The feds are enacting even more restrictive rules effective July 1 under the pretext of the importance of rest. Yet the truth is that under the false pretext of law enforcement, police officers and DOT inspectors, as well as immigration checkpoint officers at internal warrantless checkpoints, are blatantly violating not only state and federal law, but violating DOT/FMCSA sleep rules and the 4th Amendment, waking up drivers in sleeper berths every day across the country.
This applies to team operations when the driver is driving and the sleeper is trying to get his/her much-needed rest.
Millions of dollars have been spent in the quest to ensure safe driving and road conditions for commercial drivers. Many in-depth studies have been done on this vital matter. And you certainly understand that many truckers are already tired, and many of them don’t have the knowledge, wherewithal, time, energy or resources to fight a legal battle. They are intimidated by police, and although they don’t like it, many just do what they’re told. No one wants to be arrested and jailed, have their truck impounded, or get fired from their job because they failed to wake up for a police officer’s illegal order. So the problem escalates.
However, waking a passenger in the sleeper berth for nothing more than an ID check is a clear and egregious violation of the 4th Amendment as well as state and federal laws.
This happened to me in 2010 when my partner was ticketed at a weigh station in Devine, Texas. The police forced me to wake up, get out of the sleeper, and show them ID under threat of arrest. In this case, both officers were videotaped and the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted wrongdoing in writing on behalf of the two officers only one month after an internal affairs complaint was filed against the officers in November 2010. The admission letter, dated December 20, 2010, stated that “corrective action was needed” against both officers and that “additional training has been taken.”
I then filed a civil-rights suit against the troopers to dissuade them from continuing this blatantly illegal practice. One of the documents released in initial disclosures revealed that the Texas Troopers officially admitted that “the passenger is under no obligation to comply with request” for ID. As I stated, this is not complicated.
On a personal note, I am a devout Roman Catholic and a Constitutionalist. I think it’s an outrage and disgrace that these power-abusing officers wake up decent people “because they have the badge and the gun,” as one of them put it to me in my case. And that’s the nicest way I can put it. (Trust me, it’s not always easy to be polite.) Personally, for me this is not only a safety issue, a health concern and a legal issue, it is also, first and foremost, a distinctively moral issue. –Martin Hill, La Verne, Calif., dontwakemeup.org
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