The Civil Rights Lawyer explains how to handle a traffic stop – a discussion on constitutional law issues surrounding traffic stops and gives commentary on Do’s and Don’ts for both drivers and police officers during the course of traffic stops. TUE 10/27 at 6pm.
Set your reminder, notifications, and subscribe. Bring your experiences, your issues, and your questions, live for Freedom is Scary Live Episode No. 22. This will somewhat of a continuation from FIS No. 21, since so many issues arise in the context of traffic stops. Firearms, searches, lying….. lots of issues and topics.
Yesterday afternoon we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the police officers involved in the viral video showing police (without a warrant) forcing my client, James Walkup, to crawl to his own front door, only to have his head smashed with a boot on his front porch. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:
This happened in the Western end of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. And here’s the filed lawsuit, now pending in the Beckley Division of the Southern District of West Virginia. We made claims for unlawful search and seizure, as well as use of excessive force. The defendants are one Rainelle, WV police officer and two West Virginia State Troopers.
LIVE – Freedom is Scary Episode No. 21, on the Fourth Amendment protections, or lack thereof, surrounding police officers searching and seizing pedestrians and vehicle occupants during traffic stops.
Mentioned in the video:
“All power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; […] magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.”
– George Mason
On “Consensual Encounters:” As a general matter, police officers are free to approach and question individuals without necessarily effecting a seizure. Rather, a person is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment “[o]nly when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.” Id. (quotingTerry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16 (1968)). Such a seizure can be said to occur when, after considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court concludes that “a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” Id. (quotingUnited States v. Gray, 883 F.2d 320, 322 (4th Cir. 1989)). Similarly, when police approach a person at a location that they do not necessarily wish to leave, the appropriate question is whether that person would feel free to “terminate the encounter.” SeeFlorida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 436 (1991). “[T]he free-to-leave standard is an objective test, not a subjective one.” United States v. Analla, 975 F.2d 119, 124 (4th Cir. 1992).
What is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is a “commonsense, nontechnical” standard that relies on the judgment of experienced law enforcement officers, “not legal technicians.” See Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 695, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911 (1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). To support a finding of reasonable suspicion, we require the detaining officer “to either articulate why a particular behavior is suspicious or logically demonstrate, given the surrounding circumstances, that the behavior is likely to be indicative of some more sinister activity than may appear at first glance.” See United States v. Foster, 634 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir.2011). (United States v. Williams, 808 F.3d 238 (4th Cir. 2015)).
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause exists when the “facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge . . . are sufficient to warrant a prudent person, or one of reasonable caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect has committed, is com- mitting, or is about to commit an offense.” – Michigan v. DeFillippo (SCOTUS 1979).
Length of Stop?
It is now settled that when a lawful traffic stop is made, “an officer … to gain his bearings and … acquire a fair understanding of the surrounding scene … may request identification of … [vehicular] passengers….” United States v. Soriano–Jarquin, 492 F.3d 495, 500 (4th Cir.2007); see also Branch, 537 F.3d at 337 (“If a police officer observes a traffic violation, he is justified in stopping the vehicle for long enough to issue the driver a citation and determine that the driver is entitled to operate his vehicle.”); United States v. Foreman, 369 F.3d 776, 781 (4th Cir.2004) (“[D]uring a routine traffic stop, an officer may request a driver’s license and vehicle registration, run a computer check, and issue a citation.”)….. “Additionally, ‘a police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.’ ”) (quoting [963 F.Supp.2d 591] Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997)). U.S. v. Taylor, 963 F.Supp.2d 580 (S.D. W.Va. 2013).
In the context of traffic stops, police diligence encompasses requesting a driver’s license and vehicle registration, running a computer check, and issuing a ticket. If a police officer seeks to prolong a traffic stop to allow for investigation into a matter outside the scope of the initial stop, he must possess reasonable suspicion or receive the driver’s consent. However, “[a]n officer’s inquiries into matters unrelated to the justification for the traffic stop . . . do not convert the encounter into something other than a lawful seizure, so long as those inquiries do not measurably extend the duration of the stop.” U.S. v. Mason, 628 F.3d 123, 131, quoting Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 333 (2009). “Direct[ing] one minute of  questioning to the passenger [of the stopped vehicle] does not alter the calculus.” Id. at 132 (emphasis in original).
Additionally, “a police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997) (citing Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam)). That rule, the justification for which is officer safety, extends to passengers, as well. Wilson, 519 U.S. at 414–15, 117 S.Ct. 882. (United States v. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 2012)).
[The officer] may take other actions that do not constitute “searches” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, such as conducting a dog-sniff of the vehicle, Caballes, 543 U.S. at 409, 125 S.Ct. 834, but again only “so long as those inquiries [or other actions] do not measurably extend the duration of the stop.” Johnson, [555 U.S. at 333] 129 S.Ct. .
The Civil Rights Lawyer explains how and when a citizen can sue the police for excessive force under federal civil rights law. It seems that everyone has an opinion on police use of force in recent months. In this video, I’ll explain the law of excessive force, which dictates when a justified use of force becomes an unlawful use of force and a federal civil rights violation. This has been my primary practice area the past decade or so, so I’ll point out some of the practical lessons I’ve learned along the way.
LIVE AT 12:05 today: The Civil Rights Lawyer explains “Qualified Immunity” which is widely misunderstood in the media, on social media, and in courtrooms. What is “Qualified Immunity? In this video, I’ll explain how to strip an officer of Qualified Immunity in three easy steps. Or maybe not so easy, depending on the type of case.
Qualified Immunity has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, and especially in recent months. Many commentators have criticized it as an example of the Court creating legislation from the bench, and in so doing having created a significant problem for citizens seeking to hold their government officials accountable for the violations of their civil rights.
Since I mentioned the event on the Tom Roton Radio Show this morning and referred people to this site for more information, I guess I better post some information. Don’t miss this event. This will be the 2nd LIVE video with me and Marshall Wilson. This coming Monday, October 12, 2020, from 5:00-7:00 pm we will be live in person, and live on live stream at this Youtube link:
Marshall will be taking any and all questions. I’ll make sure that he answers questions coming across Youtube as well. Actually also Facebook, once I get the link up. This will take place outside my Lewisburg, West Virginia office, located on Court Street in downtown Lewisburg, West Virginia (directly across the street from the Lewis Theater). The actual address is 860 N. Court Street, Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901.
Here’s the audio from my radio appearance this morning on the Tom Roton Radio Show:
This is a video about an encounter at the home of my client, Matt, in March of 2019, which occurred in Charmco, West Virginia, which is in Greenbrier County. It shows police arriving at his home to arrest a friend who was visiting him, who happened to have an outstanding warrant.
Matt didn’t want to be involved one way or the other. He was afraid, so he turned on his phone and began recording and he laid down. He didn’t want to get shot. But they forced him to crawl to the door on his hands and knees. When he got there, he got head-stomped by the first officer.
They didn’t know he was recording. The second officer, a West Virginia State Police trooper, noticed the phone filming, and he covered it with his hands, and turned the phone off. The officers then deleted the video footage. But it was recovered.
On with me tonight on Freedom is Scary, Episode 18, live, is Benjamin Hatfield, Esq., the Republican Nominee for Prosecuting Attorney of Raleigh County, West Virginia. Most state level prosecutors are elected politicians with party affiliations. They are enormously powerful, as demonstrated by the Rittenhouse and McCloskey cases. You can watch read here on this Youtube link, or on our Facebook page using Facebook Live. It will be simultaneously streamed to both. You can also submit comments and/or questions on both platforms.
In this video we’ll discuss what you need to know before voting for or supporting a prosecutor candidate. There is a reason George Soros is funding radical left-wing prosecutors around the country. Prosecutors hold the keys to the criminal courtrooms, and can design prosecutions to further their social justice and radical anti-gun and anti-freedom agendas – long before they reach the judiciary. Is there a difference between Democrat and Republican prosecutors? I’ll answer that question with another question: is there a difference in the Democrat and Republican platforms in regards to a law abiding citizen defending themselves, or their homes, with firearms?
This is an urgent situation for all of us now. Join me LIVE with special guest, Benjamin Hatfield, Esq., the Republican Nominee for Prosecuting Attorney of Raleigh County, West Virginia (Beckley, WV), who is running against a career Democrat prosecutor, who hasn’t had a contested election in over a decade, and who has been a prosecutor there since 1983. The law abiding citizens there are suffering.
Hatfield is a former assistant prosecutor in that county, and currently works as a civil litigation attorney at a private law firm. If you’re in West Virginia, and if you’re anywhere near Raleigh County, you may have seen some of the issues occurring there recently. You want to pay close attention to this race, and I encourage you to take a hard look at Mr. Hatfield, and then do whatever you can to help him. Because your liberty may count on it. Tune in to see why and to ask questions.
If you can send any financial help his way, donations can be sent to the “Committee to Elect Benjamin Hatfield,” PO Box 5241, Beckley, WV 25801.
Update: Here’s the article on Soros funding the Trojan Horse prosecutors I referenced in the video:
After St. Louis erupted in violence, arson, and looting, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner ($307,000) dismissed all charges against the 36 people arrested for that violence. In the last few days eight St. Louis police officers have been shot.
At the same time, Gardner rushed to file charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the homeowners who brandished (but did not use) guns at protestors who had entered the private street where the McCloskeys reside.
In Chicago, Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx ($817,000) refused to prosecute rioters who violated the curfew imposed to quell the violence. “The question it comes down to is, is it a good use of our time and resources? No, it’s not.” What does she think would be a better use of her time and resources?
You probably remember Foxx. She dismissed the charges against Jussie Smollett, the actor who reported a hate crime attack against himself that turned out to be bogus. A judge removed Foxx from the case and assigned a special prosecutor who filed six new charges.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner ($1.7 Million) announced he won’t prosecute people arrested for the violence that rocked his city for days with widespread looting and many cars torched. His excuse for not holding the mob accountable for their violence was laughable. “Prosecution alone will achieve nothing close to justice—not when power imbalances and lack of accountability make it possible for government actors including police or prosecutors to regularly take life or liberty unjustly and face no criminal or career penalty….” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin ($620,000) is the beau ideal of the Trojan Horse prosecutors. “The criminal justice system isn’t just massive and brutal, it’s also racist,” according to Boudin…. In Portland, DA Mike Schmidt ($230,000) refuses to prosecute the rioters who have burned and looted his city for over 90 days straight…..
Since 2018, Soros has made Virginia the focus of his efforts. And it has paid dividends. Trojan Horse candidates have taken over five of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the Commonwealth: Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Albemarle, Portsmouth, and Loudoun.
Joe Biden won’t answer the question about whether he’ll attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court, until the day after the election – so he’s claimed. What is “packing the Court,” and why is it such a terrible idea that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned against it?
The Constitution did not specify the number of justices to sit on the Supreme Court. That’s up to Congress. For the past 150 years or so, Congress has maintained that number at 9. An odd number is required, so as to avoid the rather-anti-climactic tie vote. With a 9 member Court, a 5-4 decision, or better, wins the case. With the loss of RBG, the American left loses a crucial vote on the Court, which is why they are threatening to increase the number of justices on the Court, so as to counteract her replacement with Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Thus, if Biden wins, and if Congress is able to increase the number, they could create a left-wing majority on the Court by increasing the number of Democrat-nominated justices.
But the problem with any such plan is, that eventually the other side will return to power and retaliate accordingly. What we then end up with has now become a super-legislature, rather than a Supreme Court, as the Founders intended. Even RBG herself was against Democrats’ 2019 threats to pack the Court:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in an interview Tuesday that she does not favor proposals put forth by some Democratic presidential candidates who have advocated changing the number of Supreme Court justices if the Democrats win the presidency.
Ginsburg, who got herself in trouble criticizing candidate Donald Trump in 2016, this time was critical not of any particular Democratic contender, but of their proposals to offset President Trump’s two conservative appointments to the court.
“Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” she said, adding, “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”
To pull it off, the Democrats would really need to add 4 new liberal members to the Court, which would create a 7-6 majority. Setting long-term retaliation and consequences to the Court aside, the results would be disastrous to the Second Amendment:
A 7-6 progressive majority on the court would very likely overturn decades of precedent that have protected gun owners from both state and federal attempts to deny them their Second Amendment rights. Millions of American gun owners would be subject to these changes and the laws, which Democrats, some of whom are committed to confiscating guns, would impose.
The most obvious change to free speech laws that would come with a progressive majority on the Supreme Court would be the overturning of the 2010 5-4 Citizens United decision….. More broadly, speech laws such as those that exist in New York City requiring people to use preferred pronouns even if they do not believe that gender is mutable, would find a much kinder hearing in the new court.
The progressive reading of Roe v. Wade is almost limitless in its scope and perhaps the only question mark would regard the ability to kill babies even after they are outside of the mother. Beyond that, it is very likely that almost any state restrictions would be shot down.
Several religious liberty cases such as Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poorhave been closely decided of late. It is safe to assume these decisions would be reversed. Practicing Christians and members of other faiths would face far greater restriction in living their faith in their public life. Our understanding of how we may practice our religions would undergo a major change, abandoning the American tradition of public faith, and limiting religious expression to the church and the home.
In all likelihood, a new progressive majority would be open to efforts to abolish the electoral college, to allow statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and to allow voting by people in the country illegally. All of these changes would skew towards the Democrats and could very well result in one-party federal rule of the United States.
So what stopped FDR from packing the Supreme Court back in the 1930s? It happened during the Great Depression, when FDR was pushing his socialist New Deal programs, only to have them struck down by the conservative-majority Supreme Court of the early 1930s. President Roosevelt sought to solve the problem sooner, rather than later, so he introduced the “Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937,” commonly referred to as the “court packing plan.” This would have allowed him to appoint up to 6 additional justices to the Court for every justice older than 70.5 years, or who had already served 10 years or more. In reality, a conservative majority had developed on the Court, and like Biden, he was willing to add justices to create his own new majority, consequences be damned:
From the outset of his presidency, FDR had known that four of the justices—Pierce Butler, James McReynolds, George Sutherland and Willis Van Devanter—would vote to invalidate almost all of the New Deal. They were referred to in the press as “the Four Horsemen,” after the allegorical figures of the Apocalypse associated with death and destruction. In the spring of 1935, a fifth justice, Hoover-appointee Owen Roberts—at 60 the youngest man on the Supreme Court—began casting his swing vote with them to create a conservative majority.
FDR indirectly attacked the Court, claiming publicly he was concerned about their age, rather than the ideological point of view of its majority:
FDR recognized, though, that a direct assault on the court must be avoided; he could not simply assert that he wanted judges who would do his bidding. The most promising approach, it seemed, would be to capitalize on the public’s concern about the ages of the justices. At the time of his reelection, it was the most elderly court in the nation’s history, averaging 71 years. Six of the justices were 70 or older; a scurrilous book on the court, The Nine Old Men, by Drew Pearson and Robert Allen, was rapidly moving up the bestseller lists.
FDR basically lied about his motivations. Rather than admit to the American people that he was playing politics, and attempting to enact his progressive legislation without interference by the conservative court, he feigned concern over the age of the justices:
“A part of the problem of obtaining a sufficient number of judges to dispose of cases is the capacity of the judges themselves,” the president observed. “This brings forward the question of aged or infirm judges—a subject of delicacy and yet one which requires frank discussion.” He acknowledged that “in exceptional cases,” some judges “retain to an advanced age full mental and physical vigor,” but quickly added, “Those not so fortunate are often unable to perceive their own infirmities.” Life tenure, he asserted, “was not intended to create a static judiciary. A constant and systematic addition of younger blood will vitalize the courts.”
Similar to what would happen in 2020, the result was all-out war between the branches of government, and between the political parties:
While it was never voted on in Congress, the Supreme Court justices went public in their opposition to it. And a majority of the public never supported the bill, either, says Barbara A. Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
“Congress and the people viewed FDR’s ill-considered proposal as an undemocratic power grab,” she says. “The chief justice (Charles Evans Hughes) testified before Congress that the Court was up to date in its work, countering Roosevelt’s stated purpose that the old justices needed help with their caseload.”
“It was never realistic that this plan would pass,” Perry says. “Roosevelt badly miscalculated reverence for the Court and its independence from an overreaching president.”
The battle lasted 168 days. It’s difficult to imagine how it would play out in the era of social media and biased news. But even then, it was ugly:
Roosevelt’s message touched off the greatest struggle in our history among the three branches of government. It also triggered the most intense debate about constitutional issues since the earliest weeks of the Republic. For 168 days, the country was mesmerized by the controversy, which dominated newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts and newsreels, and spurred countless rallies in towns from New England to the PacificCoast. Members of Congress were so deluged by mail that they could not read most of it, let alone respond…..
At the time, the FDR liberals showed little concern for the Supreme Court as an independent and important branch of government. If other countries could enact these programs, then so should we be able to do so….
If Roosevelt won, opponents warned, he would destroy the independence of the judiciary and create an evil precedent for successors who wished to “pack” the court. If Roosevelt lost, his supporters countered, a few judges appointed for life would be able to ignore the popular will, destroy programs vital to the welfare of the people, and deny to the president and Congress the powers exercised by every other government in the world. Although the country divided evenly on the issue—about as many were for Roosevelt’s plan as against it—the opposition drew far more attention, especially on editorial pages……
The Bill was ultimately defeated, but FDR still got what he wanted in the end. The historians’ lesson of the affair, as relayed to us in 2005, is perhaps more credible than any we would receive today, in the era of over-politicization of all fields of academia. So pay attention to the parts in bold:
The nasty fight over court packing turned out better than might have been expected. The defeat of the bill meant that the institutional integrity of the United States Supreme Court had been preserved—its size had not been manipulated for political or ideological ends. On the other hand, Roosevelt claimed that though he had lost the battle, he had won the war. And in an important sense he had: he had staved off the expected invalidation of the Social Security Act and other laws. More significantly, the switch in the court that spring resulted in what historians call “the constitutional revolution of 1937”—the legitimation of a greatly expanded exercise of powers by both the national and state governments that has persisted for decades.
The 168-day contest also has bequeathed some salutary lessons. It instructs presidents to think twice before tampering with the Supreme Court. FDR’s scheme, said the Senate Judiciary Committee, was “a measure which should be so emphatically rejected that its parallel will never again be presented to the free representatives of the free people of America.” And it never has been. At the same time, it teaches the justices that if they unreasonably impede the functioning of the democratic branches, they may precipitate a crisis with unpredictable consequences. In his dissent in the AAA case in 1936, Justice Stone reminded his brethren, “Courts are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have capacity to govern.” These are lessons— for the president and for the court—as salient today as they were in 1937.
As RGB knew, even the mighty FDR was wrong to attempt to destroy the SCOTUS by increasing the number of justices as a means to an end for temporary political goals. However enticing it might appear, it’s going to hurt everyone in the end.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has charged a Raleigh County Family Court judge of 26 years with at least seven alleged violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, after she admitted to visiting the home of litigants to investigate a property dispute.
The SCOA formally charged Judge Louise E. Goldston on Sept. 23 with violations to rules on compliance with the law, confidence in the judiciary, avoiding abuse of prestige of office, impartiality and fairness, external influences, competence, diligence and cooperating and extrajudicial activities, in general.
Goldston hears cases in Raleigh Family Court and Wyoming County Family Court.
Another interesting update….. Apparently there was a public admonishment against another Family Court Judge, who was recently elected to the bench, for doing a “home visit” in two instances, though both of those included lawyers who either requested the visit, or failed to object. The judge in that case mentioned that he never would have performed them had someone objected, and blamed Judge Goldston (from the video):
Respondent opined that he believed it was proper to visit litigants’ homes because a colleague had engaged in the same practice for several years. (The colleague, who is also the subject of a judicial disciplinary proceeding, recently engaged in a visit to a litigant ex-husband’s home to search for….
Discussion with my client, Matt Gibson, on having his house searched by a judge:
I did three TV interviews on Monday. I’ve only seen one, this one, which I thought turned out well – brutally honest:
BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Impartiality and fairness, complying with the law, avoiding abuse of office. These are only three of the seven rules Judge Louise Goldston is charged with violating during an incident in March.
Goldston oversaw a divorce case involving Matt Gibson. In order to find items Gibson allegedly neglected to maintain or turn over to the court, his attorney, John Bryan, said Goldston reportedly stopped the hearing and ordered all parties to immediately go to Gibson’s house.
“From day one that I looked at that video, I didn’t see any way that that was legal,” Bryan explained.
Even though Gibson is representing himself in the divorce case, he did hire John Bryan for action taken against the judge after the at-home search.
“Apparently this has been going on for 20 years and at least 10 other times this was done upon the motion of an attorney without the object of the other attorney,” Bryan said. “And what does that tell me? That maybe they were scared to challenge the judge, to challenge the system. I don’t know. I think that there are a lot of questions there that need to be answered.”
Read the formal statement of charges and my analysis: