The state enforces traffic laws against people it identifies as customers. While in public statements it utters the relational terminology of provider-customer, in practice it enforces by coercion and threat a commercial jurisdiction upon private parties and private noncommercial use of the public right of way.
The agencies enforce laws pertaining to commerce even upon what the state constitution calls the “free people” in the state of Tennessee, and imposes civil death penalties on those who violate claims.
By David Tulis
The civil death sentence is the effective ban on the exercise of free callings, livelihoods, business or commerce by anyone who does not have a driver license, whether that person is operating in public (using the roads for hire) or privately (using the roads for private purposes wherein use of the road is incidental to the calling, not essential).
This series of essays about the right to travel explores this secret sauce that makes the whole package of barbed wire go down smoothly without many members of the public complaining about scratchy throat or caustic regurge while the operation is in process. My reading of the law reveals only that which is public record, but which is largely unknown because Tennesseans and most other Americans care only a little about the practical exercise of constitutional and Christian liberty.
Unpopular at the start
The department of safety emerged in Tennessee just as the fascist states in Europe (Germany, Italy) reached the pinnacle of their pretended powers prior to World War II, and after multiple rounds of federal intervention in the American economy at the hand of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal.
The general assembly passed the State Police Act in 1926, patterned after a 1821 law in Texas that created the rangers. The TSP began with 15 men whose main job was tax and fee collection.
“Needless to say, this organization was not popular with the citizens of the Volunteer State,” says one history buff, “nor with the media of the day who in one case labeled them as ‘obnoxious, bullying and disgraceful to the state.’”
The increasing use of cars in the 1920s and a rise in auto deaths prompted the assembly to go further. It founded the Tennessee Highway Patrol in 1929 with the focus of “protecting, not prosecuting law-abiding motorists. The THP were to enforce the traffic and revenue laws with courtesy and professionalism.”
The department of safety was “formally established” in 1939, two years after the general assembly became the 32nd state body to enact a driver license law to put travel under commercial regulation. In its first year, the state issued 521,571 driver licenses, and today about 4.5 million people are licensed to operate a motor vehicle in Tennessee.
About 750 troopers patrol 87,000 miles of state and federal highways. Altogether the agency has 1,700 employees, 394 of which work in the driver services division.
Customers — the people injected in commerce
The agency’s legal division focuses on the state’s theft of people’s property under the civil asset forfeiture program, defending police agencies that seize private property and are challenged in the seizure within the agency’s private court system.
The agency has led by a former state prosecutor, Bill Gibbons, a Memphis resident and husband of a federal appellate judge, Julia S. Gibbons. He announced his resignation May 11.
The usages in its most recent report, 2012-13, are not intended, perhaps, to be legal advice as to the relationship the state has with the citizenry. Yet this commercial relationship is impossible to hide in the agency’s public relations materials. For example, “The County Clerk locations statewide averaged a total of approximately 667 customers daily. A total of 162,092 driver license customers were served at County Clerk locations during FY 2012 – 2013.” (Page 18). The word customer appears 23 times in the report.
The word customer implies a commercial, voluntary relationship. For private users of the roads, for people who travel on the public right of way, the term is accurate, though its usage here is unmoored from any underlying legal analysis and is not intended to be be understood as legal advice.
The agency says it is “[m]andated to ensure the safety and welfare of the traveling public, the THP is responsible for enforcing all motor vehicle and driver license laws.”
The agency makes a distinction between driver licenses and commercial driver licenses. Both are in commerce, though enforcement against commercial users is considerably more stringent. I am not sure if the THP has to have probable cause to stop a commercial hauler on the highway. Private users of the road such as you are subject to regulation if you have a driver license and have admitted yourself by application into the commercial realm.
The laws of commerce are enforced against all users of the road even though many — including innumerable immigrants outside the system and freedom-loving constitution-minded American natives — use the public freeways as a matter of right, and are certain to be harassed and charged illicitly and without lawful authority.
“Commercial” traffic is monitored, the agency says “The THP is responsible for the enforcement of all laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to the safe operation of commercial vehicles on the roads and highways of Tennessee, including enforcement of licensing, fuel tax, and insurance laws applying to interstate motor carriers. Commercial vehicle enforcement activities include inspecting commercial vehicles and driver’s record of duty status, patrolling highways with a focus on truck traffic violations, and weighing commercial vehicles both at Interstate Inspection Stations and with portable scales along the highways” (Page 24).
The agency also is part of what is intended to be a total surveillance system whose goals are to make Tennessee a “safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel.”
“The Fusion Center is a collaborative effort that provides resources, expertise and information with the goal of enhancing Tennessee’s ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. Specially trained intelligence analysts analyze suspicious activity reports and law enforcement records shared through a web-based consolidated records management system to maximize information sharing. A number of federal and state agencies maintain a full or part-time analytical presence in the Fusion Center.” (Page 29)
Sources: Norm Ratliffe and Allen Cooper, Statetrooperplates.com.
Department of Safety and Homeland Security
You may also enjoy these related essays about the right to travel by David Tulis and Roger Roots