Administrative notice warns East Ridge about limits of arrest power over travelers

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Jeremy Sheppard has been traveling on a revoked driver license for 10 years and is unable to pay fees and fines. The jobless man is in line at East Ridge city court so he might have his case transferred to the grand jury, as he has a right to an indictment. (Photo David Tulis)

A radio journalist May 24 put East Ridge government on notice about what he calls a “persistent threat to many poor people, immigrants, and members of minority communities” — namely police enforcement during traffic stops.

“Since at least 1938 Tennesseans have been harassed by deputies and police officers who enforce commercial traffic laws against members of the traveling public who in fact are not commercial for-profit operators at all, but are private users of the public right of way,” said David Tulis, 58, who calls himself “the blogger with the biggest pen” and “the smartest guy with a bow tie.” He is a morning talk show host at CBS Radio and Bloomberg affiliate NoogaRadio 92.7 FM 95.3 FM HD4 in East Ridge.

Tulis handed council members a 20-page “administrative notice,” a research paper peppered with law and court citations he says “puts city employees on good faith notice” about enforcement limits in the state transportation law.

“Most people on the road today are not involved in what state law and court rulings call transportation,” Tulis said. “They’re not involved in traffic. They’re not operators of motor vehicles. They’re not drivers. They are not involved in the regulable service of being for hire on the roadways in a for-profit capacity. These people aren’t providing the service of moving goods or people for hire — all these acts subject to state regulation in the public interest for the public health, safety and welfare.”

Transportation Administrative Notice as PDF, 20 pp

“And yet our jails are full, Judge [Cris] Helton’s traffic dockets are bulging with people trapped in Hamilton County’s police-industrial complex — minorities such as Tiffany McQuinn, Jeremy Sheppard and Christina Wright, immigrants such as Gricelda Salanic and poor people who are merely using the road privately for their own personal pleasure and necessity.

“They’ve been caught up under law enforcement action and unable to pay either fines or the cash bond to get out of jail. These people are arrested because by all evidences they are involved in transportation. But I didn’t witness a single defendant Tuesday from a 113-person docket who was involved in transportation. Legally they’re not drivers and operators, and in fact they’re not,” Tulis said.

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