Trooper Kevin Marmor and Inspector Yolanda Aguinaga forcibly woke up Martin Hill and demanded ID under color of law in November 2010 while he was off-duty in the sleeper berth of his commercial vehicle. Hill's partner had been driving and was stopped and cited at a weigh station in Devine, TX for allegedly hauling a load of cargo that was overweight. That is when Troopers also demanded to see the ID of the sleeping occupant.
Initially refusing because it was an illegal order, Hill eventually complied under duress and repeated threat of arrest. The entire interaction with officers was recorded on video. Hill filed both a Federal Civil Rights complaint and an official internal affairs complaint with Texas Troopers a week after the incident. One month later, the Department of Public Safety admitted wrongdoing in writing, stating in part:
"A review of your complaint has shown that corrective action was needed and additional training has been taken. Thank you for bringing your concerns to us, and allowing us to improve future services to the citizens and visitors of Texas..."
In the lawsuit, Hill notes that the police agency has already conceded wrongdoing and points out the numerous state and federal prohibitions on compulsory demands for identification in the United States when no reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists. Also cited are federal statutes mandating off-duty time for commercial drivers and countless government studies which indicate that a large percentage of federal tractor-trailer fatalities are caused by driver fatigue. The plaintiff seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and exemplary damages as well as a permanent injunction to prevent officers from engaging in such policies and practices in the future.
"I am going to win this case; no doubt about it," Hill said. "Aside from the fact that their employer threw them under the bus in two seconds and admitted wrongdoing in writing, which is extremely rare, there are scores of extremely clear Supreme Court cases which absolutely forbid police from demanding ID under color of law when the person is not suspected of any crime and is not even driving. To all free people across the country, I'd like to suggest that the next time some power-starved maniacal cop demands to see your ID or illegally searches your vehicle in egregious violation of the 4th and 5th Amendments, file a complaint and sue their pants off. Americans should not tolerate this immoral tyrannical garbage. People are waking up and asserting their rights. As I said when this first happened, my grandpa was a cowboy from Texas and my great grandpa on the other side was a judge in Wise County. I like to think I have a little of both. Texas DPS is going to lose this case and there will be consequences if they try to continue their blatantly illegal policy and practice of compulsory IDing every occupant of each vehicle they stop. The trooper admitted that this is their policy that night on the roadside. When I refused to show my ID, one of the things he told me was "I don't know how far you want to take this". I guess he knows now, eh?
"In addition, scores of motorists have been killed in accidents due to fatigue. Government studies reveal that upwards of 30 per cent of fatal big-rig accidents are due to fatigue. The federal government strictly mandates how much sleep commercial truck drivers must get between their shifts. Indeed, truckers can go to jail if they violate these federal motor carrier safety administration regulations. Since these rules are for the public safety, it is insane for the so-called 'Texas Department of Public Safety' police employees to continually and flagrantly violate these very rules under color of law. Troopers swear an oath to the Constitutution when they are sworn in- perhaps it is time they read and follow it."
The case, Hill v. Texas Department of Public Safety et al, is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Civil Rights Act case filed September fourth in the Fifth Circuit of Texas Federal Western District Court. Additional cases filed out of that court can be found here.