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A Commercial truck driver employed to haul freight across the United States in a big rig has filed a Federal Civil Rights claim against the Texas Department of Public Safety, two of its Texas State Troopers, and the Texas Department of Transportation.
Martin Hill, who works part time for a large corporation engaged in interstate commerce, was in his 18 wheeler in Texas last week. He was off duty in the sleeper berth, taking his mandatory 10 hour shift break required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations. All Commercial truck drivers must take a 10 hour break between shifts, including eight uninterupted hours in the sleeper berth. The sleeper berth is generally like a small cabin which includes a bed, dresser, drawers, and may include accessories such as a small refrigerator, television, stero, etc. According to state and Federal law, drivers will be cited, fined, and possibly placed 'out of service' for not taking eight uninteruppted hours in the sleeper berth between their shifts. Driver's shifts may include up to eleven hours of driving time in a period which may last up to a maximum of fourteen hours, including breaks.
These rules are heavily emphasized and enforced by the Federal Department of Transportation as well as local highway patrol officers acoss the nation. Drivers must also keep a detailed logbook accounting for every moment of their day, on duty or off. Failure to do this also results in citations, fines and penalties. On their website, the Department of Transportation stresses that the importance of complying with the sleeper rules is literally a matter of life and death, stating
In early November, Hill was off duty, asleep in the sleeper when his co-driver entered a DOT weigh station off Interstate 35 in Devine Texas, south of San Antonio. After less than four hours of sleep, Hill was awakened by his co-driver, who said that the female DOT insepector wanted to see their drivers licenses. Annoyed at what he considered an illegal and unnecessary interuption of his off-duty sleep time, Hill begrudgingly got out of the truck.
In an official complaint to the Texas Department of Public Safety Office of Inspector General, Hill recounted what transpired, stating in part,
Hill then returned to the truck and was approached by an aggressive male Texas State Trooper, who insisted that Hill show his ID. The complaint continues, "Aguinaga had told him I had not ID'd and told him to go after me. I was forced, under the color of law, to once again violate federal law & come back out of the sleeper. I explained the situation & he said TX 'policy' was to 'ID everyone'. He invoked federal motor carrier regs as a pretext, despite the fact he was violating them. He told me I would be arrested if I refused to ID. He also said "I have a badge and a gun". He said in TX they look for runaways,& check everyone, & that I would be violating the penal code if I refused."
In the complaint which was sent to the state agency, Hill also informed them that he has filed a federal civil rights case with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section. http://www.justice.gov/crt/crim/index.php
"You must save all audio and video recordings and or transcriptive records that were made by all parties involved, as well as any vehicle camera recordings, or surveillance camera recordings. Any recording that either officer made, or that exist must be saved. Do not delete, destroy, erase, or lose this evidence."
In conclusion, Hill explained the importance of following the law and expanded on the basis of his complaint.
"Truck drivers are hard working people who are entitled to rest before their shift. As the state and federal government constantly points out, failure to get adequate sleep is not only deadly dangerous, it is illegal for the driver not to get a minimum of eight hours (10 total) in the sleeper berth between shifts. Yet your two officers, drunk with petty power, disrespected and violated my God given rights to a restful sleep. Even though Aguinaga conceded to me that I did not have to show her my license, she sent her "backup" to try and strongarm me. It was bad enough that she woke me up in the first place. She should have accepted my legal refusal and let it rest. Instead, she escalated it into a degenerate state. Your officers used threat of violence and threat of an unlawful arrest against me, in order to enforce their illegal order. This is not a small issue. It is an extremely grave and serious one which will be addressed legally, as well as in the public realm. Your officer's and department's violation of the Constitution is abhorrent and will not be tolerated. As a Roman Catholic Constitutionalist, I will stand publicly for the rule of law and more importantly, God's law which encompasses the dignity of all human beings."
The issue of truck driver's mandatory rest hours has been in the news before. In 2007, local police along with Homeland Security woke up drivers and conducted a blanket search of trucks at an Illinois truck stop without any cause or warrants. Many truckers were angry about this, yet feel powerless to combat such measures.
As a result of his interaction with the Texas Troopers, Hill's eight hours of sleep was disrupted, causing him to start the eight hours over again and preventing him from working as scheduled in the morning. "Our next load was a HAZMAT load from the east to west coast, through rain, snow and icy covered mountain roads. Such a duty requires that the driver get plenty of adequate sleep and is rested before their shift. I will never accept such criminal treatment at the hand of rogue public servants. These degenerate jackboots who threatened me with jail and demanded 'we want to know who we're dealing with' have only just begun to find out."
The issue of police demanding ID has been addressed by the nation's highest court before. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Larry D. Hiibel of Nevada. PapersPlease.org chronicled the case in detail, concluding "Larry "Dudley" Hiibel was standing by the side of the road, having a smoke outside the pickup truck his daughter was driving, when a policeman confronted him and demanded his ID card. He declined numerous times, and the policeman arrested him, then yanked his daughter out of the car and threw her on the ground. Since he hadn't been doing anything wrong, he was arrested for failure to follow a state law that required those "suspected of a crime" to state their name if asked for it. His arrest and subsequent conviction were upheld by the Supreme Court, leaving the right to remain silent in jeopardy, as well as the right to live anonymously."
Warantless roadside checkpoints and roadblocks have also raised the ire of liberty advocates in recent years. CheckpointUSA.org addresses this issue and films interactions with U.S. Border patrol, refusing to identify himself or give his citizenship status at numerous internal checkpoints. A message states "This website is dedicated to confronting roadblocks to freedom wherever they may arise. Special attention will be given to physical roadblocks designed to impede the right of Americans to travel freely within our own country but attention will also be given to general violations of our right to privacy".
In Hill's federal complaint, he also addresses the issue of Homeland Security Border Patrol agents who regularly wake up off-duty truck drivers in the sleeper berth to ask if they are citizens.
Hill noted a number of cases which have been dismissed against the Department of Transportation across the country, some of them because the litigant failed to follow correct procedures. "That will not be a problem in my instance", Hill said. "So many truck drivers are annoyed and disturbed by rogue cops, yet many of them, harried and burdened with the tasks of earning a living and raising a family, have no time or knowledge on how to fight back against the system or file complaints against police. Well, I don't have that problem. I'm relatively new to trucking, and I don't even need this job. I have plenty of time to do what I need to do, thanks solely to the gracious blessings of Almighty God. This issue will be addressed by the legal system, and the officers will be held to account."
Note: The above narrative does not constitute the official complaint. No state, federal, or local law enforcement agency is to contact me regarding this narrative. Any attempt to do so will be construed as harassment and will result in additional complaints being filed.
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