This guy in Texas pulls into a Buc-ees to get gas. Next thing you know, a police officer “stops” him while he’s trying to pump gas, claiming that traffic violations were committed on his way through the parking lot. When the guy expresses criticism of the officer, he ends up being arrested for not sufficiently respecting the badge. Is future crime an arrestable offense?
A judge in Hamilton County, Tennessee, dismissed a 44-count indictment against a former Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputy Friday morning. This is the same officer featured in a prior video, detailing the multiple lawsuits against him, including the time he forcibly baptized a woman he arrested.
More here on the Klaver traffic stop, including a breakdown on the law regarding the length of traffic stops.
This footage was submitted by a man who encountered law enforcement in Burleson, Texas, in a Kroger parking lot. He was documenting the lack of front license plates in the parking lot for something he was working on. A “Karen” in a nearby store saw him photographing cars and called the police. The police showed up and began to “investigate” the non-crime taking place. The man asserted his rights and asked if he was free to leave. He wasn’t. Thus the 4th Amendment was implicated. Was the detention justified?
This video was submitted by Jordan, who was pulled over in Charleston, West Virginia while delivering food via an online app. He was pulled over for a broken tag-light. Officers then asked him to exit the vehicle. He was frisked and then made to watch, while officers searched his vehicle because they claimed to smell marijuana. Can cops order you out of your vehicle at a traffic stop for any reason? Can they frisk you and search your pockets for any reason once they order you out of the vehicle? Can they search your vehicle just because they claim to smell marijuana?
“[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 Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to investigate (and write a ticket for) a traffic violation unless the officers have reasonable suspicion that the stopped vehicle’s occupants are engaging in other crimes. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354-56 (2015).
The odor of marijuana alone, as of the current state of the law, provides probable cause for officers to search a vehicle for evidence of marijuana possession – despite state laws legalizing the possession of marijuana under some circumstances. As the Fourth Circuit noted in United States v. Mitchell (4th Cir. 2018), “[t]his is especially the case so long as marijuana possession is prohibited by federal law, without exception. 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1).”
Have you seen these videos where innocent people get pulled over by the police due to a mistaken belief that their car is stolen? Then the police point their firearms at them and treat them like a criminal, before realizing the mistake. That can’t be constitutional, can it?
In April of this year, several people, including one child, were pulled over by the Lehi City Police when an officer said he received an alert and confirmed from dispatch that a vehicle had been stolen after running a license plate. The only problem was, it was a mistake. The vehicle was not stolen. The department has not explained the reason the officer ran their license plate in the first place.
They get pulled over and next thing you know, they see police officers approaching with guns pointed at them. One of the vehicle’s occupants pulled out his cell phone and began recording the incident. One thing led to another. The media began to report on it. KUTV reported that a high-risk traffic stop was performed on the vehicle, because according to the police statement, “routine protocol is to have guns pointed at the vehicle during a high-risk vehicle stop.”
A statement released Monday by the Central Utah Emergency Communications Center revealed that the dispatcher failed to recognize that the flagged information they reported back to the officer was actually a NCIC wanted HIT which was verified only by a partial vehicle identification number taken down in the incident which was never confirmed. The incomplete VIN of the stolen vehicle was identical to a string of seven numbers from the VIN of the vehicle that was wrongly pulled over. So, “the dispatcher failed to see that the actual plate number given was not stolen,” according to the Lehi Police Department statement. They said they have taken corrective action with the dispatcher involved.
So, the vehicle stopped was not stolen, nor was it displaying a stolen plate. The vehicle occupants were released from custody after about 20 minutes and then left the scene in their vehicle. Officials of the Lehi City Police Department called the incident “rare” and “unfortunate.” But this is not an isolated occurrence. This happens all the time.
Aurora, CO: A father records from a distance as cops approach his wife, guns drawn. His three year old child, still in the vehicle. This woman thought it was just going to be a regular traffic stop. But she was wrong. Bodycam footage shows the officers discussing the fact that they’re going to perform a so-called high-risk stop, with guns drawn, as per their department policy. This was apparently the result of officers marking the wrong box on a form. The vehicle had been previously repossessed and then reclaimed. But on the form it was marked stolen by mistake.
But that wasn’t the only time. It happened to another family. A woman with her car full of kids was in a parking lot in Aurora, looking for a nail salon, when all of a sudden police descended on her, allegedly because a license plate reader flagged her car as stolen. The family in the car, kids included, were made to exit the vehicle and lay on the ground.
The car was not stolen. Another mistake. What was the mistake this time? The actual stolen vehicle flagged by the plate reader was a motorcycle with the same number – but from a different state. So yet again: innocent people in a non-stolen car; police make the mistake; yet the innocent people get guns pointed at them. Why? They say it’s their policy. Officer safety, of course.
Raymore, MO: In August of 2022, a Raymore, Missouri couple was held at gunpoint by the Raymore Police. The video went viral first on Tik Tok and then hit the TV news.
So this was another mistake situation. Their son’s truck had been stolen just days before. But then it was recovered. The police then failed to take the truck off the stolen vehicle registry. So they got the “high risk stop” or “felony stop” treatment. Like the other victims, they were pissed and no longer back the blue types. This couple’s son is actually an attorney and he’s apparently pissed too – and summed it up well.
Fairfax, VA: In October of 2022, a mom and her 5 year old and 1 year old daughters were on their way to Walmart in Fairfax County, Virginia when they noticed a police car trailing them. Next thing you know, the vehicle pulled up beside them, then the police car rammed them, the police car striking their car head-on. Guns were drawn and she was handcuffed and her kids were put in a police car. Police later just said she ended up not being the person they were looking for. Another mistake. Apparently the vehicle was listed as “wanted.” But it wasn’t.
Norwalk, CT: It can even happen to the General Manager of the Yankees, Brian Cashman. Same old story. His Jeep was stolen and then recovered. But government employees did what government employees do. They just kept the stolen classification and then gave him the “high risk stop” treatment at gunpoint. At least for a few minutes before recognizing him and kissing his ass.
This is obviously far from an isolated incident. This apparently happens all the time. There are more examples out there. What do they all have in common? Innocent people – could be your father, mother, sister, wife – all held at gunpoint by your government agents, not in response to anything they did, nor any threat presented by them. Rather, it’s just their policy.
What happened to protect and serve? These are the people police officers have sworn to protect. All to often, those individuals are victimized in the interests of officer safety. In all of these incidents, though the police will apologize, they say it’s policy. Because it’s a “high risk” or “felony” stop. But is that enough to aim a gun at someone? I argue that it’s not.
What’s the law? Here, with Lehi, Utah being in the 10th Circuit, we have two real cases that happened that the courts have contrasted:
In Maresca v. Barnalillo County (10th. Cir. 2015), officers at gunpoint ordered a family out of a suspected stolen truck. The officers forced the family of two parents and three minor children to exit the vehicle and lie face down on the highway. The officers first removed the parents, who pleaded with the officers that there had been a mistake, that they should check the father’s license, and that there were children and a dog in the car. Even though one officer on the scene considered the situation “a little weird,” the officers ignored the parents’ repeated pleas to recheck whether the vehicle was in fact stolen and proceeded to order the three children out one-by-one.
The officers then handcuffed each family member (except the youngest) and locked them in separate patrol cars, keeping their weapons trained on the family throughout despite full compliance with their orders. The court found the forceful measures unnecessary and unconstitutional, primarily because the officers had no reason to believe the family possessed firearms.
Contrast that with a more recent case, Hemry v. Ross (10th Cir. 2023), where it was reported to the officers making the stop that the driver was a fugitive murderer. The court noted that in the case of a suspected stolen car, there’s nothing specific indicating that the car’s occupant may be armed. But where the driver is believed to be an actual murderer, officers acted reasonable in holding the man at gunpoint during the stop.
The point is, without more, police officers should not be aiming firearms at people. Reasonableness is the key. Aiming guns based on clerical entries and government policy is rarely going to be reasonable. Doing so should be based on actual perceived threats presented by the persons with whom they’re dealing.
This footage shows a man being confronted, arrested and tased by police officers, after he pulled over on the side of the road to observe and record a traffic stop involving his son. Did he have a right to observe and record the traffic stop? Or can the police make him leave – or worse?
Kenneth Espinoza was driving to a shop to get his truck serviced. His son was following him separately in another vehicle. But then, his son was pulled over by a deputy with the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, for allegedly following too closely to the police car. His father then pulled over behind the deputy to observe the stop and wait for his son.
But that’s not the main story here. Rather, the story becomes the officers on the scene getting butthurt about the father observing and waiting behind the stop. In the bodycam video, Deputy Henry Trujillo is seen walking up to the father’s window. He tells Espinoza he needs to leave the scene, or else he’ll be charged. Espinoza refuses, but moments later can be seen then attempting to leave the scene, at which point the deputies prevent him from leaving, including by pointing weapons at him.
The footage then shows the father being tased multiple times, including while handcuffed.
Prosecutors have now dropped all charges against Espinoza. He had been charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer. Espinoza’s lawsuit also alleges that Deputy Trujillo shouldn’t have even been a deputy in the first place, due to his criminal history. In 1997 he was charged with felony menacing with a weapon, which was pled down to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The following year, he was convicted of misdemeanor harassment. According to the father’s attorney, that conviction should have barred Trujillo from becoming certified as a police officer in Colorado. There were also multiple restraining orders filed against Trujillo, including a 2006 domestic abuse allegation, including a stalking and assault allegation from 2007. Apparently a protective order was entered against him.
But there’s more. Trujillo was apparently forced to resign from the sheriff’s office in 2009 due to a conviction that is now sealed. What was it? We don’t know. Because it’s sealed. But then, he was rehired in 2010. Then in 2018 he was promoted. Now he’s third in command. The Las Animas County Sheriff released a statement saying he has asked for help from an outside agency to review the actions of his deputies. He said that Deputy Trujillo is still on active duty.
What is the law here? Did the father have a right to wait and observe at his son’s traffic stop? The bodycam footage indicates that the father was not just waiting and observing the stop, but also recording the stop. That’s the most important fact here.
It just so happens that Colorado, which is in the 10th federal circuit, is where case law just dropped last year on this very issue. And it’s not good for the officers. The case is: Irizarry v. Yehia, 38 F.4th 1282 (10th Cir. 2022). Here’s the backstory:
Early in the morning on May 26, 2019, Abade Irizarry, a YouTube journalist and blogger, was filming a DUI traffic stop in Lakewood, Colorado. Officer Ahmed Yehia arrived on the scene and stood in front of Mr. Irizarry, obstructing his filming of the stop. When Mr. Irizarry and a fellow journalist objected, Officer Yehia shined a flashlight into Mr. Irizarry’s camera and then drove his police cruiser at the two journalists.
Mr. Irizarry is a “Youtube journalist and blogger” who “regularly publishes stories about police brutality and conduct or misconduct.” On May 26, 2019, he and three other “YouTube journalists/bloggers” were filming a DUI traffic stop with their cell phones and cameras “for later broadcast, live-streaming, premiers, and archiving for their respective social medial channel[s].”
Here’s what the court held:
Filming the police performing their duties in public is protected activity. Police Officers in Colorado will be deprived of qualified immunity where they violate a citizen’s First Amendment right to film police performing their duties in public and take retaliatory actions against them. Officers standing in front of a camera, threatening violence, including aiming police cruisers at the individual, violate the First Amendment.
On February 10, 2023, Corey Lambert was driving down the road and he gave the middle finger to a police officer who was driving by. That police officer then, in response to the middle finger, initiated a traffic stop. This occurred in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The officer was Coby Engle from the Martinsburg Police Department.
Here’s what he wrote in his report:
I witnessed a white male driver later identified as Corey Lambert, driving a Chevy pickup truck traveling east bound on Mall Drive. When I passed Corey I witnessed him giving an improper hand signal prior to turning left onto Mall Access Road. I then turned around and initiated my emergency lights and sirens and conducted a traffic stop in the parking lot of Grand Home Furnishings on Mall Loop.
When I approached Corey I advised to him the reason for the stop. Corey later stated that he was not indicating his direction [of] travel in his vehicle with his hand signaling and that he was simply giving me the middle finger.
Due to this being a municipal violation of hand and arm signals 339.10 I then asked Corey multiple times for his driver license registration and proof of insurance. He told me multiple times that the didn’t have to provide me with these documents.
At this time Pfc. Boursiquot told Corey again that if he didn’t provide us with these documents that he would be placed under arrest. Corey continued to not comply with our demands. Corey was then placed under arrest at this time and transported back to the Martinsburg City Police Station for processing.
Believe it or not, Corey was then held on a cash only bond for four days and three nights, following his arrest. He was charged with municipal violations of improper hand signal and two counts of obstruction. Then, because the charges were municipal, instead of a real court and real judge, it went to the municipal court, which so they told us on the phone, claims not to be a “court of record,” and as such apparently keep no paperwork. But they told us that the result was that the improper signaling charge was dismissed. One count of obstruction was dismissed. And he was convicted of one count of obstruction.
The protections of the First Amendment are not limited to spoken words, but rather include gestures and other expressive conduct, even if vulgar or offensive to some. For example, in Cohen v. California (1971), the Supreme Court held that an individual wearing a jacket bearing the words “F**k the Draft” in a courthouse corridor could not be prosecuted for disturbing the peace.
Consistent with this precedent, although “the gesture generally known as ‘giving the finger’ … is widely regarded as an offensive insult,” Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth. , (2d Cir. 1998), it is a gesture that is generally protected by the First Amendment. See, e.g. , Cruise-Gulyas v. Minard (6th Cir. 2019) (“Any reasonable [police] officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment.”); Garcia v. City of New Hope (8th Cir. 2021) (“[Plaintiff’s] raising his middle finger at [a police officer] is a rude and offensive gesture but nonetheless, under current precedent, is a constitutionally protected speech activity.”); Batyukova v. Doege(5th Cir. 2021) (same); accord Swartz v. Insogna (2d Cir. 2013) (holding that giving the middle finger could not support arrest for disorderly conduct); see generally Ira P. Robbins, Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law , 41 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 1403, 1407–08, 1434 (2008) (observing that the middle finger can express a variety of emotions—such as anger, frustration, defiance, protest, excitement—or even “possess[ ] political or artistic value”).
The LA County Sheriff’s Department recently showed up at a family’s home, entered without a warrant and then placed the teenage kids in handcuffs. No crime had been committed. No explanation was given. The family posted the surveillance footage on Tik Tok and it went viral. The sheriff’s department then responded, claiming that they received a call from a concerned citizen, and that upon arrival, the door was open.
Bodycam footage was just releasedshowing the County Clerk of Smith County, Texas, along with her son and son’s friend, over a traffic stop that ended in the family’s driveway. Then, to make matters worse, the father/husband is apparently a county commissioner (of that county). You’ll just have to watch it to appreciate it.
Kary Jarvis was pulled over for a traffic violation in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was issued a warning ticket. But instead of then being allowed to leave, police officers asked to search his vehicle. When he said no, asserting his constitutional right to say no, instead of allowing him to leave (which he was entitled to do) they illegally detained him. He then fled the stop, dragging the officers, who were hanging onto his vehicle. He ended up being charged with multiple felonies.
The judge in the criminal case later enforced the Constitution, finding that everything that happened after the warning ticket being issued, was an illegal detention. Unfortunately, he spent a year in jail prior to that happening. He’s now suing.