Truck driver Benjamin Brewer, who kills six people in a 2015 Chattanooga crash, is sentenced under state and federal law for being an operator of a motor vehicle who violated the rules for commercial use of highways.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond is mulling questions i sent him March 8 following a March 1 interview with 92.7 FM NoogaRadio regarding the rules for transportation enforcement. Sheriff Hammond is highly guarded in the interview, and declines to describe how his department enforces the Tennessee traffic/transportation statute at Tenn. Code Ann. title 55.

He asks for time to consult with his traffic division and the Tennessee department of safety’s highway patrol. This memo lists the questions that came up in the meeting that remain unanswered. Sheriff Hammond’s job is to enforce statute. The outstanding question is: What is the law? What do you do to enforce it?

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7

Sheriff Hammond was guarded because he knew, perhaps, I had given administrative notice to City of Chattanooga via its city council and city attorney, Wade Hinton, and that the notice lays forth Tennessee law — and its limits.

Here now the letter Mr. Hammond has in one of his many folders, one of his stacks. A busy man, he protects the county as its most important person, and he is seeking re-election. I sent his Democrat party rival, Victor Miller, a city police detective, a copy of transportation administrative notice March 19, and await a chance to interact with him about the people’s rights under the statute (or, should I say, aside the statute, outside of its view and limited jurisdictional claim).

This document is addressed to Matt Lea, Sheriff Hammond’s spokesman.


My questions about enforcement practices of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department are pretty simple. Sheriff Hammond says that practice is controlled by law. I ask about practice — and the underlying law that controls departmental operations in Hamilton County. As public information officer for the sheriff, please pass along this inquiry.

1. Does there exist a distinction between travel and transportation, legally and as a matter of enforcement protocol?

2. Is transportation equal to travel, or is it a subcategory of travel?

3. If there is a category of travel apart from transportation, what does your department do to respect the rights of these people who are traveling?

4. Is it possible that there are people on the highways and roadways in Hamilton County who are there as a matter of right, apart from any license or permission from state government?

5. What is done to respect the rights of these people who are stopped by officers enforcing title 55 and title 65 of the Tennessee code annotated, the transportation statutes?

Before I ask the next question, Matt, let me say the implications of my administrative notice are several. It suggests a requirement within the law that the department add to traffic arrest protocols a new question. The query would be something like this:

“Ma’am [or, Sir], are you using this car as a motor vehicle and operating as a carrier in commerce — are you employed at this moment by a company or business carrying goods or people for hire today, ma’am? Or are you using this car for private travel?”

If the woman says “Yes, I am in business carrying parcels,” the follow-up question is: “May I see your driver license, your proof of insurance and your vehicle registration, ma’am?” 

If she says, “No, what are you talking about? I’m just taking my kids to soccer practice,” then the officer realizes he has no authority under title 55 and 65 to continue the transportation arrest/stop/seizure. He says he’s sorry for having delayed her, urges her to adhere to the rules for traffic for her own safety, and lets her go on her way. 

I propose the new question would go far toward ending abusive enforcement against minorities, immigrants and others who are in fact outside the transportation law and traveling privately, even though they do not assert their rights properly as belligerent claimants in person.

My last two questions:

6. Is it possible that this bolded question could be considered as a template, a way to ameliorate relations between the sheriff’s department and the people whom it stops along the road?

7. Would such a question be permissible according to the law, as summarized in administrative notice? Or would that question be lawless, extra-legal, illegal or wrong?

I have sent Sheriff Hammond (through you) a separate letter expanding on points I didn’t feel welcome to discuss in our March 1 visit.

I await the time it takes for him to do his own research and consult his traffic department. Matt. I would appreciate hearing his or your answers to these questions.

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