CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Sept. 13, 2022 — Marie Mott says a traffic stop with a threatened arrest for a blinkered car lightbulb is racist affront.
Miss Mott, a reform-minded candidate for city council with a runoff vote Thursday, is a rare political figure in this mid-sized Southern river town who understands the connection between traffic law abuse by police and Jim Crow, the protocol of social management by police long accepted by city’s race and political establishment.
Police stopped her free movement on Cooley Street, a public road late Sunday night, because they saw that a front headlight was out, A report in Chattanoogan.com says Tuesday.
Miss Mott raised her voice and let spray F-bombs and other spicy verbiage, alleging the interaction was racist. As a police report blares Miss Mott “became agitated and aggressive.” Cops demanded she provide proofs of being involved in the transportation business. The graphic designer was expected to produce a driver license, proof of insurance and registration of her Xterra auto as a motor vehicle under the department of revenue in use that late hour in commercial activity.
The pretext for the arrest was a “light law violation.” This is an administrative or civil charge with a F$50 maximum fine in city court. A light law violation, Miss Mott said, is not a reason to be pulled over, and is not a crime.
The city has adopted at Sec. 24-442 And 24-443 the state motor vehicle light law at Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-402. “Each lamp and stoplight required in this section shall be in good condition and operational.”
This title is administrative law regulating the privilege of using the public way for private profit and gain by people who drive or operate motor vehicles in commerce (for hire). State law envisions all licensees as either common or private carriers, even people who have a class D driver license.
Miss Mott gave officers a driver license, but refused to give over registration and proof of insurance required of all common and private carriers.
Raising her voice and uttering profanities, she said police initiated the arrest because she is black, the report says. In Tennessee, for Fourth Amendment purposes, the flashing of police lights behind a moving car is an arrest, according to State vs. Gonzalez.
Does the car belong to you? A cop asked.
“Are you f–king kidding me?” she replied.
Police said Ms. Mott yelled from inside her vehicle, and demanded of an officer who arrived as backup, “Who the f— are you?”
The report is not flattering to Miss Mott, a well-spoken host on NoogaRadio 96.9 every Tuesday at 11 a.m. who led the 2020 George Floyd murder protests in the city.
Notorious ‘light law’
City police officers have authority to enforce the light law in the city code, Article 12, vehicle equipment. Police cited Ms. Mott for a light law violation.
But they also charged her for failure to exhibit proof of insurance, and improper display of the tag. The insurance rule is a state law, for which “the commissioner [of safety and homeland security shall administer and enforce this chapter” at T.C.A. § 55-12-103. The metal tags most cars screw atop their back bumpers are proof of privilege tax paid to the state commissioner of revenue.
The registration law at the beginning of the motor vehicle code at Title 55 “shall be administered by the commissioner of revenue” T.C.A. § 55-2-101 (emphasis added).
“The commissioner of revenue shall have the authority to delegate to the county clerks any functions and duties regarding the administration” of chapters 1-6 and chapter 21 of this title. *** The county clerk shall have the option of accepting or rejecting any such delegation.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-2-101.
The commissioner of revenue “shall appoint deputies, subordinate officers, clerks, investigators, and other employees who may be necessary” — people within his department. This commissioner, then, has one agreeable agent in Hamilton County, that being the clerk, Bill Knowles.
Neither the Chattanooga police department, nor its principle, the city itself, are agents on auto tag administration.
Is revenue department in charge?
To prove the point suggested by Miss Mott’s agitation, that enforcement is outside the scope of the law, Miss Mott may want to insist on her rights to have a hearing under the UAPA in agency — in the department of revenue, the sole party authorized to deal with registration plates.
She would propose a superior authority to any the city has supervise any disagreement over her registration and tag. That would be the revenue department, which may indeed have no beef against her, as it did not make a claim about any fault with her tag nor the registration certificate.
The UAPA is the uniform administrative procedures act controlling all exercise of administrative authority, which body of law can act as a defense against abusive use of police power by municipal corporations.
Claiming rights under UAPA requires the party with proper authority over a tag — the department of revenue — to set a hearing over any contested matter. City cops do not have an interest or do not have standing to make claims in city or sessions claims if a purported scofflaw insists on rights under UAPA for an administrative hearing due to her under the doctrine of the exhaustion of administrative remedies.
Auto registration is an administrative matter, heard in what is called a contested case hearing.
(b) An action by the commissioner with regard to subsection (a) or an action by the commissioner in issuing or refusing to issue any certificate of registration, permit, license or license plate shall be reviewed in the manner provided for in the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5, part 3, and in § 67-1-105; provided, that the party aggrieved by the action makes a written request for a formal hearing under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act within ten (10) days of the action complained of.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-2-102
City authority over tags — yes, here it is
But, not so quickly to see an out for Miss Mott on auto registration. The city has adopted a scheme similar to the state’s, empowering cops to “administer” tags in piggyback fashion after state of Tennessee.
The city created and operates an after-the-fact F$5 per year vehicle registration scheme at Sec. 24-391, an requires all cars converted into motor vehicles under state law to pay an assessment to city coffers.
“The provisions of this article shall apply to all motor vehicles for which a certificate of registration and registration plates have been issued by the State of Tennessee to an address within the City of Chattanooga including, without limitation, passenger automobiles, trucks, buses, straight vans, window vans, sports vans, pickup trucks, taxicabs and all other motor vehicles *** .”
Says city ordinance Sec. 24-396. – Registration required.
All owners or operators of motor vehicles shall register such vehicles with the city treasurer annually within thirty (30) days of the registration or renewal of registration of such vehicle with the state and shall pay the license fee levied by this article.
No claim appears to have been made against Miss Mott as to her license. That proof of tax paid for the permission to drive or operate a motor vehicle in commerce is administered by the department of safety. City officers lack authority to administer that law, but regularly do so in poaching on state and federal authority.
Mott rips ‘Gestapo’ tactics
Says Miss Mott in a pre-balloting day Facebook post:
One thing about me is I ALWAYS have receipts! My license is current, my insurance was current the night I was pulled over and renewed today, my tags are current as well as my vehicle registration is in my name which confirms my tags as current doubly.
There is no reason I should have a citation let alone have a white cop with other white cops pull an illegal u-turn to follow me and pull me over in my neighborhood. Day in and day out we are excessively stopped and harassed over our population with Gestapo tactics to violate our civil and human rights.
Enough is enough and so is the constant racial profiling! These folks are SCARED because we are standing on business, waking up, fighting back, and choosing leaders who won’t sell us out or go along to get along. Separate the lies from the truth and the real from the fake ✨
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” –Malcolm X