Tag Archives: Traffic Stops

TESTILYING: COPS ARE LIARS WHO GET AWAY WITH PERJURY

So, I just got done with a briefing from my attorney, I’m going to say this and I don’t care if you are offended, but cops, especially gang task force are liars. And if you are one those cops who thinks I am wrong, when was the last time to spoke up against an injustice by a cop? We all know they happen. There’s something seriously wrong with the country and the law enforcement that is in place, which is sworn to protect and serve the people. Nobody really wants to address the issue about cops, who are liars, who hurt and kill people, who are negligent in their jobs and duties, and cause pain and suffering. We as a country are so naïve and stupid when it comes to the subject, that we are willing to overlook the facts that are stated in a straight face. Just because someone wears a uniform, carries a badge and a gun does not make him above reproach. It is this type of thinking and mentality that has cost many people their lives, years spent in prison, and so much more. And these cops who choose to live and be deceitful and hurt people get away with violating people’s constitutional rights.

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If you find yourself on a jury. Do not be full by these perpetrators in uniform, they do live in, they will line to protect themselves, their institution of lies and their brotherhood of lies. Don’t be fooled.

You are a police officer, patrolling your route in East New York. You see someone walking down the street; they are carrying a bag. You are bored and not really doing anything else and have been thinking for a while that you’d like to get noticed by your boss, make him proud. So you stop this guy, just to see what will happen.

Maybe he starts to get a little nervous and you start thinking that he’s actually up to something. Why would he be nervous just talking to you? So you take his bag and open it up despite his protests, and maybe there are 15 kilos of cocaine inside and $50,000 in cash. This is suddenly a heck of an arrest.

You call into your sergeant, and he arrives, asking you how it was that you came to make this great collar. You tell him, and he waits quietly until you are through. He tells you there is just one problem: The search was illegal, you violated the guy’s rights, and you cannot bring this story to the district attorney’s office to prosecute the arrest.

You and the sergeant have one legal option: Take the drugs and cash into custody, and let the guy walk. But it’s a big arrest, and you don’t want to let him go. So Sarge leads you through a new scenario. Now you saw the man kneeling down, opening the bag near the wheel well of a car. As you approached you saw inside the bag what looked to be, according to your training, a brick of cocaine. The guy looks up at you, and the drugs fall out into the street. You stop to talk to him, and he offers you the $50,000 as a bribe not to arrest him. Your supervisor concludes by saying, “You didn’t hear it from me.”

While the specific circumstances of this hypothetical are perhaps a bit flashy, the routine is typical in the life of a street cop, according to former NYPD Detective Carlton Berkley. An even more ordinary case would involve possession of a small amount of marijuana, the most common arrest in New York City.

“At the district attorney’s, you can tell them that story,” Berkley explains. “It’s not even necessarily a believable story. No one in their right mind would examine drugs like that in the street. When you step out into the street with 15 kilos of cocaine and $50,000, you already know what you have in the bag. But the pressure is put on the arresting officer, because you always want an airtight case, you are supposed to win, and the cop is supposed to come out looking like the good guy.”

Misrepresentation, deception, and outright lying appear to be part of a police officer’s job description, so much so that the term “testilying,” now common vernacular for police falsifications, was actually coined by NYPD officers as something of an inside joke.

Even done in the interest of public order, or some imagined ideal of keeping the bad guys off the streets, this practice has wretched results. Today there are 7.5 million people under the control of the US criminal justice system and countless more impacted by the kidnapping and caging of their family members, loved ones, employers, employees, coworkers, neighbors, etc. The disparate impact on demographic groups with darker skin—primarily people perceived to be Black, Latino/a or Muslim—has been well documented.

It is the exception, not the rule, that these lies are exposed by judges or prosecutors in the courtroom for the public to consider (for the defendants the lies are quite apparent), and the results, when it happens, are twisted.

On November 17, 2012, a 40-year-old father from Harlem, Greg Allen, defending himself pro se (Latin, he says, for when you fire your attorney), won acquittal in a case brought against him by the Brooklyn District Attorney and the New York City Police Department. The Judge determined that the witnesses, two officers from Brooklyn’s notorious 73rd precinct, had lied.

The police officers, William Gardner and John Blanco, had accused him of disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration (crimes he did not commit), and the cop’s own video evidence showed his innocence. The police and the district attorney prosecuted the case anyway even though their own videotapes exposed the police testimony as a fabrication. They refused to back down from their original story. The judge didn’t buy it.

“It’s like you’re sitting there in the courtroom watching a video with the judge and the cops, and the cops are just saying something totally different than what the video shows,” Allen says.

So used to this absurd process was the young prosecutor, Seth Zuckerman, that he never flinched as the cops went through the charade. Perhaps more tellingly, the district attorney’s office, Zuckerman’s bosses, didn’t drop the case even after learning that their only physical evidence contradicted the officer’s story of the arrest.

A few weeks later, US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin upheld claims of NYPD misconduct in another case, finding the testimony made by police officers Miguel Santiago and Kieron Ramdeen not credible. Scheindlin sort of piled it on. The officers’ account “makes no…sense,” it was “implausible,” she said. She noted that Santiago had previously lied in the scope of his police work, issuing summonses to an innocent person to help a friend of his in a bizarre revenge scheme.

Scheindlin’s ruling hinged on the fact that officers in the Bronx, Santiago and Ramdeen among them, routinely invented justifications for stopping people outside certain buildings in the borough and at times made arrests without cause. People doing nothing wrong were stopped, harassed, illegally searched, and arrested at the whim of the officers who then created legal justifications for their actions after the fact.

First- and second-degree perjury is a felony, and yet none of these cops will face any charges for straight up lying in a courtroom under oath. The rules are different for cops. As infuriating as that might seem, this pattern of behavior has been known fact for decades.

A 1987 study from Chicago found that 76 percent of officers agreed that that they frequently bent the facts to establish probable cause; 48 percent said that judges were right in tossing police testimony as untrustworthy.

Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, publicly stated in the 1990s:

“It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers … police lie to avoid letting someone they think is guilty, or they know is guilty, go free.”

By not acknowledging rampant police misconduct, by not demanding that criminal justice is meted out in a fair way, what are we giving up? Are we sacrificing a moral claim to justice by sanctioning the police—and thus the state—the freedom to circumvent the rule of law in the pursuit of a particular type of social order?

“That is assuming that the justice system ever had any moral claim, which I would not assume,” former NYPD officer and Queens county prosecutor Eugene O’Donnell says. “There is dishonesty in court, prosecutorial dishonesty. It’s legislative dishonesty that sets up this system and by no means are cops exempt from a system that is dishonest and fundamentally flawed.”

***

The course of a legal proceeding provides law enforcement officers with several opportunities to perjure themselves. Immediately following an arrest, the officer and a prosecutor fashion a “complaint” – the legal document that officially charges the defendant with a crime. The officer swears that the document is truthful.

Then there is an indictment, which typically includes a grand jury that again calls on the officer to testify to the events that led up to the arrest. If the defendant challenges aspects of the arrest, for example by arguing that the officers had searched him and his belongings without his consent, then a “suppression hearing” is convened to determine what evidence can be used at a subsequent trial. During the hearing the officer will again testify to the events of the arrest.

Cops didn’t always have to lie to square away their arrests. The historical irony is that a Supreme Court ruling barring evidence obtained illegally gave birth to today’s practice.

The art of testilying seems to have developed in response to the so-called exclusionary rule, which bars evidence acquired by the police in an unlawful manner: the fruit of the poisonous tree. The US Supreme Court, through landmark Fourth Amendment rulings in Mapp v. Ohio (1961) and Terry v. Ohio (1968), limited the methods by which police could gather evidence to be presented at trial.

Prior to Mapp, police had little incentive to lie in court because there was nothing wrong with truthfully detailing the many ways in which they broke the law. Instead they could openly testify that they had stopped a man for no reason, found drugs, and arrested him. While the search was technically illegal, the evidence was admissible and could be used at trial. After Mapp, these sorts of cases were challenged, and police started making up justifications for illegal stops and seizures.

Writing in The Nation in 1967, in the wake of the new Mapp rules, Irving Younger explained the routine:

“Then the police made the great discovery that if the defendant drops the narcotics on the ground, after which the policeman arrests him, then the search is reasonable and the evidence is admissible. Spend a few hours in 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.”

And thusly “the dropsies” entered the police lexicon.

Although judges and juries are not supposed to consider the word of an officer above that of a defendant, most typically do. Most people have been socialized to see the police officer as a generally good person and the accused as generally bad. Upon closer inspection, this assumption doesn’t make much sense, but nevertheless it empowers law enforcement to stretch the truth. They can count on getting the benefit of the doubt.

“Everyone assumes that the defendant is self-interested and is motivated to lie, and that the officer is there just to say what happened,” said former New York City assistant district attorney Bennett Capers, now a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

But this is not really true.

Officers may gain some tangible benefits from seeing that their arrests turn into convictions—such as promotions or preferential assignments—but more powerful still is the culture of law enforcement that degrades any type of perceived weakness and indoctrinates an us-against-the-world mentality that provides rationalization for almost any activity, legal or not.

***

“Police see the world in black and white, there are not a lot of shades of gray. There is us, on the job, and our families and people who are sympathetic to our worldview and everybody else is an asshole…. Anything that I, as one of the good guys, that I can do to get the bad guys in jail is justifiable,” former Boston Police Department Lieutenant Thomas Nolan says.

It’s this mindset that makes a police officer feel he is entitled to lie, justified to do whatever it takes and even, in a way, obligated to violate people’s rights if he deems it necessary to his purpose of getting the “scum” off the streets.

“The thin blue line and all those bullshit rhetorical phrases are thrown out there, telling them they are the only thing between order and anarchy,” Nolan says.

The police are a fraternity built upon a false reality. Officers see themselves in a dangerous, noble cause against the underworld, and this is further instilled through the same types of bonding, secrecy, and war metaphors that have historically been part of the languages of those engaged in the practices of exterminating the “other.” Psychologically the police are indoctrinated into something akin to genocidal project: the forced removal of a class of people from their homes to prison.

There is a deep-seated disregard for what they consider to be silly little laws made by a silly little Supreme Court in a backroom far removed from the dangerous streets they are trying to bring into order.

Beyond the sociology, it is also embarrassing for an officer when a defendant walks—when cops lose a case. Now his fellow officer brothers are telling him he doesn’t know how to testify, they can’t believe he lost such an easy case. Part of this is just making sure you save face.

“Winning is what counts with the NYPD and the district attorney’s office,” Berkley said. When the cop wins, he gets a pat on the back, even when everyone knows that it was a bullshit case.

But it’s not all on the officers. Former NYPD commissioner William Bratton, laid the blame for testilying on prosecutors, suggesting that through their efforts to win cases, they sometimes “coerced” young, well-meaning officers into perjury.

The district attorneys do whatever they can to keep you as an officer sticking with your story. If you start changing it up, the district attorney will get you back in line, according to Berkley.

An Capers agrees. The prosecutors don’t want to be embarrassed and lose the case either. As a prosecutor, it’s tempting to explain to an officer-witness what he would need to say in order to make the conviction, and then ask him what it was that he saw.

Prosecutors and judges tend to look the other way, even though sometimes the lies are quite apparent. This is partly due to prejudging the defendant as guilty.

But political implications also play a role. The district attorneys rely on the gravy train of arrests to make their cases. A world without criminalization would mean the obsolescence of the police, the prosecutors, the judges, the court staff—and no one already in the mix wants that.

If the district attorney were to accuse an officer of perjury, it’s basically a declaration of war, Berkley said. All of a sudden you will have a lot of DWI check points outside those office holiday parties.

“At the Southern District of New York, if we really thought that an officer had lied, and we had evidence or a judge had made a finding on the record that the officer had lied, our response was to keep using that officer,” Capers said. “We’d avoid bringing him to the stand, we’d call his partner rather than him, but we’d never take the next step of filing a perjury case because that might mean he’d lose his job.”

Meanwhile, officers can rely on further protection from each other.

“You’ve been brainwashed into this way of thinking it’s us against them. You are spending more time with these guys than with your wife and kids; they might save your life in a shoot out. You do whatever you can for your brother,” Berkley said.

If you go against this code, you are labeled a “rat” and there are real repercussions, he added. All of sudden your tires are flat at the end of a shift, you have urine or feces on your locker, your wife is getting phone calls, you’re getting a type of supervision where you can’t really breathe.

“It’s not worth it, because these guys are capable of really carrying out their threats, because who are they? They are the police,” Berkley said. Meanwhile, if you play by the rules you are beloved by everyone.

This code, the Blue Wall of Silence, has been one reason that holding police accountable is so difficult. In 1995 Boston Police officers beat one of their own, a Black undercover officer named Michael Cox, nearly to death after mistaking him for a homicide suspect. As he lay intubated in a hospital, the 21 officers at the scene each denied having any idea what had happened to their “brother.”

In November 2012, a federal judge in Chicago held the city responsible for the pervasive deception of its police department after its officers refused to properly investigate the complaint of a bartender who was severely beaten by a drunk off-duty cop to whom she had denied service. The arresting officers went to great lengths to protect their coworker, and another city employee attempted to bribe the victim into silence. The city is appealing the ruling and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed legal papers suggesting that there should be a code of silence about the code of silence.

***

The public’s reverence for law enforcement is also to blame for the impunity that police officers enjoy when they break the law and violate the most basic of human rights. There is a shared social understanding that police officers have a tough job to do, that we should cut them a little bit of slack, and really, protect them, Capers said.

Even in New York City people seem to approve of the NYPD. Ray Kelly has a 70 percent approval rating, O’Donnell notes, explaining that every New Yorker is complicit in sanctioning the practices of the city’s police force just as every American is responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Ordinary people are more hardnosed about crime than is generally acknowledged,” he said.

Capers finds there are distinctions on this issue along racial, class and neighborhood lines. There is a particular disparity between how mainstream America views police officers and how the residents of poor urban communities do, he said.

“For a lot of minority communities, they see evidence of police abuses and manipulating the evidence all the time. They show up in the courthouse and say ‘That’s not what happened!” In poor communities we’ve seen officers harassing people on the street, using excessive force and then claiming they did not, and so how can we take any officers seriously?” Capers said.

The continued surveillance of the police by civilians has been critical, both to the protection of people’s lives, liberty, and rights, and to the creation of a culture that might become more amenable to acknowledging the abuse of police officers and its corrosive impact.

“With people monitoring the police on their cell phones, evidence of police lying is much more common. Now we can prove it,” Capers said. “We really only prosecute officers when we can prove it, and I mean prove it by it’s on tape or we have several preachers up there to say this is what happened.”

As more of mainstream America sees this type of footage, the political will to make institutional changes will grow, perhaps supporting a higher level of disobedience to law enforcement.

People do not have to tolerate police abuse, but you have to be willing and able to get arrested and maybe go to jail if you are going to stand up for yourself, Berkley said. Filming the police and organizing community support for the purpose of combating police abuse are some of the only ways to protect ourselves and to win these types of cases at trial, he said.

We know that people are more likely to follow laws that they think are just, and more likely to support a legal system that treats them fairly. By giving law enforcement a free pass to break the law, by bending over backwards to ensure that there is no accountability for police officers except in the most unavoidable circumstances (i.e. alleged cannibalism), we are making illegitimate our entire system of justice and thus likely creating more so-called crime than we are eliminating by doing whatever it takes to get convictions on a handful of cases.

If we started taking police lies more seriously—prosecuting them as we would civilian perjurers—people in the communities most negatively impacted by police abuses (also typically communities with high levels of violence) would get the message that they are being protected by the law not persecuted by the law. People might even develop faith in the system. Until then, it’s hard to argue against the old saying that this is not a broken system but one functioning just as it was created to.

It’s not a problem of a few bad apples, as some people suggest, but instead a matter of irresponsible leadership, a pathological law enforcement culture, and a public ready and willing to sacrifice notions of justice, fairness and humanity for… what exactly?

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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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Traffic Stops and Roadblocks

Traffic stops and roadblocks fall under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures because they limit our liberty of movement. A traffic stop or roadblock is valid when reasonable, and improperly obtained evidence may be suppressed from use in court against you.

Traffic Stops

A traffic stop normally occurs when a law enforcement officer signals a motorist to move to the side of the roadway and stop. The stop constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment because it interferes with the motorist’s freedom of movement. In order for the stop to be valid under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the officer must point to specific and articulated facts to support a reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal conduct.

Reasonable Suspicion Requirement

Although an officer may randomly stop a pedestrian to check for identification or purpose in the area, a random vehicle stop to check for a driver’s license or vehicle registration is not justified unless the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver does not have a license or that the vehicle is not registered. The officer must have a lawful reason or justification for stopping a motorist. A traffic stop that is not justified will not be valid and any evidence obtained by the officer from such a stop will not be admissible in court. Common justifications for traffic or investigative stops include:

  • Traffic violations
  • Defective equipment or equipment violations
  • Missing or defective license plates
  • Erratic driving behavior, such as reckless or drunk driving
  • Emergency response calls
  • Suspicious criminal activity

Pretext Stops

A pretextual traffic stop occurs when an officer uses the suspicion of a traffic violation as an excuse to stop a vehicle for another reason. Pretext stops may still be valid even if a reasonable officer would not have made the stop. Thus, the officer’s ulterior motive for making the stop may not be relevant in determining the validity of the stop. Still, many state courts will not blindly accept the officer’s pretextual traffic violation justification. For example, weaving and improper lane changes may not be sufficient to show the pretext of a traffic violation unless it is also shown that the motorist’s driving posed a safety issue to another vehicle.

Specific and Articulated Facts from Others

Normally, an officer’s own observations are accepted as sufficient to justify the stop. But what if the officer did not observe the traffic violation or the suspected criminal activity? What if the officer received the information from another person? An investigatory stop that is based upon facts obtained from a citizen informer rather than an anonymous tipster will more likely be found to justify the stop. Justification for the investigative stop increases if the facts from an anonymous tipster are corroborated.

Roadblocks

Roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints are permitted under the Fourth Amendment so long as they are conducted in a neutral or non-arbitrary manner, their intrusion on motorists is limited, and they further an important governmental or public purpose. There is no requirement that an officer have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify a stop at a roadblock. Factors that determine whether a roadblock is neutral and does not overly intrude on motorists include whether:

  • Supervisory personnel or field officers make the decision to set up a roadblock
  • The roadblock is conducted according to neutral plans or guidelines
  • Cars are stopped randomly or are selected at the discretion of officers
  • The roadblock causes an unreasonable delay to motorists
  • The roadblock is clearly marked as a checkpoint
  • Officers conducting the checkpoint are properly trained and experienced
  • Advance notice is given to the public
  • Safe conditions are maintained

Roadblocks have been found to further a governmental interest in the following instances:

  • Catching and deterring drunk driving
  • Checking for vehicle or license registration
  • Addressing highway safety concerns, such as seatbelt law enforcement
  • Policing the border
  • Acquiring information on a recent violent crime in the area

A roadblock is not justified to obtain evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing or of drug crimes. Some state constitutions prohibit roadblocks and require officers to have an individualized suspicion to justify a vehicle stop.

Source: Lawyers.com

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Ddi You Know? California Ending Use of Minor Traffic Stops as Search Pretext

The California Highway Patrol agreed to stop using minor traffic violations as a pretext for searching cars for drugs under a settlement of a racial-profiling lawsuit announced today.

The agency will also extend a ban on so-called consent searches, in which officers ask motorists for permission to search their cars even if there is no probable cause to do so.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the class-action suit three years ago on behalf of African-American and Latino motorists who said they were the victims of racial profiling by highway patrol officers, called the agreement a landmark in civil liberties law.

”This is a ground-breaking settlement,” said Jon B. Streeter, the civil liberties union’s main lawyer in the case. ”While there have been quite a few racial-profiling cases around the country in the last 10 years, none of them have resulted in the kinds of reforms we’ve gotten the C.H.P. to agree to here.”

Under the settlement, the highway patrol will also compile comprehensive statistics on each traffic stop, including the driver’s race, reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted and the legal basis for the search.

Source; the New York Times

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They Are Really Polite When Camera Is ON

I found this today while surfing the web looking for information on traffic stops on motorcyclist. Amazing how nice a CHP is when a video camera is on.

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The Differences Between Legal and Illegal Traffic Stops

All police officials must have a legal reason to stop a driver. Unfortunately, not all officers act in accordance with California’s laws regarding DUI traffic stops. Learn more about legal and illegal traffic stops to determine when you should contact a DUI lawyer or traffic violation attorney.

In order to legally stop a driver, the officer executing the stop must be able to prove that there was a legal basis or probable cause to do so. For example, the driver must have been driving with excessive speed, swerving in between lanes, failed to yield, failed to stop at a red light, or exhibited other negligent driving behaviors. Individuals who are pulled over, ticketed, or arrested without probable cause may be released from their charges with the help of a qualified attorney.

It is important to remember that any information obtained during an illegal traffic stop may be suppressed or dismissed from the case. This includes breathalyzer results and other blood alcohol tests that are obtained through an illegal stop. A DUI lawyer will research the details and circumstances regarding your traffic stop as well as interview any witnesses to determine if the information obtained by police officials is applicable or whether it may be excluded from your case to avoid unwarranted charges. An attorney will also review the police records themselves for inconsistencies or evidence of illegal action.

With over 20 years of experience handling DUI cases, the DUI attorneys and drug lawyers with Hinkle, Jachimowicz, Pointer & Emanuel Law are ready to defend your legal rights. All of our attorneys are highly experienced and have an in-depth understanding of California state driving laws. For more information on our practice areas, attorneys, or to learn more about the court process contact our San Jose office at (408) 916-1413. You can also visit us online to set up a free consultation.

Source: Hinkle, Jachimowicz, Pointer & Emanuel Law

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Videotape Your Next Traffic Stop: A Good Idea?

With the proliferation of video cameras in phones and MP3 players, capturing an event on video has never been easier.

The tools are now pocket sized, creating a new wrinkle in how we’re interacting with everything around us, including the police. While cops started arming themselves with vehicle-mounted cameras over a decade ago, only recently have we seen citizen-police interaction from this new perspective.

Is it legal? The official answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it will win you any points with a police officer. Is it smart? Well, we’ll get to that.

No Expectation Of Privacy
As for why it’s legal to video your own traffic stop, the law focuses on the fact that it’s happening in public. Joseph Ejbeh, a practicing attorney working in Rochester Hills, Michigan, explained the notion of assumed privacy.

“When you’re in a public place, there’s no expectation of privacy,” Ejbeh said. “It’s public. It’s out in the open. Anything happening in public is fair game to video. That includes a traffic stop.”

AOL Autos interviewed lawyers who explained to us that laws regulating the recording of video and audio in public places differ by state. Generally there are only narrow restrictions that can include, for example, when a videographer might be disturbing the peace or interfering with police activities.

Taking Matters Into His Own Hands
“No expectation of privacy” is exactly the phrase that ultimately led to Anthony Graber winning his a case brought by Maryland State Police. Graber was stopped last year on his motorcycle for speeding. He was not stopped by a uniformed police officer in a cruiser, however. Instead, a plain-clothes off-duty officer saw the biker speeding and approached him with a gun. Graber’s helmet camera recorded the incident.

Graber still has to deal with the speeding violations in an upcoming court date, but the videotaping charge is no longer valid.

Graber isn’t alone in videotaping police during a traffic stop. When former Air Force flight officer Scott Colley drove through Lacrosse, Virginia on the night of January 15, 2010, he probably didn’t realize how the events of that night would change his life and his view on law enforcement. Colley was pulled over for speeding on Highway 58, although he had his cruise control set at the posted speed limit of 50 MPH.

When the officer claimed he “paced” him and determined he was going much faster than the speed limit, Colley pulled out his videocamera to get a record of the conversation.

“Turn that off, sir,” the officer said.

Despite the officer’s initial protests, Colley kept filming, capturing 19 minutes in total. Eventually he posted his videos on YouTube and started a website called Highway 58 Speed Trap to expose the trap to other motorists.

“This stretch of Highway 58 is as notorious as the ‘Bermuda Triangle,'” Colley wrote on his site. “But it’s in our country, and now we have video evidence of the travesty! These Flip cameras are only 160 bucks. Never leave home without one.”

In the end, his diligence paid off. The attorney set to argue the case on behalf of the city was made aware of Colley’s efforts to dig into the “pacing” issue that he had videotaped. Only a short time after these tapes hit the internet, his case was thrown out. Oddly, Colley says that attorney admitted she hadn’t even seen the video evidence, but nevertheless the case went into the circular file.

“This stretch of Highway 58 is as notorious as the ‘Bermuda Triangle,'” Colley wrote on his site. “But it’s in our country, and now we have video evidence of the travesty! These Flip cameras are only 160 bucks. Never leave home without one.”

In the end, his diligence paid off. The attorney set to argue the case on behalf of the city was made aware of Colley’s efforts to dig into the “pacing” issue that he had videotaped. Only a short time after these tapes hit the internet, his case was thrown out. Oddly, Colley says that attorney admitted she hadn’t even seen the video evidence, but nevertheless the case went into the circular file.

Police: On Video
So what do the police think of camera-wielding citizens? Most police departments do not have official policies on the issue. This makes an officer’s response to a video camera up to the discretion of the individual officer.

“I’ve had several citizens video their traffic stops,” said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Clarence Williams. “It hasn’t been a problem for me except for when they shove the camera in my face. If they’re respectful, everything goes fine.

“I recently stopped a young man who was making a video for a film class at school. He [videotaped] the entire process. I understood what he was doing and that it wasn’t a dangerous or adversarial situation.”

Others cite the need for officer safety. Cops don’t like anything pointed directly at them, even if it’s just a lens.

“I don’t mind if a citizen has a video camera, but for me it becomes an issue of officer safety,” said Detroit area Officer Frank Zielinski. “I don’t like to have a citizen with something in their hands that they’re pointing at me. Officers are trained to be very wary about what a person has in their hands. If we let our guard down for a second, we could miss seeing a weapon.”

Zielinski explained that some cameras have been known to conceal guns.

“If somebody wants to video their traffic stop, that’s totally within their rights,” said Zielinkski. “The truth is that we’re already on video. I’ve got a video camera running in the patrol car and I’m wired with a microphone. For a nominal fee, people can come to the station to request a video of their traffic stop, no problem. As for them holding their own camera, I’d rather they put it up on the dash so that their hands are empty.”

While more municipalities are deploying in-car camera systems for their police departments, budget constraints have prevented major cities such as Los Angeles and Detroit from having cameras in all patrol cars.

Lawyers: On Video
“While it is legal, to hold a camera in anybody’s face — including a police officer’s — could be construed as really offensive,” said attorney Matt Walton of Mt. Clemens, Michigan. “I’d recommend people think about what they’re doing and consider the police officer’s point of view before they whip out a video camera.”

Walton brought up several points to ponder. While it is legal to record a traffic stop, the citizen must obey an officer’s legitimate commands. If you are told to put the camera down, it’s wise to follow that advice or you could be arrested for interfering with an officer in the line of duty.

Walton further notes that if you hope to use your video to beat your ticket, you must have recorded the ticketable offense to prove your point. Just recording the stop won’t help. “What matters to the judge is whether you did what you’re accused of, not what happened after,” said Walton.

As a matter of act, videoing your traffic stop might make things worse for you. Walton opined, “Recording a police officer will not likely result in a ‘Better slow it down and have a nice day’ warning. The officer is likely to write you up for every possible infraction.” The lawyer then referenced a recent incident in Michigan’s Oakland Country where an officer gave a county executive a break during a traffic stop. The officer was subsequently disciplined for abusing his discretion when the details of the stop — and the breaks — were made public.

Another suburban Detroit officer agreed to talk to AOL on the condition of anonymity due to a pending lawsuit that tangentially involves this issue. This 33-year veteran confirmed Walton’s assumption. He told AOL, “If somebody is going to come at me with an attitude and a camera, I’m going to do everything exactly by the book. They won’t get one single break. I’ve had it happen a few times and because I’m being [videotaped], I professionally follow the letter of the law.”

Remember: the letter of the law doesn’t spell out giving breaks.

Making The Decision
“Over the years I’ve worked for government prosecutors and I’ve observed that police officers are overwhelmingly good people who follow the rules,” said Walton. “But video can be used to document abuses that occur.”

Should you or shouldn’t you? That’s a judgment call you’re going to have to make. But if you do, know that your chances of receiving a speeding warning drop significantly.

If you do videotape the police publicly acting in an unlawful manner, it is not legal for those police officers to make you delete the files or confiscate your video device. If such a request or threat is made, you have a valid reason to make an official complaint against the officers involved.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Source: AOL

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