How to maintain your rights at traffic stops, help free city

Officer Niethammer gives a tyke a push at a friendly neighborhood visit. (Photo Chattanooga Police Department)

Officer Mark Niethammer, suspended in December 2015 for drag racing his police cruiser, gives a tyke a push on his self-propelled car during a presumably friendly neighborhood visit. (Photo Chattanooga Police Department)

My most recent encounter with police was the night I returned to Chattanooga from a visit to the Gnome of Strawberry Plains.

The Gnome is a lifelong free man who has refused to cooperate with the machinery of the modern administrative state and has stood his ground as traveler, carpenter and nontaxpayer.

By David Tulis

That evening I’d passed under a green light in front of the Wal-Mart in Hixson at which a police car sat. He chased after me, and I pulled over at the next light. A headlamp was out, the officer said. That was probable cause to stop me, so I met his demands.Noogaradio logo 92.7 fm

Driver license. Proof of insurance. Registration. Since I use a Toyota Camry “in commerce” by my own admission, I had these requisite proofs of an equitable and commercial relationship with the state — and produced them. He let me go with a “take care of that” warning and a cheery, “Be safe out there.”

The alleged crime was intentless (lacking mens rea, the basis of any convictable crime), and victimless, but it had sufficient probable cause to warrant a detention or arrest. The traffic infraction in commerce was the legal basis for the stop.


Causeless and baseless traffic encounters, however, are another matter. In Southeast Tennessee it happens often in the town of Signal Mountain. But elsewhere, too.

Late Friday night on Memorial Day weekend a massive roadblock joined the Georgia and Tennessee like on Ringgold Road in Rossville, Ga., according to a son, 20, Josiah, riding in a pickup truck.

Across the region, police departments, sheriff’s deputies and the Tennessee highway patrol put up roadblocks that weekend that seemed not to comport with the rules laid out in the Hicks decision. That opinion made explicit the requirement for notorious publication of a roadblock as one way to help members of the public avoid it.

Why care? Probable cause

Thanks to YouTube and Facebook, videos of police encounters are encouraging people to stand up for their rights.

As resistance to the police state (aka commercial government) rises, officers have a chance to reconsider claims upon innocent members of the traveling public. That will make them less likely to harass with fishing expedition stops, quicker to end traffic stops and more accommodating to a traveler or motorist who refuses to show documents absent probable cause.

Last week circulated early photos of cops wearing a modified federal flag, one with a blue line running through the field of red and white stripes. I suspect such modification is unlawful, especially for a government actor. But the blue bar refers to cops and their office; they are the “thin blue line” between safety and violence, between lawful society and anarchy, between public welfare and chaos.

The cop’s blue line tells that his duty is the preservation of the state.

We have a blue line, too. For us, the blue line is figurative. It’s a warfare line between the state’s ontologically imperative expansion of its claims against our liberties and anything outside its control.

Our happy blue line is etched in Tennessee’s bill of rights, article 1, section 7, that says,

That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and that general warrants, whereby an officer may be commanded to search suspected places, without evidence of the fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offences are not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and ought not be granted.

Your absolute protection in a traffic stop is this provision. It allows lawful traffic stops and forbids unlawful ones. It demarcates abusive and legal traffic stops.

Unless the officer has probable cause or an articulable reasonable suspicion, he has no authority to stop you under Article 1. If he stops you absent probable cause, he is acting in his own personal capacity as he walks up to your window and bellows out an order, exposing him to charges of criminal oppression (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-16-403).

How cops get your flapping lips going

His power of persuasion, however, is going to put to work. Engaging you in conversation, he will get you to make an admission that will give him probable cause for which he is searching to convert traffic infraction into a drug stop.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

“Tell me why I pulled you over.”

“Why were you traveling so fast?”

These are invitations for you to make a confession.

“I stopped you for a reason. Do you know what it is?”

“Do you have drugs, guns or anything in the car that I should know about?”

“You are out late. Were you at a party? Was there drinking?”

We should always be about educating and encouraging the officer to respect and regard highly law-abiding people (making you one of the “us” is the cop’s intensely trained “us vs. them” mentality). That’s why we speak respectfully with the officer. But firmly nonetheless.

“Do you have probable cause to stop me? Did you see me commit a crime?”

“Do you have probable cause to think that I am about to commit a crime?” “Do you have a warrant for my arrest? Are you delivering an indictment to me, officer?”

Once you present yourself as someone who will not surrender, the officer has to decide whether to be belligerent and angry, or deal reasonably with your exercise of your rights.

He demands to see your driver license, proof of insurance and registration, the three pillars of commercial government’s long battle against the right to travel.

“Officer, will anything I hand over to you be used against me in court?” you ask. “I have a right not to say or do anything that might tend to incriminate me in civil or criminal proceedings. If I say or hand you anything, will it be used against me? Officer, am I free to leave?”

If he says no, then you are under arrest, and your rights under Arizona vs. Miranda kick in. You have a right to remain silent. You have a right to an attorney. You have a right to not answer any questions or do or present anything that might incriminate you. Including showing any of your requisite paperwork.

Officer, am I free to leave?

Here’s what I would probably say, for better or worse:

“Officer, I maintain all my rights at all times, and at no time do I yield any right — any civil right, any statutory right or any constitutional right. I want to thank you for helping guarantee these rights through your oath of office in service to our city and the Chattanooga police department. I really appreciate your concern for public safety, and I hope you have a good and safe night. But my question to you is, am I free to leave?”

Here you are showing yourself to be the good guy, the knowledgeable citizen who understand the cop’s job, and your place as a free citizen to exercise your liberty. I think cops actually like such people, because they understand cops and their difficult job.

If you maintain a respectful attitude, say sir and officer a lot, the cop may be mollified, and will concede you are free to leave.

But what if he is huffy and intends to arrest you?

Keeping your schedule

Here now is the law of convenience that prompts most people to cave in to a lawless and baseless traffic stop like those thrust upon travelers and motorists by the Signal Mountain police department late nights.

He says you are under arrest, and jerks at the door of the car, which you (doofus) left unlocked. He is arresting you, and you are not exactly hearing what he is saying, and the moment he says it you forget, because you are confused and angry. (Keep your smart phone on record as long as you can.)

He is arresting you before you have a chance to cave in by producing a driver license and those papers in that plastic bag in your glove compartment.

I suggest the following:

“Officer, you have no cause to arrest me. I have done nothing wrong, have violated no ordinance or law. You appear to be acting under your own authority, your own personal authority. If you act against me to arrest and detain me apart from lawful authority, you are acting in your personal capacity. Consider whether you are violating the oppression statute, which forbids personal abuse in the name of the state without lawful authority and makes it a felony offense against the peace and dignity of the state.

“Without lawful authority or probable cause, you act against me in your personal capacity, and are vulnerable to criminal claims for oppression and my personal claims against you personally for this abusive treatment.”

“I do not answer questions. I make no statement apart from my attorney. I do not give permission to search. This is a lawless stop, and you have no authority based on probable cause or articulable suspicion. I suggest you reconsider your actions in light of my constitutional guarantees. You have an interest to protect the innocent public, of which I am a member. I urge you to relax, to take a deep breath, and consider that I am innocent, harmless and doing nothing to offend any law, or you.”

A deputy tells all

Eddie Craig, formerly a deputy in Texas, says traffic rule violations are almost always a pretext for demands for an interrogation and a search. ““An officer’s first job when he gets you pulled over for a traffic stop is to attempt to escalate that stop to either a DUI or a drug bust. He doesn’t care about the traffic, that’s just his premise for pulling you over. His real goal is to get inside that car and see what else he can find.

They are taught to find ways to keep the person in the car talking and answering questions that will allow them to continue their fishing expedition.”

Mr. Craig now runs Rule of Law Radio and makes available a Traffic stop action script, a PDF you can download from this site giving general advice. Please look it over.

He also says submitting any documents absent probable cause will let the cop use those documents to entangle you in the court system. If you stand your ground there — refusal to show or state anything absent probable cause — you lengthen the traffic stop, but keep the encounter off your calendar and off the city court docket.

Support this website by subscribing to it and liking me on Facebook. Thank you.

Sources: Justin Gardner, “Former-Cop Exposes How Police Will Violate Your Rights During Every Stop & How to Beat It,” Free Thought Project, June 7, 2016.


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