Fight For Your Right

The youth of today have been described as the “entitlement” generation. The old curmudgeons of the nation just call them “lazy”. Sometimes entitlement is a good thing! The beauty of living in America is there are certain rights and privileges all people are entitled too, and those are cherished. While entitled kids who think they should make executive pay straight out of college is irritating, is it as irritating as enforcement tactics which revoke you of the very laws you are entitled too?

Imagine this scenario: The bills are stacking up. As you are trying your best to keep your head above water financially, you forget about renewing the registration on your car. Later that night, BAM! The alert policeman spots the old sticker and stops you.

After the police officer does his routine and issues you the citation, he informs you that you are under also arrest for not having a driver’s license. What? The officer informs that your license is indeed valid through the Secretary of State, but because the vehicle was unregistered, it should not have been on the road. And because the vehicle should not have been on the road, you should not have been driving. Therefore, you do not have a driver’s license.

Preposterous? Of course it is. This scenario bears a resemblance to a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when a mob is trying to determine if a woman is a witch. Take a question, create all kinds of ridiculous justifications, carve out some rabbit trails and you can get any answer you want to hear.

You broke the law by not renewing your registration. That does not mean that you have inherently violated other laws. Even a convicted felon is entitled to some protections under the law while in prison. If violating one law meant the police could connect the dots from one crime to another, we would all end up in the electric chair.

Expired safety tests, IFTA stickers and overweight vehicles do not void registration. Exceeding the speed limit does not void a driver’s license. Each crime has its own elements of the offense and stands alone. 

Unfortunately, this situation plays itself out in truck enforcement world all too often. Here are the common denominators each time, every time:
1.   The citation has a significant financial penalty.
2.   The officer was poorly trained. 
3.   The officer is not a member of the ITEA and not held accountable to standards.
4.   The officer takes advice from another officer, also poorly trained, unaccountable and not a member of the ITEA.
5.   The officer rationalizes the stop with “I could have done this (insert worse penalty)”.
6.   The officer claims the “state police” affirmed the actions.
7.   The officer claims their local attorneys affirmed the actions. 
8.   The officer claims they have been doing it like this for years without any problems.
9.   The officer refuses to listen to reason.
10.   The officer loses the case in court.

Here is a real life example. In February 2013, and ITEA member trucking company had a driver operating a rubber-tire, articulated bucket loader on a suburban highway. A local officer who had recently been trained in truck enforcement stopped the machine. 

The officer was not sure what to do, so a senior officer who had been to truck school years ago was summoned. The two put their heads together and determined the machine was not allowed to operate on the road, therefore not entitled to the legal gross and axle weights of Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

After forcing the owner to low-boy the machine to the police station to be weighed on portable scales, an $8,000 overweight fine was levied. The machine was held hostage until this was paid. Several other improper citations for driver’s license violations were issued as well.

The ITEA called the arresting officer to get their side of the story. They said they received affirmation from the Illinois State Police (never corroborated), their local prosecutor and even their truck enforcement instructor! They claimed they had done this before and it had never been a problem. They claimed they could have put the driver in handcuffs, but instead chose “discretion”.

The true law was explained, but the officer refused to listen to reason. Months later, the case was predictably lost in court. Unfortunately an attorney had to been retained and paid for, all the while the court hung onto the $8,000 cash bail.

Sometimes you have to fight for your right to operate according to the law. But know that in nearly five years of the ITEA, not a single similar complaint has even been lodged against an ITEA trained and certified truck officer.   

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