Should Dahl use notice in city court hearing?

Chris Dahl, speaking at city council in Chattanooga, has a court hearing in which the state freight, shipping and transportation statute was used against him in a police arrest. (Photo David Tulis)

Christopher Dahl works in a downtown tavern and recently was stopped by the police as he left work. 

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

Mr. Dahl, a libertarian activist and political gadfly, was pulled over by Chattanooga police who said that his lights were not on. Mr. Dahl, in the transportation stop under Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, said the car was a new purchase and he hadn’t realized that he had only his parking lights and rear tail lights on. 

Within minutes, three officers were on the scene, presumably for “officer safety.”

The cops pursued their investigation with standard-issue questions and failed to ask the necessary questions to make a stop proper and legal, pursuant to transportation administrative notice, which has operated over the department since Feb. 20, 2018. Mayor Andy Berke and chief David Roddy have acquiesced to notice and its implied claims, having pretended to ignore it and having sat on their rights.

The officer failed to preface the arrest by a Miranda warning, as required by CPD’s officer manual.

On getting the name of the accused and his driver license number, the officer looked him up on the department of safety and homeland security and found that his license — a Class D need to operate a motor vehicle up to 13 tons — had been “suspended.” The officer charged with Dahl with “driving on suspended.”

Mr. Dahl says he plans to use transportation administrative notice as part of his defense, so he might insist he was traveling freely, pursuant to his constitutional rights, and that the city is under notice about the limits of Title 55 and that it empowers the Tennessee highway patrol to regulate only commercial users of the city’s streets.

Let’s consider arguments against using the notice, and arguments for using it.

The reason to not attempt to use the notice is that Mr. Dahl has already made admissions to being in commerce in the use of his car. He tells me he was not carrying goods or people for hire and had no contracts, invoices, bills of lading or for other contractual proofs of commercial activity, he admitted effectively that he was in commerce by submitting the three basic proofs of commercial activity. 

➤ The proof of financial responsibility

➤ The registration of the car as a motor vehicle, meaning that it is used in commerce generally and was presumptively being used in commerce in this particular encounter. 

➤ His implied consent to the claim by the officer that he was under duty at the time of the arrest to have a valid driver license, as he was “driving” a “motor vehicle.”

Having made admissions of commerce, Mr. Dahl might be wise to omit insisting on his right to travel in this case.

To use administrative notice after having made admissions into commerce would require him to reverse course, claim mistake and mount a strong challenge to the officer’s accusations.

Not an arrest under warrant, no probable cause of crime

On the other hand, the transportation stop was done in violation of the statute, with the officer asking for no proofs of commercial activity under the city ordinance regulating vehicles for hire. Or the state law. Not asking the proper question implies an oppressive and illicit use of the police power.

The case is before city court,, which hears all cases under city ordinance. The city has adopted some provisions of Title 55 as ordinances. Mr. Dahl might use the notice to deflect the whole case as misapplied to him, one not acting that night as either a common or private carrier. 

The notice sets up this defense, and the city is under notice. But Mr. Dahl might want to have these proofs of notice in hand, including proof of service via Times Free Press classifieds. That’s not required, because TAN is a public document in Rhea County

Administrative notice is ideal for people who are truly trapped under a driver license suspension or relocation. Is ideal for people who understand the problem they face and the issues in all of presumptive commercial use under the state’s shipping, freight and transportation statute, Titile 55, under which every transportation and traffic stop is performed. 

If Mr. Dahl had been a little more current with his issue and his rights, he might have insisted from the very beginning of the arrest on his preserving all of his constitutional rights and rights under statute. He would have said:

Sir, I’m traveling under transportation administrative notice and I make no statement without my lawyer present.

Had he made this statement and made no admissions in the evidence gathering portion of the encounter, he might have gone free, given that police are perhaps aware the danger they face under the notice. Should Mr. Dahl play dumb, like most other defendants in city court traffic cases, and just play alone and hope to get by with only demand for court costs? That would be the easiest thing, the most pragmatic thing.

But, as Jon Luman points out, the transportation stop was an arrest, and done without probable cause that a crime had been committed. Traveling by car with parking lights on is not a crime. It had no victim, injured no one, and is not an offense under the criminal code at Title 39. It is an infraction for someone involved in transportation, freight and shipping under Title 55.

No probable cause. 

Mr. Luman is right. The entire burden of proof in the matter is upon the state and its agents. What is probable cause? What is the evidence of freight-oriented activity by this lanky married man and father of a young son? Mr. Dahl should bring up all these points, my reservations aside, according to Mr. Luman.

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

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

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