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Arrested for a Turn Signal Violation:
From Melissa, Texas, via Don't Tase Me Bro,
  Mark Robinson was driving through downtown Melissa last week when he was pulled over for failing the use his turn signal.
  But instead of getting a ticket, the officer took the 24-year-old to jail.
  He was booked, strip searched, and sat for 3 hours with criminals. "People talking about using drugs and shooting heroin. They asked me what I was in there for and I said a turn signal violation," said Robinson.
  There aren't any warrants out for Robinson. In fact he says he's never been in jail. But he does admit to challenging the officer's questions during the stop.
Tobias:
I thought SCOTUS said this was okay? In fact, isn't this the main way you can search incident to arrest for a minor ordinance violation?
5.9.2008 6:19pm
bike rider (mail):
That is the only crime for which I recommend the death penalty.
5.9.2008 6:19pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
It may be legal, but it isn't OK.

The two concepts are not the same.
5.9.2008 6:20pm
John Neff:
I have heard of "felony mouth" but "citation mouth" is a new one.
5.9.2008 6:23pm
OrinKerr:
What Robert West said. Many dumb things are completely constitutional.
5.9.2008 6:23pm
Roy S.:
Doesn't this call out for a reference to Alice's Restaurant? I mean -- I mean -- I MEAN -- I mean I'm sittin' here on the bench; I mean I'm sitting here on the Group W bench ........
5.9.2008 6:26pm
alias:
But he does admit to challenging the officer's questions during the stop

This almost certainly doesn't excuse the arrest, but I wonder what it means.

Also, having a town named "Melissa" leads to some snicker-worthy sentences in news reports, if part of your brain is 6 years old.
5.9.2008 6:27pm
30yearProf:
Power corrupts. Especially power held by high school dropouts with big muscles, weak egos, and bad marriages (I went school in Texas, I know small town cops there - they were the thugs in my H. S. class.). Even more so in a LE system that successfully fights outside supervision at every turn.

We were ALL exposed to more and more of this harm when the U. S. Supreme Court validated the process of arresting housewives and mouthy citizens for mere traffic violations. Arrest is, itself, a form of humiliation for most middle-class folks.

But, of course, no Justice need fear becoming the victim of such conduct. They can't even imagine the hurt and harm that it inflicts. They live in glass jars far above even modest suburbs.
5.9.2008 6:29pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
And SCOTUS has definitely not approved of strip searches for this. Wren specifically noted that such invasive searches are an example of what is likely not OK in a search incident to arrest for a traffic stop.

By the way, and Orin correct me if I'm wrong because that recent case confused me on this, but the seatbelt case said that an arrest was OK if state law OK'd it. So, in states, like California, that do not allow arrests for traffic stops, it's not OK. (Moot point here, but still somewhat reassuring to people that we can still change the law.)
5.9.2008 6:31pm
byomtov (mail):
Wasn't there just a thread discussing the professionalism of police, and how that was rapidly eliminating abuses?
5.9.2008 6:36pm
Kazinski:
I think the arrest is OK, but the strip search is definitely not. I don't think an officer should have to conduct a debate with a violator every time he makes a traffic stop. He should issue a warning to co-operate and if it is ignored follow up with an arrest.

The strip search was probably over the top, but it may be standard for any arrest there, in a CCW state, it may well be standard practice. At least it wasn't a body cavity search.
5.9.2008 6:39pm
Christopher Hundt (www):
CrazyTrain and Kazinski,

Surely the strip search was in preparation for putting him in the jail (to maintain safety and enforce contraband rules), not "incident to arrest."
5.9.2008 6:41pm
it's Thanksgiving somewhere:
should'a told them he was in for littering
5.9.2008 6:43pm
one of many:
"It may be legal, but it isn't OK."

While I agree that turn signal violations are not OK, I wasn't aware they were legal. Wait, you were talking about the arrest, that's a different matter. Since we only have a limited amount of information it is premature to form an absolute opinion on the OKness of the arrest - depends on what "challenging the officer's questions during the stop" actually means - it could very well be conduct which in itself justifies an arrest, but the officer being a good soul chose not charge M. Richardson with. With such a one-sided presentation I refuse to do more than point out that there is too little information to form a reasonable opinion.
5.9.2008 6:45pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
By the way, I was confused, in Whren, they referred to body-cavity searches, not strip searches. Still think that was not right, but not sure whether it was legit under existing precedent.
5.9.2008 6:46pm
OrinKerr:
By the way, and Orin correct me if I'm wrong because that recent case confused me on this, but the seatbelt case said that an arrest was OK if state law OK'd it. So, in states, like California, that do not allow arrests for traffic stops, it's not OK.

No, that's not the case under the recent decision in Virginia v. Moore.
5.9.2008 6:48pm
whit:
most states have decrim'd minor moving violations as infractions. apparently, this jurisdiction hasn't .

that is of course ridiculous.

nothing would prevent the legislature from changing this. fwiw, it benefits all sides to decrim stuff like this. it makes the case civil which means cheap hearings, hearsay ok, vs. a criminal trial beyond a reasonable doubt...

decrim'ing also prevents discretionary abuses such as this

as the article notes the chief had never even heard of this happening. obvious, it's exceptionally rare, so byomtov's comment is ridiculous. the fact is all evidence suggests this is an exceptionally RARE event. that's why it made the news in the first place. see: man bites dog
5.9.2008 6:48pm
DG:
{ I don't think an officer should have to conduct a debate with a violator every time he makes a traffic stop.} He doesn't. He needs to hand the violator a ticket, smile, walk back to his patrol car and leave. A jaunty wave is optional, but encouraged. No need for debate - leave loudmouth floundering by the side of the road. No need for an arrest - thats a lack of professionalism.

I am very skeptical of this cop. Most police officers have no trouble getting and maintaining control of mouthy idiots through the use of more subtle methods of influence. This kind of cop will end up escalating a situation that will get him or someone else killed.
5.9.2008 6:49pm
Witness (mail):
He's not talking about an individualized strip search. He's talking about the process whereby cops take everyone they're moving from the drunk tank into cells and place them into a big room. Everyone is then ordered to take off all of their clothes. The cops then go around distributing the jumpsuits and, presumably, checking for contraband (and making mental size comparisons).

Am I the only one who has suffered this indignity at the hands of Texas law enforcement??
5.9.2008 6:52pm
Cornellian (mail):
I gotta tell ya, if he's waiting for the light to turn green before turning on his left turn signal, then he got off easy, in my opinion. He's just left a bunch of cars stuck behind him for the duration of that green light, whereas they could have got into the right hand lane had he used his turn signal in advance, as he is supposed to do. That kind of idiot is just infuriating and needs to be dealt with.
5.9.2008 6:55pm
ray_g:
"I went school in Texas, I know small town cops there - they were the thugs in my H. S. class"

Small town cops in Washington State were the same -- I suspect this is nearly universal.
5.9.2008 6:57pm
KRIS:
In Texas, law enforcement can arrest for almost every traffic offense. Specifically, for speeding offenses and violations of the open container law, peace officers must give you the opportunity to sign the citation and be released on a promise to appear in court. For most other violations, they can arrest without offering the release. In my not-insignificant-Texas-traffic-law-experience, most folks who are arrested for ANY traffic infraction refused to sign the citation promising to appear. It seems very likely to me that what the article calls "challenging the officer's questions," I would probably call "trying the citation on the side of the road," or even "unnecessarily delaying a traffic stop" (traffic stops being among the most dangerous things law enforcement officers do), or "refusing to sign the citation upon the officer's request." The relevant law for all of us "armchair commentators" Texas Transportation Code Chapter 543, which is available online at http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/tn.toc.htm.
5.9.2008 7:00pm
Mac (mail):
KRIS:,

Thanks for clarifying. There is way too little factual information here to be making all these judgements. If his rights were violated, he can sue. Let's see if there isn't more factual info on this.
5.9.2008 7:07pm
EH (mail):
Small town cops in Washington State were the same -- I suspect this is nearly universal.

Silly person, the only thing universal about this incident is that all cops are trying to do a good job. Repeat after me: everything bad is due to isolated incidents.
5.9.2008 7:20pm
Vinnie (mail):
At a glance without all of the fax it sounds like "Contempt of Cop" to me. Contempt of a seasoned veteran can result in a lot of pain with little or no visible marks.

My experience with small town cops has been pretty much the opposite of everyone else's apparently. I have found that the smaller the agency that the officer works for the more friendly and professional he is.
5.9.2008 7:24pm
one of many:
I've had similar experiences Vinnie, which leads me to wonder if M. Richardson was actually arrested for a more serious offense for which he wasn't charged out of the kindness of the cop's heart. Not sure it did happen that way, but the one-sided presentation doesn't give me enough information to pass a judgement one way or the other.
5.9.2008 7:31pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
Virignia v Moore seemingly would have no effect on this case. That case dealt with whether arrests unauthorized by state law are constitutional.

in TX this appears to be a legal arrest. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 14.01b (authorizing arrests by police for any offesnse committed in presence of officer); Minor v. State 219 S.W.2d 467 (upholding arrest for speeding committed in offerer presence).
5.9.2008 7:40pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
Virignia v Moore seemingly would have no effect on this case. That case dealt with whether arrests unauthorized by state law are constitutional.

in TX this appears to be a legal arrest. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 14.01b (authorizing arrests by police for any offesnse committed in presence of officer); Minor v. State 219 S.W.2d 467 (upholding arrest for speeding committed in offerer presence).
5.9.2008 7:41pm
Hoosier:
>>>{ I don't think an officer should have to conduct a debate with a violator every time he makes a traffic stop.} He doesn't. He needs to hand the violator a ticket, smile, walk back to his patrol car and leave. A jaunty wave is optional, but encouraged.

They can even use the opening scene of "Super Troopers" as a training video for this sort of thing.
5.9.2008 8:13pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
As Kris noted above, this person may have refused to sign the ticket, promising to appear in court. That would put an entirely different spin on taking the person to jail.

Anybody who argues with a cop about a traffic ticket is a complete idiot, and I have very little sympathy for them. That's not to say the cop was in the right here, just that I have little sympathy for anybody stupid enough to "mouth off" to a cop during a traffic stop.

Sign the ticket and go on your way. If you want to argue, that's what court is for. Come back later and take pictures of where the traffic signs were, if that's your beef. No cop is ever going to say "you know, you're right, I won't issue you a ticket for that..."
5.9.2008 8:31pm
Wugong:
"I went school in Texas, I know small town cops there - they were the thugs in my H. S. class"

"Small town cops in Washington State were the same -- I suspect this is nearly universal."

Same for Maine and Michigan, in my experience. Biggest bullies and drunks (along with some other drugs). Also usually stupid, though smart enough to realize that it would take a gun and badge to maintain a smidgen of the authority they had in high school.
5.9.2008 8:33pm
ithaqua (mail):
The utter contempt on this blog for the people who risk their lives every day to protect your ungrateful butts never ceases to impress me.

"There aren't any warrants out for Robinson. In fact he says he's never been in jail. But he does admit to challenging the officer's questions during the stop."

And there we have it. Hopefully, this smart-mouthed kid learned a lesson in respect.
5.9.2008 8:39pm
TomB (mail):
"Yes sir" and "No sir" (or "Ma'am") should be the only words out of your mouth 99% of the time you are stopped for a traffic violation. Oh, and "thank you sir" when he's finished and you get the ticket.

The other 1% can be dicey, though. Most cops are trying to do a good job, but there are a few jerks and kooks who give the profession a real bad name. But there are a helluva lot more mouthy drivers than there are psycho cops IMO. So the cops are justified in having a very skeptical attitude about any excuses you give. And if you are trying for a power play, well just don't go there.

We don't know the facts, of course, but the overwhelming probability is that Mr. Robinson was being a smart-aleck and or a jerk. The cop probably over-reacted a little, too. But methinks Mr. Robinson started it. Medoubt he's learned his lesson, though....
5.9.2008 8:51pm
Patrick C (mail):
The utter contempt of some of the commenters on this blog for the civil liberties guaranteed to us by the founder and their corresponding worship of a police state never ceases to impress me.
5.9.2008 8:53pm
sjalterego (mail):

And there we have it. Hopefully, this smart-mouthed kid learned a lesson in respect.


Because the best way to teach respect for authority is to let you experience potentially unwarranted exercise or coercive state power whenever you question it?

No matter if the cop is right or wrong do what s/he says with a smile on your face.
5.9.2008 8:58pm
Brett Bellmore:

The utter contempt on this blog for the people who risk their lives every day to protect your ungrateful butts never ceases to impress me.


And if they spent all their time doing that, instead of spending much of it running speed traps and enforcing victimless crime laws, they'd get a lot less of that utter contempt. The reputation of police is never going to be better than the reputation of the laws they enforce, and will be worse if they enforce them abusively, which they sometimes do.
5.9.2008 9:23pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Ithaqua: the idea that jail time, with attendant strip search, is a proper punishment for lack of respect of a police officer is ... somewhat terrifying.

I mean, yeah, as a practical matter I concede that this sort of thing happens and that it's unwise to be disrespectful to a police officer. But throwing someone in jail for disrespecting authority is per se an abuse of power.
5.9.2008 9:27pm
Sean M:
I just finished write on where racial profiling was discussed as was this sort of situation. The author quoted a small-town prosecutor as saying, "You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride."

That seems to be the case here.
5.9.2008 9:36pm
Some_3L (mail):

Power corrupts. Especially power held by high school dropouts with big muscles, weak egos, and bad marriages (I went school in Texas, I know small town cops there - they were the thugs in my H. S. class.). Even more so in a LE system that successfully fights outside supervision at every turn.



Well, yeah, but giving them badge numbers and dashboard cameras at least let's us keep track of them.
5.9.2008 9:43pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I don't think people who don't use turn signals should be arrested. They should just be shot.
5.9.2008 9:45pm
RainerK:
"Ithaqua: the idea that jail time, with attendant strip search, is a proper punishment"

Not to mention that to punish is not in a cop's job description but a matter for the court.
Still, I would like to know exactly what that young man said to the officer and I would like to get to know the officer a little to get a reading on him. Won't happen, of course so I withhold judgement.
5.9.2008 9:53pm
Gaius Marius:
Apparently, law enforcement in Texas is modeled after Himmler's S.S.
5.9.2008 10:17pm
Vinnie (mail):
And there we have it. Hopefully, this smart-mouthed kid learned a lesson in respect.

That is not the way to instill respect, that is the way to instill fear and hatred.
A cop doesn't deserve my respect because of the job he was able to get. Or for the responsibility that goes with it. Hiring practices being different in some areas that would make little sense.
A cop does deserve the basic respect that you should start out with for any other stranger and MAYBE a little benefit of the doubt because of their current situation. If they go on to earn more respect so be it.
5.9.2008 10:19pm
byomtov (mail):
The utter contempt of some of the commenters on this blog for the civil liberties guaranteed to us by the founder and their corresponding worship of a police state never ceases to impress me.

Agreed.

So someone mouthed off to the cop about the ticket. Big deal. Nobody likes getting a ticket - let him vent. There's no law that let's a cop punish someone for being PO'd about a ticket. And make no mistake - that's what we're talking about.
5.9.2008 10:34pm
Oren:
Given that virtually everyone in their car fails to follow all the traffic law, I venture to say that the automobile exception has now effectively swallowed the fourth amendment whole. I hope Orin can still find gainful employment.

I know I posted this exact same video last time, but seriously, I nominate this guy to be Chief of Chiefs of Police in the US. This is probably the guy that Scalia was talking about in Hudson.
5.9.2008 10:46pm
Michael H Schneider (mail):
We don't even know if the accused mouthed off.

I was stopped by an Oklahoma policeman on a pretext, and refused to answer when he asked "are you carrying any drugs?". I said I didn't believe I was obliged to answer that, and my refusal could be described as challenging the question. So I got to meet the drug sniffing dog, but I wasn't carrying or doing anything illegal, and the policeman didn't plant anything, so I went on my way with a warning for 'improper registration tag display'.
5.9.2008 10:46pm
Oren:
MHS, that may have been unconstitutional if you had to wait around for the dog. That also depends on what standard the judge has that day for "unreasonably prolonging the seizure".
5.9.2008 10:57pm
byomtov (mail):
I have little sympathy for anybody stupid enough to "mouth off" to a cop during a traffic stop.

Why? Who made the highway patrol king of the world? If the guy doesn't actually threaten the cop he has a right to say whatever he feels like saying. The only reason it's "stupid" is because too many cops think they can abuse their powers.
5.9.2008 11:07pm
EH (mail):
If only there was some kind of school or other training that a police officer could attend that might give them the tools to defuse a confrontation rather than escalating it. Can you imagine that taking hold in BFE?

Police are tarred with the "abusive" brush, citizens "violent." Both are due to a minority percentage of incidents.
5.9.2008 11:07pm
Brian Day (mail):
Apparently, law enforcement in Texas is modeled after Himmler's S.S.

Godwin's Law?
5.9.2008 11:08pm
30yearProf:
The author quoted a small-town prosecutor as saying, "You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride."


To be fair, behind every bad cop there is a prosecutor (lawyer) willing to back the cop up so long as he brings in the "collars" for the plea bargain system.

Ego boosting at the expense of others isn't confined to cops. I've seen plenty of it in County Attorney's offices.

As for mouthy drivers, here's how to deal with it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyHMbHHtArE
5.9.2008 11:08pm
RT1 (mail):
I suppose that we are all supposed to bow, scrape and tug at our forelocks whenever confronted by an officer of the law? Throw in a few "Yes massa'" for good measure?
5.9.2008 11:29pm
Bruce:
Sounds like he committed the age-old crime of Disturbing the Police.
5.10.2008 12:11am
EH (mail):
30 Year: Ha ha! "There's some more, right there."
5.10.2008 12:23am
Dave D. (mail):
...There aren't many questions involved in a traffic stop for a turn signal violation. The officer would need to obtain the drivers license, registration, and in some states, his insurance card. Usually he will verify that the drivers address is correct as given on his license and , if the car is registered to someone else, ask him who owns the car. Then it's ticket time.
..A lot of antipathy here towards a cop you never knew and about a stop you aren't privy to. I did this for 32 years and almost everyone I stopped was civil. Some were polite. The officer has the duty to explain the violation and answer reasonable questions. A few, very few but memorable, folks said outrageous things because they were angry or stupid. If ( I don't know this happened here, but it's happened to me ) the driver refused to verify his address, became supercilious when asked who the car owner was or provoked the officer with talk of weapons or following him home to kill his family, then one thing can lead to another quickly. You never know what mood or emotional difficulty this driver was in before he was stopped.
...Crazy Train, California does allow/require physical arrest for some CVC violations, see : 40302,40303,40305 vc.
5.10.2008 12:23am
VMakarov:

That is not the way to instill respect, that is the way to instill fear and hatred.
A cop doesn't deserve my respect because of the job he was able to get. Or for the responsibility that goes with it. Hiring practices being different in some areas that would make little sense.
A cop does deserve the basic respect that you should start out with for any other stranger and MAYBE a little benefit of the doubt because of their current situation. If they go on to earn more respect so be it.


Typical of the "It's all about ME!" generation. Then people wonder why things are as bad as they are. Previous generations didn't act like the world revolved around them. Today these smart-alec little heathens have been coddled their entire life and think that they run the world. It's disgusting. Apparently they never had to give their parents or any other authority figure any respect, so they run around like they own the world.
5.10.2008 1:31am
kiniyakki (mail):
I heard a great story from an older prosecutor a little while ago that seems somewhat relevant here: Young Prosecutor was appearing in court w/ Defendant X who had been arrested by Officer Y. Defendant X was stating that Officer Y had arrested him, then hung him by his ankles out of a window until Defendant X finally confessed. In court Young Prosecutor's main argument was "this is completely absurd judge, there is no way the police would hold a person out the window by their ankles." The judge agreed, and Defendant X was sentenced. A few weeks later Young Prosecutor happened to run into Officer Y at a function. Young Prosecutor remarked that he had handled the case involving Defendant X. Officer Y replied, "I remember that case, that stupid son of a XXX. I had to hold that kid out the window by his ankles to make him confess."

Now I know this is a good example of poor behavior (that shouldn't have happened, is wrong, abuse of police power and all that good stuff), but at the same time, it sure makes a good story!
5.10.2008 2:19am
kiniyakki (mail):
Regarding the discussion on this thread: General deterence. That is why it is okay to make this arrest. This type of story makes some news, and people realize they have to be polite to the police. For the guy who went to jail - sorry, but some little punk has to be the example. But, the point probably could have been made the same without the strip search (unless, as somebody noted, that was just part of what was required to be booked at the jail).
5.10.2008 2:23am
Vinnie (mail):

VMakarov:

I said
A cop does deserve the basic respect that you should start out with for any other stranger and MAYBE a little benefit of the doubt because of their current situation.

This is america. Thats all you get to start out, I don't care who you are. You can tear down your position from there or you can build it up.
Basic respect: I wouldn't want to walk up to the car of a person who's day I might be ruining, so I keep my hands on the wheel and turn on my dome light at night so they can see that Im not a threat. How much respect that the officer gets after that is up to him. Again, I don't GIVE respect. You want it EARN IT. Its not that hard. Doing your job usually does it.
For the record I have never failed to thank an officer for a ticket that I did not beet in court and I have never argued a ticket with the officer in the field. Thats why we have judges.
5.10.2008 3:33am
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm shocked.

Melissa, Texas has a downtown!

Nick
5.10.2008 4:14am
longwalker (mail):
The comments equating the behavior of the Texas police officer to Himmler's SS clearly establishes that the commenters have no idea as to how the SS operated.
5.10.2008 8:08am
Teh Anonymous:
longwalker: To be fair, that was only Gaius Marius, and he's kind of a wacko.
5.10.2008 8:42am
Cornellian (mail):
o be fair, that was only Gaius Marius, and he's kind of a wacko.

I'm inclined to disagree.

With the "kind of" qualifier.
5.10.2008 11:33am
byomtov (mail):
..A lot of antipathy here towards a cop you never knew and about a stop you aren't privy to.

Yes. But also a lot of antipathy toward an offender you never knew and about a stop you aren't privy to.

We don't know what happened in this particular case. What many of us object to is the notion, as expressed by Rt1,

"that we are all supposed to bow, scrape and tug at our forelocks whenever confronted by an officer of the law? Throw in a few "Yes massa'" for good measure?"


or else it's perfectly acceptable for the cop to take us to jail.
5.10.2008 11:38am
30yearProf:
Young Prosecutor remarked that he had handled the case involving Defendant X. Officer Y replied, "I remember that case, that stupid son of a XXX. I had to hold that kid out the window by his ankles to make him confess."


Behind every Bad Cop there is a accomplice prosecutor. Given their education, outside job prospects, and, BTW, ethical responsibilities, the prosecutors are much more evil but they always escape. After all, they run the CJ system.

99 to 1, the Young Prosecutor just smiled, and let the defendant serve his illegitimately imposed sentence.
5.10.2008 11:59am
Redlands (mail):
Just sounds like he flunked the attitude test.
5.10.2008 12:33pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
This article highlights why the Supreme Court's decision was wrong as a matter of policy, if not legally/constitutionally wrong.

I think the cop should just give the person the ticket, and not insist that he or she sign it to acknowledge receipt or formally arrest the person when he or she refuses to sign. Why should it matter if the traffic offender signs it on the "promises to appear" line? The cop can note that the person refused to sign but was handed the ticket. And, if the person doesn't sign it, and doesn't appear, then the court can impose a larger fine, which the state collects when the offender renews the car registration.
5.10.2008 2:36pm
Oren:
This type of story makes some news, and people realize they have to be polite to the police.
I was always of the impression that the police had a duty to be courteous and respectful to us, seeing as they are the professionals.

I've had police do some shitty things to me but, I have to admit, they did them all very politely and professionally.
5.10.2008 2:39pm
jabroni:
I wish more people would "challeng[e] the officer's questions during the stop." Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What do you do for a living? Either I was speeding or I was not. That is determined by the radar gun, not by my profession. Where am I coming from? Unless you smell alcohol, and you think the answer may be "a bar," that's frankly no one else's concern.

This kid was probably much more of a jerk than he lets on, but he was probably also correct in refusing to tell his life story just because he got pulled over.
5.10.2008 2:55pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
the people who risk their lives every day to protect your ungrateful butts

My current employer sells the product I work on to Homeland Security, so I suppose I'm protecting ungrateful butts. And there's risk in traveling to the job. What do I get for risking my life every day to protect?

The officer has the duty to explain the violation and answer reasonable questions.

It's sometimes a fine line between on the one hand "reasonable questions" or otherwise successfully talking it down to a warning, and arguing. (Although silence, with the lights on and hands on the wheel, is probably best; and if it results in a ticket anyway, it makes it more likely the cop won't remember the stop when it gets to court.)
5.10.2008 3:47pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):




I agree with KRIS and Mac, there's probably quite a bit more to the story then what's been reported so far and far too little on which to make an informed opinion. If the officer has the discretion to make an arrest for this sort of traffic violation, then they can make an arrest. Whether that discretion was trigged by the officer being "mean" or the driver acting like a "jerk" may make one appear more sympathetic than the other but it doesn't affect the legality of arrest.
5.10.2008 6:30pm
30yearProf:
but it doesn't affect the legality of arrest.


Oh, I think everyone else in this discussion is beyond this.

The issue is one of policy. Should traffic offenses result in arrest? Should "big mouth" be an arrestable offense given that at least the Ninth Circuit has ruled that "F*** Y**" is protected speech (in fact, it may be a well-chosen, concise and completely understood comment)? Can arrest be used to humiliate an American purely for the officer's satisfaction (this is not Mexico, you know)? Is the prosecutor's comment quoted earlier that "You can beat the rap but you can't avoid the ride" proper in a free society?

All questions "police groupies" prefer to ridicule or walk away from.
5.10.2008 7:45pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I think it is always best to be polite to officers. It may not get you out of the ticket, but at least it can make a potentially unpleasant event pass in a less unhappy way.

I was 41 years old the first time I got a speeding ticket, on I-79 southbound in West Virginia. I was as polite as can be with the officer and, while I was not happy to get the ticket, I thanked him for being out on the road. After he issued me the ticket, I told him that I used to be a prosecutor and sometimes tried traffic cases. When he heard that, he told me that if he had known I was a former prosecutor, he would have let me off with a warning.

Now, I did not entirely believe this. The prosecuting attorney I worked for had a lead foot and was always getting tickets. Anyways, several years later, I got pulled over while taking a group of attorneys from my office to lunch (ironically, one of the attorneys was telling us a story about how she had gotten a speeding ticket on that same stretch of road the night before; double ironically, she was about to complain to me that I was driving too slow). Once again, I was as polite as can be with the officer. This time, I was sure to mention that I used to prosecutor traffic cases and would not give him any trouble. And what do you know...he let me off with a warning (the fast driving attorney almost lost her temper; one of the other attorneys put his hand on her shoulder to keep her from lunging at the officer).

2 years later, I got pulled over again. Once again, I was polite with the officer. As luck would have it, I was inside the county where I used to work. I asked the officer about his dealings with the prosecutor's office and the judges. Once again, I got off with a warning.

All in all, being polite with officers is the best approach. I hope I never have to test my "former prosecutor" story any more.
5.10.2008 7:47pm
Dave D. (mail):
...30yearProf,

...Certainly some traffic offenses should result in physical arrest. I don't think a turn signal violation should be one of them. As is your practice, you assume facts not in evidence. No, it's not Mexico, but then, Texas isn't in the Ninth Circuit, it's in the Fifth. Since you don't know what happened, you make up your own facts. Are you on the short list to replace Justice Stevens ?
5.10.2008 9:31pm
mouse (mail):
--Should traffic offenses result in arrest?

It was my understanding of the law that in most states, being pulled over WAS an arrest, legally speaking. That detention alone qualified as an arrest, and therefore, all subsequent elements of detention, including possible jailing were well within the legal purview of the officer.

Now, usually, being pulled over only results in a ticket, but that's at the officer's discretion, not because he needs to have more cause in order to effect the "Arrest".

Can anyone clarify? Tell me I'm wrong? Various states have various ideas of this?
5.10.2008 9:46pm
30yearProf:
Mouse,

PARDON ME for using "arrest" in a non-technical manner. I suppose you'd be happier if I said "incarceration." Or should I have used "jailed" since "imprisoned" would so clearly be incorrect (or at least, imprecise).

Actually, IIRC, the traffic stop is a "seizure." It may or may not lead to an "arrest." Etc.
5.11.2008 12:31am
Dave D. (mail):
.. An enforcement action that results in a summons ( ticket ) is usually called a non custodial arrest. Most states have reduced traffic violations to the status of infraction. You can't be sentenced to jail for an infraction but you can be fined a nominal amount if found guilty. And because you can't be jailed, the Supreme Court says you don't have a right to a jury trial, just a trial by a judge. The next step up is misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of ( usually ) $1000 and up to a year in jail. Because of the possibility of jail time, you can get council provided if you can't afford it and you can get a jury trial. Top of the list of crimes are felonies, conviction of which may result in enormous fines and prison time, even death.
..Some traffic offenses are misdemeanors, including drunk driving and reckless driving and some others. All this varies state by state and may or may not be true in your state.
5.11.2008 12:37am
MQuinn:
I recently participated in a moot court competition on Belton automobile searches incident to arrest. Many of the issues in this competition dealt with the Atwater case, where the Court held that an officer may arrest suspects for minor criminal offenses.

During my research, I was struck by the astounding power that police enjoy when Belton searches are combined with Atwater arrests. This power is ripe for police abuse, and it is likely that many officers use this power in a purposefully discriminatory manner against minorities (a suspicion pointed out by several appellate court judges; but, perhaps not surprisingly, usually in dissent). I suggest that this should give us cause for worry. When police are allowed to conduct fishing expeditions against targeted segments of the population, they have too much power.
5.11.2008 1:34am
30yearProf:
During my research, I was struck by the astounding power that police enjoy when Belton searches are combined with Atwater arrests. This power is ripe for police abuse,


No problem, Supreme Court Justices are never hassled by the police so how can anyone else be? After all, the police are "professionals" who's vital work shouldn't be impeded by the Constitution.
5.11.2008 2:20am
anon99467 (mail):
This reminds me of a 2006 case from rural Minnesota. A motorist was arrested for having a cracked windshield and failure to provide proof of insurance. He was placed in a cell in the county jail with another prisoner who then beat the motorist to death. See http://www.twincities.com/ci_9176222.

Why would any traffic offense like this result in jail detention? Driving recklessly maybe, but cracked windshield and failure to have proof of insurance? Give me a break. Why was a violent offended placed in the same cell as the motorist? I recognize most rules of common sense don't apply to Minnesota, but this case is extreme even my Minnesota standards. Hopefully, the county and the personnel involved were severely disciplined and wrote large checks.
5.11.2008 12:40pm
Dave D. (mail):
...Yeah, I mean, if they can send a man to the moon, why can't they...............?
5.11.2008 3:34pm
DiverDan (mail):

In my not-insignificant-Texas-traffic-law-experience, most folks who are arrested for ANY traffic infraction refused to sign the citation promising to appear.

Yeah, I've been down this road before - the problem is, the citation that they hand you makes you agree to terms on the reverse of the citation by your signature, but the Cops invariably will NOT let you read what you are agreeing to (the back of the citation is hidden by extra copy which is attached) before you sign it. I damn near was arrested for a failure to wear seatbelt violation in Texas when I kept asking to read the ENTIRE citation, both front and back, before I signed it. The Cop kept refusing to allow me to even read the Citation - said my only choices were to sign the Citation without reading it, or be taken to jail. I signed it, after several minutes of argument, but I did NOT like it, and took the time to file a complaint against the officer (which I'm sure went nowhere).
5.11.2008 5:10pm
sagi (mail):
Assuming that he was going to be jailed for even an hour or two, he needed to be fully searched before being placed there, yes?

Some of you would howl your heads off if contraband/weapons entered a jail because the facility failed to do such a search. (Likely the same ones who are howling now because they DID the required search).
5.11.2008 6:58pm
Mark Jones:
As it happens, I got nabbed for speeding this weekend on the highway between Portland, OR and the coast. I pulled over, handed over my license and insurance card, got a ticket. I didn't even _have_ to sign anything. The cop told me what the default fine was, but that if I have a good driving record I could probably get it reduced. I also didn't have my current insurance info (I'm insured, but apparently didn't put the current insurance card in the glove box); again, he cited me but said I could present proof of insurance to the court and get that one waived.

No fishing expedition, no mouthiness on my part. He caught me fair and square, I took the ticket. I continued my trip.
5.11.2008 9:56pm
Porkchop:
Oren:

I know I posted this exact same video last time, but seriously, I nominate this guy to be Chief of Chiefs of Police in the US. This is probably the guy that Scalia was talking about in Hudson.

I have it on pretty good authority (a police officer in Northern VA) that this is fake. It was set up by the Virginia State Trooper to convince his supervisor that he was not abusive to people he stopped. He was the subject of a number of complaints, so he "stopped" a friend by arrangement and then acted angelic while his friend ranted.
5.12.2008 12:44am
Randy R. (mail):
This is an interesting thread. In other thread, there is a quote from Obama about how he would like to have judges on SCOTUS use their hearts in those few cases where the outcome is not obvious. The discussion devolved at one point to say that sometimes, judges should look at the impact of their decisions on ordinary people. I defended this statement by quoting Sandra Day O'Connor, who said that she was grealy influenced by Thurgood Marshall, who told her that all their decisions affect real people, and that should be considered in her votes.

Well, I got ripped up on that one! Everyon else seemed to think that judges should only consider the law and nothing else.

Yet here in this case, people seem to think that judges should consider how police can enforce laws, and how these laws affect people.

I guess there are two completely different sets of people on this blog.
5.12.2008 2:15am
KRIS:
"Yeah, I've been down this road before - the problem is, the citation that they hand you makes you agree to terms on the reverse of the citation by your signature, but the Cops invariably will NOT let you read what you are agreeing to (the back of the citation is hidden by extra copy which is attached) before you sign it."

Every Texas citation I've ever seen (and I've worked for a major Texas municipality and a minor one, and defended clients' citations in many others) requires you to sign under language like this: "NOTICE OF COURT APPEARANCE -- THIS IS NOT A PLEA: I promise to appear in court [at such time] to enter a plea." I've never seen a Texas citation that required the driver to certify to anything else. The officer has to sign the citation attesting that he had probable cause to write it to you. Again, Chapter 543 controls the meaning of the driver's signature on the citation...there shouldn't be any reason for you to read the entire citation before signing under a promise to appear.
5.12.2008 10:45am
k. mccabe:
At least the prisons arent overcrowded so this is likely good use of readily available resources. Plus, everybody loves to be strip searched, especially for really minor offenses. I bet the person sends a thank you card to the officers for the humiliation he invited upon himself by daring to question authority in such a brazen fashion as using words and questions. We all should be so lucky as to get caught in Melissa, Texas!

In fact, we should make kids learning to drive go there so they can experience the intimate, naked love of government first hand. Im sure they will be forever grateful for our never ending concern for their rigid adherence to authority!
5.12.2008 5:01pm
hattio1:
Kiniyakki says;

A few weeks later Young Prosecutor happened to run into Officer Y at a function. Young Prosecutor remarked that he had handled the case involving Defendant X. Officer Y replied, "I remember that case, that stupid son of a XXX. I had to hold that kid out the window by his ankles to make him confess."


And he calls this a "great story." Then in the very next post he says;

General deterence. That is why it is okay to make this arrest. This type of story makes some news, and people realize they have to be polite to the police. For the guy who went to jail - sorry, but some little punk has to be the example


No thoughts at all on what should have happened to cops who hold suspects by their ankles out the window, or young prosecutor's who find that so unbeleivable that the court shouldn't even address it, or the judge who refused to address it?

And you wonder why some people think that the real problem is prosecutors.
5.13.2008 5:08pm