Let’s just call this a display of “Flexing the Authority Muscle”
(Recent updates are at the end of this post.)
There I was, just doing my thing on RR 620 in Lakeway, TX. It was just like any other event I had held, standing beside the road and holding my Speed Trap Ahead sign. As usual, I was getting honks and waves as people passed by. Then officer James DeBrow pulled up along the side of the road behind me.
He started by saying that he thought I was broke down, but he then saw that I was holding a sign. So, obviously, he didn’t decide to stop because I was causing a problem of some sort, like he would say later in his conversation.
When he asked what was going on, I stated that I was just “exercising my right to free speech, as guaranteed by the Constitu…” But then, he interrupted by asking me for some I.D. He wasn’t interested in hearing what I had to say. (Duh!) Then I threw him for a loop by reaching into my pocket and pulling out a red business-type card with my name, address, and date of birth. He said, “No! I need your I.D.” I told him that since I wasn’t operating a motor vehicle, I was not required to show him any type of I.D. He again demanded that I show him a picture I.D. And again, I refused. He told me that I was required to identify myself; I once again told him that I WAS identifying myself. “Here is my name, address, and date of birth, sir” He didn’t like it; but, he accepted it and went back to his cruiser.
Meanwhile, a couple of people approached me for a chat. One was a young man named James that had just a few days earlier posted a comment to the SpeedTrapAhead.org forum. In the forum, he stated:
“I saw you standing on RR620 just after 7 o’ clock. I completely support what you’re doing (being a victim of Lakeway police one too many times.) I appreciate it and I go to the highschool here in Lakeway. I’ll definitely promote to get your message out there.”
After a brief chat, he said that he intended on making a donation while on the site, but hadn’t yet. To my amazement, he pulled out $10 and said, “I know it doesn’t go a long way, but I just wanted to help out…” THANKS JAMES!
The other fellow was just asking general questions. I think he may actually have been an employee from the bank, coming to scope out the situation.
I could go on and on about all the details; but, In the end, I DID receive a ticket for “§ 544.006. DISPLAY OF UNAUTHORIZED SIGNS, SIGNALS, OR MARKINGS.” They were grasping at straws, and this is the ONLY statute that even possibly could be used against me. I’ve already plead not guilty and requested a jury trial. It’s VERY likely that the ticket will be dismissed because of part (d) of that statute that states: “(d) This section does not prohibit a person from placing on private property adjacent to a highway a sign that gives useful directional information and that cannot be mistaken for an official sign.” I hardly think that a guy holding a particle-board sign on the side of the road would be mistaken for an “official” sign. If it were to go to jury trial, and I were to win, that would set a precedent that they wouldn’t want. So, it’s in their best interest to dismiss the ticket. They will, however, be able to ticket me every time I hold up my sign, just to inconvenience me — which they WILL do, I’m sure. But, hell, it gets me web traffic!
I wasn’t fully prepared for the barrage of police attention, and didn’t have my video camera set up ahead of time. I DID, however, record all of the audio to the web with my phone. I later received the audio/video from the cops dashcam, and was able to re-edit the videos so that you could hear both sides of the conversation and everything was more clearly understood.
Anyway, watch the video and comment on what you think. I had to split it into three parts to be posted on YouTube.
Interesting parts are at:
Video #1 – 2:10, 6:03, 7:10
Video #2 – 4:24, 7:30, 9:11
Video #3 – 1:48, 7:30
Update (04/29/08): I recently received the dashcam video from Sgt. DeBrow’s patrol car. The videos below have been re-edited, so that everyone can more clearly understand what transpired, and to be able to hear BOTH sides of the conversation clearly.
Update: (05/22/08) I went to the arraignment a couple of weeks ago. The prosecutor stated that he didn’t really know what the ticket was about. But then I started explaining about SpeedTrapAhead.org… then he suddenly knew what was going on. Obviously, there had been discussion of my sign holding prior to that day.
He asked what I thought should happen. I said I thought it should be dismissed because… He then interrupted with, “Well, That’s not gonna happen.”
“Well, then sign me up for a jury trial“, I said. And that’s where we’re at. I have a a pre-trial hearing on June 13th.
I really don’t think that this will actually go to trial. I think this is just a delay tactic to give me a little time to “get scared” and bargain my rights away. Now, I can say, “Well, That’s not gonna happen.”
The prosecutor doesn’t want to drop it because that’ll put out the message that it was a bogus ticket and it’s okay to hold my sign. On the other hand, if it goes to trial and I win, a precedent will be set saying that it’s absolutely not against the law to hold my sign. Either way is okay, as either ruling will have basically the same effect. There is NO WAY Joe Citizen would think my sign is an official traffic control device.
Anyway, I’m just waiting, and getting my stuff together. (And, I DO have PLENTY of stuff I’m putting together.)
UPDATE: (June 13, 2008) Jury Trial is now set for July 11th, at 1:00 pm.
UPDATE: (July 11, 2008) See THIS POST.
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