It also adds to evidence that we never were lawfully served with the Riley/Duke complaint, and the court had no jurisdiction over either of us--even though Judge Claud Neilson ordered me incarcerated for five months.
A log of service attempts has a deputy admitting that he conducted surveillance on our house for approximately two hours prior to the traffic stop. The log shows that deputies tried to serve us 10 times in a six-day period--from Sept. 24, 2013, to September 29, 2013. This shows the extraordinary lengths the Shelby County Sheriff's Office took to serve court papers on behalf of Rob Riley, son of former Governor Bob Riley.
Would the Rileys consider this a proper and effective use of taxpayer dollars? The answer apparently is yes.
More importantly, Officer Mike DeHart seems to admit that, when conducting his traffic stop, he violated our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. It also appears that DeHart more or less confesses to a crime.
My wife and I are white, but these issues raise the specter of race-based stops that created the phrase "driving while black." Even famous black males, such as comedian Chris Rock, have experienced the dangers of driving while black. Rock has started taking photos with his cell phone to help document such encounters with police.
As for our case, the full log of service attempts can be viewed at the end of this post. It shows attempts being made at almost 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., well after dark. On both occasions, deputies shined lights in our house for lengthy periods of time, the kind of behavior that would get a regular person arrested as a prowler.
An officer, maybe DeHart, makes an entry at 12:34 p.m. on 9/29/13 (a Sunday), stating he conducted surveillance on our house for roughly two hours. At 1:43 p.m. on the same date, DeHart makes the following entry:
Conducted a pretext traffic stop on the Shulers' blue Nissan after observing it roll thru stop sign at MacIan/Keith Drive; Stop was at North Shelby Library; warning issued for traffic violation and both parties were served with papers, which they discarded in the parking lot as they left.
DeHart is mistaken about several things here. One, he handed me a copy of papers, but he did not give papers to my wife, Carol. So, DeHart's own words show that Carol was not lawfully served. Two, DeHart apparently does not know the definition of a pretext traffic stop, meaning he did not lawfully serve me either.
The Web site knowmyrights.org addresses pretext stops and Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), the primary U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case on the subject. Here is how knowmyrights.org defines a pretext traffic stop:
A "pretext" or "pretextual" stop is a stop in which the officer detains the citizen for a minor crime (i.e. traffic offense) because the officer actually suspects the person of involvement in another, more significant crime (i.e. drug possession).
That definition is in keeping with Whren, which involved an officer who stopped a vehicle, on the surface, for a traffic violation--but the real reason for the stop was suspicion of illegal drug activity. In fact, a search subsequent to the traffic stop turned up crack cocaine, and SCOTUS found the pretext stop was legal because it's real purpose was to seek information about a suspected crime, the illegal distribution of drugs.
|Comedian Chris Rock|
The ruling in Whren v. U.S. demonstrates how easy it is for officers to [conduct pretext stops]. There are numerous minor infractions for which officers can legally pull over a car -- dirty license plate, broken tail light, changing lanes without signaling, loud muffler, etc. As such, officers frequently choose which cars to pull over based on suspicions that something more serious might be going on. Police officers make this decision based on age, race, and appearance. This is unconstitutional, but impossible to prove.
Chris Rock knows all about that.
Whether you agree or disagree with the finding in Whren, it's clear Officer DeHart's actions in our case creates problems. By definition, a legitimate pretext stop involves suspicion about a crime, one more significant than a traffic offense. But DeHart's own actions and words prove that he never suspected a crime, significant or otherwise, was connected to our car. That means DeHart did not conduct a lawful pretext stop under Whren, and he violated our Fourth Amendment rights.
Things could get even dicier for DeHart. The log of service attempts shows that DeHart was so desperate to serve us that he scoped out our house for two hours. Then, with tens of thousands of vehicles on the road in North Shelby County, DeHart just happened to pick out for a traffic stop the one for which he had court papers. Of all the cars on the road, DeHart just happened to notice ours "rolling through a stop sign."
Does that pass your smell test? It sure doesn't pass mine?
Could it point to criminal actions on the part of Officer DeHart? We will address that question in an upcoming post.