidi Thiess.

“So far we, our community, have been fined $5 million by Redflex, a company out of Australia,” Heidi Thiess said during a city council meeting in August. “We now know that accidents are up two-thirds… So if Redflex would like to go to the mat with us and say that they have made our intersections safer, I beg to differ. I urge you stand strong against this company from Australia that’s trying to come and tell us what we may and may not vote on in our community.”

Accident data suggest (view statistics) the cameras have failed to reduce accidents in League City. That is one of the reasons camera foe Geri Bentley is looking to oust incumbent Councilman Phyllis Sanborn, the last remaining council member who voted in favor of the red light cameras.

“I believe that we should be more concerned with League City residents’ safety and less concerned about lining the pockets of select individuals who work with and for Redflex,” Bentley wrote on her campaign website. “The voters should have the ultimate decision.”

Todd Kinsey opposes red light cameras and is seeking an open council seat. Calling the red light camera program a “cash cow,” Kinsey said he early voted late last month, casting a “yes” vote in favor of the red light camera ban.

“Many people are saying this is the most important election in our lifetime,” Kinsey wrote. “While that may be a slight exaggeration it is certainly the most important election since Reagan defeated Carter.

Byron Schirmbeck, director of League City Camera Scam believes League City’s traffic camera vendor has already conceded the election.

“I don’t think Redflex has done anything to influence the vote down here, I haven’t heard about any mailings and I haven’t seen any signs up,” Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. “I guess we will see how big the ‘wide circle of friends’ Redflex sales manager and League City resident Lee Buckels has on election night.”

Last year, Dennis OKeeffe won a council seat by running on a “no red light cameras” platform.