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Florida Highway Patrol spokesman claims right to violate 4th Amendment

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June 10, 2013

A shocking chain of events has led a Florida Highwy Patrol spokesman to claim in writing that the law-enforcement agency can wake up, interrupt the sleep, and demand ID from people at checkpoints without probable cause because it wouldn't amount to a substantial interruption. The claim of course is not only completely unsubstantiated legally, but the issue of compulsory ID was decided in the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago, with prohibitions on such stops clearly spelled out. No compulsory ID check is lawful without probable cause in the United States; not for automobile passengers, not for pedestrians, and not for truck drivers who are off duty in the sleeper berth.

In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, a case where a man in Texas refused to show police ID because there was no probable cause. The court noted "he was arrested for violation of Tex.Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, Secton 38.02(a) (1974), which makes it a criminal act for a person to refuse to give his name and address to an officer who has lawfully stopped him and requested the information." However, the court reversed his conviction:

Held: The application of the Texas statute to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe that appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Detaining appellant to require him to identify himself constituted a seizure of his person subject to the requirement of the Fourth Amendment that the seizure be "reasonable."... Absent any basis for suspecting appellant of misconduct, the balance between the public interest in crime prevention and appellant's right to personal security and privacy tilts in favor of freedom from police interference ... to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Accordingly, appellant may not be punished for refusing to identify himself, and the conviction is Reversed.

This all started when a reader sent a letter last week complaining that he was woken up by the Florida Highway Patrol on I-10 while he was off duty in the sleeper berth of his commercial vehicle. Truckers are required by federal law to sleep 10 hours between shifts, and are also required to keep strict logs maintaining records that they got that necessary sleep. To neglect to get the sleep and to keep detailed records is a violation of law.

The trucker wrote:

Three hours into my sleep cycle TRP.B. Simmons of the hwy patrol in Florida was working the weigh station On I-10 EB and pulled my co driver in for inspection and forced me out of my sleep cycle to show logs ID and medical card, putting me on duty for over an hour violating my logs. When I asked him since when did they wake up the non driving codriver interrupting their 10 hour sleep cycle he replied with every codriver is woken up when they come through here. A very tense situation indeed. What can I do in this situation? I was made to feel helpless, even though I know my rights.

After receiving this letter I wrote to the Florida Highway Patrol and asked for their response:

To: Email address removed; HSMV- Email address removed 
Hello, I am a freelance writer doing a story on commercial trucking and the problems drivers encounter. I was recently contacted by a commercial team driver who claims that a Florida highway patrolman woke him up when he was off duty in the sleeper berth. His partner, who was on duty and driving, pulled into a commercial weigh station where this occurred. I understand you cannot comment on specific incidents but can you state for the record what your official policy is regarding waking up and demanding ID/logbooks etc from an off-duty commercial driver who is on his 10-hour sleeper berth time? Also, I do not see a link on your website where motorists can file an official complaint against an officer, or an explanation of that process. A 'Praise a DHSMV Employee' section, however, is easily visible on your main contact page.
Martin Hill

The next day I recieved a response from Lt. Jeff Frost, Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. Frost claimed something that even the most flagrant violators of liberties would be ashamed to admit- he claimed that not only is it their policy to wake up every sleeping truck driver who goes through the scale to check their ID, but that they also perform mandatory logbook checks on all team operations. For anyone out there who might be confused, that is insane lunacy and 100% illegal according to both state and federal law, and is a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and the sleeping driver's civil rights. There is no city, county, state, or federal law that allows cops to demand warrantless wake-ups, ID checks, or logbooks checks of off-duty truckers. But wait, this gets better.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of service of drivers Section 395.1 Scope of rules very plainly points out that "a driver who operates a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle equipped with a sleeper berth Must, before driving, accumulate (1) At least 10 consecutive hours off duty; (2) At least 10 consecutive hours of sleeper-berth time" between their shifts. Being forced out of the sleeper at the demand of some cop is not only an illegal demand, but would interrupt your ten hours, forcing you to start all over again. A driver's shift can last 14 hours, eleven of it driving. As a matter of fact, starting July 1st, even more restrictive federal rules are going into place for drivers under the guise of 'safety,' forcing them to take a 30-minute break after only 8 hours of driving. [Or as FMCSA puts it, "After June 30, 2013, however, driving is permitted only if 8 hours or fewer have passed since the end of the driver's last off-duty break or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes."] Do you see how insane these cops are, always insisting that they can wake truckers up with impunity whenever they want, while the very agencies that govern sleep laws are putting more rules into place so that drivers aren't tired.

The Florida Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Page has a link to this Trucking Manual, which acknowledges on page 37 that commercial drivers must have "at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty before returning to duty." 

Note that when I asked about their complaint process, Frost only gave a vague reference to a 'list of contact numbers." As I stated in my query, on their contact page there is a clearly marked Praise a DHSMV Employee section, very prominent on the page, but nowhere on the site is any mention of a complaint form, or even instructions on where one would begin if they wanted to file a complaint. Are these revenue agents there to 'receive praise,' or are they public servants?

Here is what Frost wrote:

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Catholic paleo-libertarian from California., promotes limited government and civil liberties
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