A traffic stop June 24 involving a car owned by city councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod is a picture of commercial government and its enforcement by police.
The encounter on M.L. King Boulevard that night, city police officer Tiffany Lentz backed up by a second cop stops a sedan which has Anthony Gladden at the wheel. Sitting on his right is Mrs. Coonrod. The registration tag on the back of the car is “expired.”
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 92.7
Much of the uproar in Chattanooga following the publication of the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press focuses on her desire to have the officer call chief of police Fred Fletcher, who has since quit the job. This action is viewed as that of a politician seeking to override the interest of the law as a special favor to herself. Officer Lentz refuses to relent and make any such phone call.
Mr. Gladden is cited to court July 24 on three charges: No driver license, no registration and no proof of insurance. Mrs. Coonrod is directed to steer the car away (to “drive” it away) from the curbside area of the stop.
The accusations are quasi criminal in nature but on their face civil. They represent the three legs of commercial government and its control over much of the would-be free market in the exercise of the right of travel on the public right of way.
The Nashville government has pretended for 80 years that the roads belong to the state and that the people in their cars and trucks and upon their motorcycles must demand its permission to use this vital infrastructure for travel and movement — to exercise their rights, in other words. It seized control of the people’s asset in a 1937 law called the Uniform Motor Vehicle Operators and Chauffeurs’ License Act that says commerce on the roadways is subject to state executive branch regulation.
So enculturated is commercial government that the Times Free Press uses common vernacular to describe what happens without realizing that driver and passenger that are legal words that delineate a legal status of the party in the state’s accusing spotlight. The newspaper report presupposes that commercial government is normative and true, and that no area of liberty exists apart from it in the people’s use of the roads.
‘Exhibit on demand’ — handy but misapplied
The reporter and the cop speak the same language. Commercial. The officer refers to the vehicle. She refers to the driver. She refers to the passenger. She says that the man behind the wheel is a driver who does not have a driver license. All this language is commercial in nature, pursuant to the Tennessee code.
People who travel without being under license are often charged under the exhibit on demand statute, TCA 55-50-340.‡ It says “every licensee shall have such licensee’s operator’s or chauffeur’s license in immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle and shall display the same, upon demand of a court of general sessions, a peace officer, or a field deputy or inspector of the department.” The provision goes on to say that the request can be made only if the person stopped by police is “engaged in *** or has been engaged in[ ] a violation of any municipal ordinance or statute law,” in other words, an underlying primary crime.
What one should note about the language of the statute is that it applies only to a licensee. If Mr. Gladden has no equitable or commercial relationship with the department of safety to enter into commerce as proved by a license, that statute does not apply to him and he is not a licensee. Every statute obtains power over an individual based on creation of a liability or duty. My study of case law on statutory construction indicates this statute is voluntary to noncommercial travelers such as (presumably) Mr. Gladden, but compulsory on those in commerce, given the state’s definitions.
Right of travel argued today in Nashville
The right of private travel outside the jurisdiction of the 1937 act is being argued today in Nashville by a Tennessean, private businessman Arthur J. Hirsch, who says that for 80 years enforcement in Tennessee has violated the constitutional rights of people traveling privately for private purposes outside of commerce. The Christian minister of inmates and shut-ins was convicted of three travel counts in December 2015.
The state’s ownership interest in the persons of Mr. Gladden and Mrs. Coonrod is nakedly expressed. It is seen in Officer Lentz’ questions at the side of the sedan. She demands names and addresses — and social security numbers, even of Mrs. Coonrod, who is not at the wheel.
No one in such an encounter is obligated to say the first word under the Miranda ruling (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 1966) or Hale v. Henkel, the most-cited American high court opinion (Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 1906), especially if they are not in a corporate status and have rights to due process and the right to avoid self-incrimination in a criminal matter.
Answering questions and testifying against oneself presupposes that the officer has jurisdiction and cause, and surely everything said in a commercial traffic stop will be used against the defendant.
Another danger: Giving a social security number in a police encounter opens one to identity theft, with neither city nor state being willing to sign any document affirming liability if a private ID is “stolen” through its agency. SSNs are readily seen among the state’s victims on county court dockets.
In the video on YouTube, Mr. Gladden and Mrs. Coonrod make no effort to stand on their God-given and constitutionally guaranteed rights not to incriminate themselves by giving the first iota of information. Officer Lentz does not mirandize either of the people in the car, even though she is accusing them of a crime and has arrested (stopped) them. She operates on the presupposition that they are in commerce, and subject to her and that they are a sort of government property. Mrs. Coonrod has the distinction that night of being an undocumented American, since she is traveling without her official papers, Officer Lentz says.
Is Gladden stuck, or must he plea?
Quickly, regarding Mr. Gladden’s defenses:
— He must do what is unusual and scary. That is, demand to be indicted, as did “walking while black” police abuse victim Hanson Melvin, who is suing the city for its officers warrantless and oppressive arrest. As Mr. Melvin, Mr. Gladden should refuse a plea bargain. The constitution guarantees every accused of the right to an indictment, a people’s review of the accuser’s claims.
— Mr. Gladden should demand an evidentiary hearing in criminal court to explore the proofs that the state plans to offer at trial showing that he is operating in commerce. The video indicates no effort was made to gather this data. Why? Such defenses are not made and are irregular. Signs of commerce would-be cargo, passengers, manifests, bills of lading or transport, contracts for delivery of goods or passengers. At law, if Mrs. Coonrod had been a “passenger” that night, that is because she was being carried by an “operator” from Point A to Point B, as in a cab. Cargo would be goods carried for hire. The state would have to reveal what evidence it has that Mr. Gladden has applied to become a carrier for hire. Officer Lentz will not be able to produce any such evidence and Mr. Gladden would move to strike the charges for lack of jurisdiction.
— The use of the “failure to exhibit” statute is abusive, as it applies to “licensees,” and Mr. Gladden is not a licensee, never having volunteered himself into commercial jurisdiction, at least in Tennessee. That statute is abusively pressed against him.
Few people are willing to try such defenses because they are no longer part of the spiritual and intellectual makeup of Tennesseans. The distinctions clear in the Tennessee code are lost on just about everybody, including notable local attorneys. The remedy of making the private/commercial distinction is hard to reach because the courts and the bar have a stake in the continuing operation of commercial government, its regular asphyxiation of the right of travel by the boa constrictor of state-regulated commerce.
Source: Emmett Gienapp, “Video captures exchange between Chattanooga councilwoman and police during traffic stop,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 15, 2017. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/jul/15/video-captures-exchange-between-chattanooga-councilwoman-and-police-during-traffic-stop/438453/
‡ When I ask police spokesman Rob Simmons to confirm this statement about the TCA provision, he says he doesn’t know. A further response seems to send me far afield. “If you want to question the origin of provisions, you will need to question the people who authorized the provision, not the people hired to execute the provision. If you are questioning penalties, I recommend you question the people who implemented the penalty. Neither of these people you seek work for the agency I work for, so I am confused as to why you are directing your question to the Chattanooga Police Department.”