The Tennessee highway patrol illegally arrested, cited and charged a Coca-Cola rep in Chattanooga, Kaitlin DeFoor, in a highly visible encounter in the parking lot of Panera Bread store in Hixson.
By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio
A stocky trooper often seen operating his cruiser north of the Tennessee river in the Chattanooga city limits left Miss DeFoor in tears. She sat in the parking lot after he had left for more than an hour, seemingly inconsolable.
The arrest was outside the scope of the trooper’s authority. The charges were dismissed in either city or session court.
The highway patrol is a division of the department of safety, established in Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 4 of the Tennessee code annotated. The patrol has its own chapter which outlines its duties. The THP is a “police force” whose chief and officers are named by the commissioner safety with the approval of the governor.
The THP is charged with enforcement of animal disease laws, little control and enforcement of the motor carrier laws.
Rebuttable presumption and its evils
The closest the trooper got to having authority was under rebuttable presumption. That presumption would have been that she was a motor carrier for hire.
Mr. DeFoor did not know how to rebut this presumption or assert her rights to free movement and free communication under of the Tennessee constitution and under the U.S. constitution to be free from any unwarranted arrest, search or seizure under the fourth amendment.
Here is the authority of the Tennessee highway patrol officers to stop people on the road. Notice they must be in commerce — the for-hire use of the road.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-7-105. Enforcement of motor carrier laws.
The members of the Tennessee highway patrol have jurisdiction and authority to make such investigation of operators of motor vehicles for hire as they may see fit to ascertain whether or not they are operating in compliance with § 65-15-109, and whether or not they are otherwise complying with the provisions of the law relating to such operators, and they have authority to make arrests for any violation of title 65, chapter 15, or of any other traffic law of the state.
Title 65-15-109 regards the state’s involvement in the unified carrier registration scheme. Miss DeFoor, a young woman with a job, uses the road for her personal and private business. Her principal place of business is not the road itself.
Nope, not part of it
Here’s the scheme, and in dozing off under its provisions, we might ask if a young woman using her car for private business was a part of this system — or had any obligation to be part of it.
65-15-101. Purpose — Participation in the unified carrier registration system.
(a) It is declared that the legislation contained in this part is enacted for the sole purpose of promoting and conserving the interest and convenience of the public by conferring upon the department of revenue and the department of safety the power and authority, and making it the duty of the department of revenue and the department of safety to supervise and regulate the transportation of persons and property by motor vehicle over or upon the public highways of this state, and to supervise and regulate certain businesses closely allied with such motor transportation, so as to:
(1) Regulate, foster, promote and preserve proper and economically sound transportation and authorize and permit proper coordination of all transportation facilities;
(2) Relieve existing and future undue burdens upon the highways arising by reason of their use by motor vehicles;
(3) Protect the welfare and safety of the traveling and shipping public in their use of the highways, and in their contact with the agencies of motor transportation and allied occupations; and
(4) Protect the property of the state and its highways from unreasonable, improper or excessive use.
(b) It is the intent of the general assembly that this state participate in the unified carrier registration system beginning with the date that it is established by the secretary of the United States department of transportation, in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 13908. Pursuant to this intent, the commissioner of revenue is authorized to participate in the unified carrier registration plan and agreement established in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 14504a, and to file on behalf of this state the plan required by 49 U.S.C. § 14504a(e).
(c) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, on and after the date on which the secretary of the United States department of transportation establishes the unified carrier registration system in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 13908, no foreign or domestic motor carrier, motor private carrier, leasing company, broker or freight forwarder, as defined in title 49 of the United States Code, shall operate any motor vehicles on the highways of this state without first registering with a base state under the unified carrier registration system and paying all fees required under the federal Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005, compiled generally throughout title 49 of the United States Code.
(d) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, on and after the date on which the secretary of the United States department of transportation establishes the unified carrier registration system in accordance with 49 U.S.C. § 13908, the commissioner of revenue shall follow rules governing the unified carrier registration agreement issued under the unified carrier registration plan by its board of directors. The commissioner shall follow rules and collect fee assessments set by the federal secretary of transportation from foreign and domestic motor carriers, motor private carriers, leasing companies, brokers, and freight forwarders, and do all things necessary to enable this state to participate in the federal unified carrier registration agreement pursuant to the federal Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005.
The answer is: No.