TN tells feds that only troopers enforce traffic laws

Tennessee seizes travelers’ goods along the highways in the name of the federal drug war. (Photo Tennessee Highway Patrol)

In a covenant with Uncle Sam, Tennessee agrees to obey federal law and accept its requirements in exchange for F$6 million to run a “commercial vehicle safety plan” for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

The commercial enforcement agreement is little relief to Coca-Cola sales rep Kaitlin DeFoor, a Chattanoogan who was criminally charged under the motor carrier law even though she a noncommercial private user of the roadways not involved in transportation and is outside the scope of the law.

A trooper made a scene by blocking the parking lot at the Panera bread store in Hixson and intimidating the patrons looking from its windows.

Miss DeFoor is one of hundreds of people seized by troopers every month across the state and dragged into sessions court. A judge dismissed her case.

The 79-page contract is followed by three-page certification of compliance sworn and signed by David Purkey, former Gov. Bill Haslam’s safety commissioner. The agreement is through September. Newly sworn Gov. Bill Lee has replaced Mr. Purkey with Jeff Long, a longtime attorney.

The filing is significant because it establishes the scope and limit of Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, the state’s vehicle and motor vehicle statute,  and strongly supports my review of state law as reported to local and state government officials via Transportation Administrative Notice Tennessee. This public filing is part of a project to halt traffic arrests and harassment of all people not involved in transportation and stop a widely admired form of Jim Crow racism and abuse of the poor.

‘Laws remain ‘compatible’

Significant in this review of the commercial only nature of Tennessee vehicular regulation is a sworn statement by Mr. Purkey about the alignment between state law upon his department and federal interstate transportation regulation at U.S. Code § Title 49 and the relevant portions of the code of federal regulations.

Mr. Purkey certifies “that the state has conducted the annual review of its laws and regulations for compatibility regarding commercial motor vehicle safety and that the state’s safety laws remain compatible with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 CFR parts 390-397) and the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR parts 107 (subparts F and G only), 171-173, 177, 178, and 180) and standards and orders of the federal government, except as may be determined by the administrator to be inapplicable to a state enforcement program.” (Page 78).

Any trooper activity funded by the federal government necessarily must be against transportation and upon shippers who use what are called CMVs, or commercial motor vehicles. Insofar as the department of safety and homeland security enforces transportation rules upon private users, that activity is funded by state taxation and revenues alone, apparently. Transportation administrative notice Tennessee makes a crucial point clear. Only commercial users of the road are subject to Title 55 enforcement. Any enforcement against a private person is outside the scope of authority of the law, is illegal, a public nuisance, a civil tort and potentially criminally actionable under the state and U.S. oppression laws.

9 troopers per county

Is state government using federal funds illegally to harass the private sector? If it is using funds illegally, it would be subject to an Office of the Inspector General investigation for misfeasance and corruption and potentially lose the grant. Its officials could face criminal charges for perjury and corruption.

In this document, State of Tennessee plays it pretty straight, giving off virtually no signals that it uses its troopers against the private sector generally and no signal that it uses U.S. dollars to enforce traffic rules on people such as Kaitlin DeFoor, who is among the hundreds of people in the Chattanooga area arrested by troopers.

The state’s document indicates that troopers have duties NOT connected with U.S. code-aligned transportation enforcement work.

The department of safety and homeland security has 884 authorized troopers, according to its website, or 9.3 troopers per county. The state has 95 counties.

Get your TAN now: Transportation Administrative Notice creates cause of action vs. cops, traffic court defense

Of these, the report says, 727 officers are North American Standard-certified “troopers perform commercial vehicle inspections and traffic enforcement activities along with their daily duties.” These troopers in the safety plan deal solely with commercial activities and, occasionally, the intersection between rig operators and members of the public. For example, some of the federal money goes to educational events to help teen “drivers” understand the dangers of big trucks.

But Mr. Perky also mentions troopers’ “regular duties.”

“Troopers assigned to the road and administrative positions are responsible not only for their regular duties, but are also required to complete a minimum number of North American Standard inspections each year.” (Page 4)

The details of these other “duties” and their authority will have to be found elsewhere.

The state payroll covers time spent harassing moms, dads, people going to work, people traveling by car on lunch breaks, people in old pickups on rural roads, restaurant workers heading home at 9 p.m. and people eating hamburgers and using cellphones while steering through traffic (subject to “distracted driving” enforcement).

The question to answer is this: Are these other duties in line with transportation enforcement and Title 55, or beyond the scope of both that law and U.S. Code at Title 49 (and, hence, illegal).

‘Sole agency’

Widespread enforcement by city police departments against travelers, motorists, state citizens, members of the public and shippers on roads in Tennessee has unclear legal authority. Municipal corporations that run police departments have ordinances and only a civil authority to enforce them, and have no power to punish or to enforce criminal statutes. (See City of Chattanooga v. Davis, No. E2000-00664-SC-R11-CV, 2001, and City of Chattanooga v. Myers 787 S.W.2d 921 (1990)).

Yet city police departments and county sheriff’s departments enforce the commercial transportation statute as criminal activity upon non-transportation parties such as Fredrico Wolfe, whose arresting officer aimed a pistol at him, used profanity against him, beat him, jailed him and falsely charged him with drug counts. The arrest of Mr. Wolfe and the lawsuit filed to compensate him for his injuries show by the exaggeration of physical violence the basic problem: State action apart from explicit authority.

For its part, state government says a single agency has authority to enforce Title 55, the commercial statute.

A single agency — and it’s not the Chattanooga police department.

And it’s not the Hamilton County sheriff’s office.

“The Tennessee Highway Patrol of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is the sole agency in the State of Tennessee responsible for enforcing laws related to size, weight, and safety regulations for commercial motor vehicles. The Tennessee Highway Patrol is the State’s lead agency for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, and does not fund any sub-grantees.” (italics added).

This sentence is the first statement in the safety report (Page 3). Mr. Purkey says the department’s goal is to “serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee” and that DOSHS’ commercial vehicle enforcement administration unit of the Tennessee Highway Patrol “is responsible for the department’s mission with respect to commercial motor vehicles.”

Current commissioner Long’s authority is the motor carrier statute at Tenn. Code Ann. at Title 65, chapter 15. The people’s grant of powers to the executive branch of government authorizes the department to regulate commercial motor vehicles (not private).

Private, free users of the road?

Insofar as private users of the road are mentioned, they are seen as needing to be “educated” about the dangers of big rigs. “The Tennessee Highway Patrol, in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration[,] conducts commercial motor vehicle targeted enforcement and public education and awareness programs geared toward both the industry and the general public to increase awareness of commercial motor vehicle safety issues and the operation of passenger vehicles around commercial motor vehicles.”

Private cars are referred to, however, as “passenger vehicles.” This designation is confusing, perhaps for a high purpose. Passenger vehicles are subject to state regulation because they carry people for hire. Neither statute, regulation nor the safety plan refer to private users properly with words making clear they are outside the scope of state authority. Such parties are travelers, car users, citizens on the road, non-interstate commerce users and the like. The word noncommercial is outside that realm of free and private use because the term noncommercial is within the scope of interstate commerce clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, U.S. constitution),

Routinely, commercial terminology is used to refer to those outside the scope of the law, and the closest the safety plan gets to describing Miss DeFoor is a reference to “motoring public and the citizens of Tennessee.”

In a way this blindness in identifying parties not subject to the law is understandable. Administrative agencies have no view of the free world whatsoever, only a view upon those within their scope of policing, taxing and regulatory activity. They need not name or consider at all those vast areas not under their purview. The free sector might be visible through their laws, but only obliquely and incidentally, as the law has absolutely no interest in or authority over the free world of constitutional liberty.

The state spends $240.77 million in the “safety” portion of its law, justice and public safety portion of its annual outlays. The department issued 1.625 million driver license and issued 358,104 citations ((2018 CAFR, pp 219, 234

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