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Trickery lets TN cops jail woman who never applied for driver license

Victim of a state fraud, Quintrise Michelle Branham is led away by Chattanooga police officers on a warrant for failure to appear. (Photo Chattanooga police department)
Quintrise Michelle Branham is told to turn around so her handcuffs can be replaced. (Photo Chattanooga police department)
Quintrise Michelle Branham is in the Hamilton County jail at Silverdale. (Photo Chattanooga police department)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Friday, March 25, 2022 –  A hidden fraud operates quietly in the background as poor people such as Quintrise Michelle Branham are drawn into the net of the police growth industry.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 96.9FM

Chattanooga police officers seized Miss Branham on March 16 under a capias arrest warrant issued the day before by East Ridge city court on allegation of failure to appear. She languishes in Hamilton County jail at Silverdale.

“She got to pay the bond,” says Mattie Branhan, her mother, with whom Miss Branham lives in a small house in the Eastdale section of Chattanooga. “It’s $3,000, $300 to get out.”

The serves Tennessee safety commissioner Jeff Long, answerable to Republican Gov. Bill Lee. It assigns people driver license numbers for the sole purpose of suspending and revoking that driver license number to allow for criminal prosecution of poor people, blacks and many others in a fraud that violates federal law 49 U.S.C. chapter 313 on commercial driver licenses as well as state law.

Jeff Long, safety commissioner

Miss Branham has never had a driver license and uses cars to get about. When she was arrested July 2, 2021, she was in a Camry, sitting behind the steering wheel, her foot on gas and foot pedals, controlling the car as she went about her business on South Moore Road in East Ridge. Judge Cris Helton issued his warrant for her appearance in that case.

She was charged with driving on a suspended driver’s license — suspended for failure to appear in Chattanooga city court and “failure to pay in 2013, and 2014,” the officer says in his complaint.

“Branham said she never had a license, and it cannot be suspended,” the 2021 complaint by officer David W. Burgess says.

Miss Branham says that she did not receive a notice of the hearing and also that the matter was dropped.

Will law stand up to fraud?

No amount of sturdy guarantees in a state constitution thwarts fraud pressed by state government and its allies in cities and counties with 6.8 million inhabitants. 

The Tennessee constitution guarantees in article 1 —

➤ The right of communication (art. 1 sect. 19), “The free communication of thoughts and opinions, is one of the invaluable rights of man and every citizen may freely speak, write, and print on any subject,” which implies travel in a fluid, growing society; 

➤ The right of property (sect. 8) of which he cannot be deprived “but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land” guarantees the right to earn a living, a right that implies unimpeded movement;

Neither Quintrise Michelle Branham of Chattanooga nor her family is immediately able March 16 to raise F$300 to pay a bondsman to carry her F$3,000 bond. (Photo CPD)

➤ The right of weapons and defense (sect. 24), which implies movement upon the geography of the state;

➤ In sect. 23, the right to “assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances,” in which moving on the streets in the conveyance of the day is recognized;

➤ Recognizing ownership in land, the law guarantees the right of ingress and egress.

The state code, directed upon operation of government, also implies limits in giving duties and prohibitions in detail.

But fraud by Commissioner Long, David Purkey and their predecessors renders these promises irrelevant. Deceit in Nashville has become custom and usage. It will persist until challenged in court.

‘Assigned’ number

Commissioner Long’s department of safety and homeland security routinely identifies people who travel the roads freely, assigns them a driver license number, then immediately revokes it. The rationale : How else can the state obtain jurisdiction if a person thinks she can use the public right of way as a matter of right? Unless Quintrise Michelle Branham is in commerce, in a commercial and business relationship with the state, under license, exercising a state privilege, the state cannot legally reach her with the police baton. 

Its ruse puts her into the position of being a privilege holder who has violated the terms of the privilege, and deserves to suffer its revocation as a lick. The presumed privileged activity in view is working as either a common or private carrier in the transportation field. For this trade, a person must have a driver or operator license, required of all commercial parties.

The system effectively clubs members of the public into state jurisdiction, as they might be unwilling to enter it voluntarily by application. Mrs. Branham indicates that her daughter is not involved in the transportation or shipping business. Miss Branham’s occupation is not known. 

Near miss

The system took fire in U.S. district court in 2018 when judge Aleta Trauger heard a case attempting to halt enforcement of a law that allows the state to revoke licenses of people too poor to pay court fines and thus unable to un-suspend their driver licenses. She said life in Tennessee is impossible without “driving” a car, and that the law unjustly punishes the poor. See

The scam of assigning driver license numbers to people who never had a driver license (who thus are using the roads privately, for pleasure, for their rights, etc., and not in commerce) emerged in a deposition by former boss Purkey. 

Commissioner Long’s scheme has no basis in law. Title 55, motor and other vehicles, provides no avenue for the commissioner to “assign” driver license numbers.

Driver licenses are obtained by application, signature under penalty of perjury and payment, with the applicant photographed with the image affixed on the plastic license card. 

Tennessee transportation law is federal. Every two years the commissioner of safety must certify perfect accord between state law and U.S. code § 49, transportation. In November, Lawerence County resident Arthur Jay Hirsch gave notice to the U.S. department of transportation of the state’s program of “assigning driver licenses” rather than “issuing” them. 

Like Mr. Hirsch, Miss Branham had a driver license “assigned” absent application. 

It’s unclear what happens if she wants a driver license. Does she apply for a driver license? Does she apply for renewal of one she did not actually possess?

Federal laws violated

Mr. Hirsch’s notice details how the fraud operates to harm poor people and liberty-minded travelers such as himself.


➤ 49 USC § 31308. Commercial driver’s license. Requirements for the issuance of a driver’s license (abbreviated):

– pass written and driving tests;

– the license to be tamperproof;

– the name and address of the individual issued the license;

– a physical description of the individual;

– the social security account number or other number or information the Secretary decides is appropriate to identify the individual;

– the class or type of commercial motor vehicle the individual is authorized to operate;

– the name of the State that issued the license;

– the dates between which the license is valid.

49 CFR § 384.201 Testing program.

(a) The State shall adopt and administer a program for testing and ensuring the fitness of persons to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in accordance with the minimum Federal standards contained in part 383 of this title.

49 CFR § 384.202 Test standards.

No State shall authorize a person to operate a CMV unless such person passes a knowledge and driving skills test for the operation of a CMV in accordance with part 383 of this title.

Phony driver license scam exposed


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