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Journalist demands court order to make warrantless arrests legal

Officer William Orange of Franklin, Tenn., police department handcuffs journalist David Tulis covering a state government meeting Nov. 6, 2021, having arrested him without a warrant, though Tulis gives him notice of T.C.A. § 40-7-103. (Photo Franklin police department) 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 — An investigative journalist suing Tennessee’s chief justice and a Nashville-area city for a 2021 arrest is demanding a federal judge issue a sweeping injunction to halt warrantless arrest abuse statewide in which officers disobey a law granting exceptions to the constitutional requirement for a warrant.

For immediate release contact David Tulis 423-316-2680

David Jonathan Tulis of 96.9 FM and NoogaRadio Network is suing over his arrest covering the secretive Tennessee judicial conference that he refused to leave as a matter of right under the open meetings act and Tennessee bill of rights. A Williamson County sessions court judge, M.T. Taylor, ruled Dec. 14, 2021, that the Nov. 11, 2021, criminal trespass case against Tulis had no legal foundation and dismissed the case.

The U.S. district court suit and default filing demand Franklin revise its ordinance that allows for general warrants and halt the on-spot arrest “usage and abusage,” as Tulis calls it. The petition says that, according to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-103, an officer can make an arrest without a warrant for an alleged misdemeanor on two conditions: (1) It occurs in the officer’s presence and (2) is either a “public offense” or a “breach of the peace threatened.” 

David Tulis of 96.9 FM and NoogaRadio Network

If the law is followed, what now is a 2-minute arrest sequence (not counting the caged ride to the jail) could become a four- or five-hour process for the arresting officer, “or 50 times or 150 times longer, so due process rights are respected, as the constitution requires,“ Tulis says.

The controversy is over whether “public offense” is the same as “offense” in the city ordinance and statewide law enforcement practice.

“These officials and cops forget that the constitution and the statute envision arrest as a terrible and rare thing, an awful claim to impose on anyone. Let’s say an offense is not a ‘public offense.’ Our law requires the accusing cop to investigate the situation, let the person go, depart the scene, go to the magistrate who makes an investigation into his report, reduces the allegations of a crime to writing, gets the cop to swear it — and then the judge signs it. That’s the warrant. The cop searches out the accused — maybe at his house — serves the warrant. Makes the arrest. Clunky, time consuming, an ordeal — yes. But that’s how the law protects those men and women whom the law presumes are innocent.” 

Tulis says officer William Orange arrested him sitting quietly at a judge conference table with his laptop computer and his signature radio news bow tie. Bodycam video shows Tulis explaining the law to Orange. “But Orange makes only the ‘in-the-officer’s-presence’ test,” Tulis says. “The second test is the ‘public offense’ test that my activities did not meet. He ignores the law. He kidnaps me.” 

A “public offense,” Tulis says, is one that “contains elements of fright, riot, affray, threat, disorder — it must be an existing breach of the peace if it’s not a ‘breach of the peace threatened,’” he says, quoting the law.

The petition for injunction is part of a $75,000 lawsuit against five parties. In the same filing, Tulis asks for a default and injunction against state Chief Justice Roger Page to open the judicial conference to the public on first amendment grounds and halt what Tulis calls Page’s “false imprisonment and false arrest policy.”

Tulis asks the injunction requiring arrest warrants be applicable to every city and county in Tennessee.

Block 10s of thousands of lawless TN arrests

Proposed injunction to halt arrest abuses in TN

My brief: ‘Public offense’ arrest standard matters

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