Drivers, Beware: The Costly, Deadly Dangers Of Traffic Stops In The American Police State

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

If there is any lesson to be learned from these “routine” traffic stops, it is that drivers should beware.

At a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct, “we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, or about 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

As Sandra Bland learned the hard way, the reason for a traffic stop no longer matters. Bland, who was pulled over for allegedly failing to use her turn signal, was arrested after refusing to comply with the police officer’s order to extinguish her cigarette and exit her vehicle. The encounter escalated, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with his taser. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell.

You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asked as she got out of her car, after having been yelled at and threatened repeatedly. Had she only known, drivers have been pulled over for far less. Indeed, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This approach to traffic stops (what I would call “blank check policing,” in which the police get to call all of the shots) has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, troll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. More recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Unfortunately for drivers, not only have traffic stops become potentially deadly encounters, they have also turned into a profitable form of highway robbery for the police departments involved.

As The Washington Post reports, traffic stops for minor infractions such as speeding or equipment violations are increasingly used as a pretext for officers to seize cash from drivers.” Relying on federal and state asset forfeiture laws, police set up “stings” on public roads that enable them to stop drivers for a variety of so-called “suspicious” behavior, search their vehicles and seize anything of value that could be suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Since 2001, police have seized $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.

“In case after case,” notes The Washington Post, “highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script. Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed ‘indicators’ of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.”

If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be. Never before have “we the people” been so seemingly defenseless in the face of police misconduct, lacking advocates in the courts and in the legislatures.

So how do you survive a police encounter with your life and wallet intact?

The courts have already given police the green light to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons. In an 8-1 ruling in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that police officers can pull someone over based on a “reasonable” but mistaken belief about the law.

Of course, what’s reasonable to agents of the police state may be completely unreasonable to the populace. Nevertheless, the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat: we must pull over.

However, it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical. Survival is the key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, as Bland learned the hard way, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. “Faced with an authority figure unwilling to de-escalate the situation, Bland refused to be bullied or intimidated,” writes Boston Globe contributor Renee Graham. “She understood her rights, but for African-Americans in encounters with police, the appalling price for asserting even the most basic rights can be their lives.”

So if you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance when it comes to interactions with police.

One police officer advised that if you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly, comply anyhow and contest it in court later. Similarly, black parents, advising their kids on how to deal with police, tell them to just obey the officer’s orders. “The goal,” as one parent pointed out, “is to stay alive.”

It seems that “comply or die” has become the new maxim for the American police state.

Then again, not even compliance is a guarantee of safety anymore. “Police are specialists in violence,” warns Kristian Williams, who has written extensively on the phenomenon of police militarization and brutality. “They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

In other words, in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this mindset that any challenge to police authority is a threat that needs to be “neutralized” is a dangerous one that is part of a greater nationwide trend that sets the police beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, when police officers are allowed to operate under the assumption that their word is law and that there is no room for any form of disagreement or even question, that serves to chill the First Amendment’s assurances of free speech, free assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops you.

Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?

Clearly, the language of freedom is no longer the common tongue spoken by the citizenry and their government. With the government having shifted into a language of force, “we the people” have been reduced to suspects in a surveillance state, criminals in a police state, and enemy combatants in a military empire.

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Jam's picture

I also have dealt with rural, suburban and big city law enforcement. I know that anything a cop says or does can't be challenged no matter how wrong they are. I am not into kissing someone's ass so I just do my best to avoid them altogether.

Ace006's picture

Cops can be crossexamined like anyone else. Can we please quit making wild statements about stuff we know nothing about.

Dog Will Hunt's picture

Good for you, dick smack.  After the carnage subsides (in this little jerk-off shoot-em-up fantasy you felt the need to share with everyone else), I hope the pig you're blasting alongside high-fives you in the occipital lobe with his asp.  When you come back here, you can relate to us how great it was to stand proud alongside him.      

SmackDaddy's picture

And you can go down to the next blacklivesmatter rally in Baltimore to purge your white guilt. You'll be one of those fags crying for the cops when you get jumped by 15 of your "bros"

iinthesky's picture

Well, at least the part about moving out of your "Mega City One" toilet is definitely a wise and agreeable thing to do.

migra's picture

I have to agree with you. Where I live in southern California the cops have never given me or my family any trouble whatsoever. The only people they fuck with are criminals. Some of the guys in this forum seem to go out looking for trouble with a chip on their shoulder. All they see is hate because that is how they view the world. 

Ace006's picture

Exactly. These whiners want to make out how awful America is but it's still great. Cops I've dealt with have been great. Only one ran a speed trap. It's a great criminal justice system even if immature or unhealthy cops exist. It's not a perfect system but what system is?

Don't act like an ass or break the law and you'll be fine.

large_wooden_badger's picture

Fuck off with that nonsense. Last time I checked if I start acting like a dick around people, especially cops, being white doesn't help. And certainly not with black cops.

detached.amusement's picture

unless of course they are already in hunt mode and you happen to be in their line of interaction.


seriously, driving past cops is like walking past a pack of unknown dogs.  you have no idea if one of them is going to up and decide to chase you for no other reason than how you look, or he just feels like it.


it is of course advisable to  blend into one's background and not stick out, and being an asshole in general makes one stick out.  but not acting like an asshole is no guarantee you wont be fucked with.

Yen Cross's picture

  I'll bet those 3x levered Chinese farmers are loading up on gasoline and pitch forks.

  In China police run from the ox drawn cart.

Salah's picture

Doesn't matter, America now has a new tactical nuke ...that appears to be extremely useful in a whole variety of circumstances

Zen Master's picture

Don't worry... this new nuke bomb story is totally fake... as most stories about nukes are fake. Just effective scare tactic propaganda that the public has been eating up since WW2. There is no question they have some very big destructive munitions, but nukes...probably not. 

Oh... my brother was in the military as a naval procurement and safety officer on a nuclear aircraft carrier. He loaded up hundreds of supposed nuke bombs on the ship and to aircraft. Plains crashed all the time. They would loose on average 1 pilot per week. This was back in the early 1980's. Anyhow, he told me years ago that nuke bombs do exist but they're way too big to strap on or in a plane or be used for missile delivery.  They will drop a big munition and call it a nuke. People believe almost everything the media tells them.


Ace006's picture

Nope. Nukes can be smaller than your brother thinks.

General Decline's picture

@Zen Master... I've heard that conspiricy theory before.  Interesting - Think it's worth further investigation. 


"By deception, thou shalt do war"

22winmag's picture

Most prosecutors are political upstarts who will whitewash any murder committed by cops in order to gain favor with the police unions and their political power.


Instead of fuck the police, it should be fuck the prosecutors.

Yen Cross's picture

 Most prosecutors are "public defenders", then they get hired as  Defence Attorneys, if they're good.

 Then they become politicians and lobbyists.

Ralph Spoilsport's picture

The whole system is corrupt. Cops, attorney generals, judges, all the way to the corporate owned prison system. Those who know the score also know what needs to be done about this.

Yen Cross's picture

 Big Time. :-D

 You know I love your stuff Ralph.

Abitdodgie's picture

All courts in America are privately owened for profit corp's and they don't give a frack what is right or wrong. They work under Roman civil and Admralty law and have nothing to do with America besides taking your money and keeping the for profit jails full.

Ace006's picture

That would be crap. Can I say that?

DeadFred's picture

One measure of how badly people feels about this is the number of police who are ambushed and killed for no obvious reason, not zero but pretty close. There is nowhere near enough angst over this in the public to expect change anytime soon. Things will need to ferment for awhile. On the good side my opinion on prosecuters and some police has made me immune from serving on juries :) but not until it's time for the prosecuter to use his peremptory challenges :( I am the first to go though. An educated man who has watched cops brag in private about the best way to plant evidence is not what they're looking for. Who could have guessed?

Onan_the_Barbarian's picture

If someone really has a beef with the cops, this is the way to do it.

Frontal assaults are suicidal.


Ace006's picture

Not so. I've won one appeal on straightforward rules of evidence and walked two guys on Fourth Amendment grounds. The law was a defense. I've seen first offenders treated leniently and experienced criminals hammered. I lost most trials as a public defender but my clients were guilty and the prosecutor's had done their homework. Judges were always polite and were honest and professional.

I'm less enamored of federal prosecutors and the FBI. Federal law gives them too much power and DOJ today is all kind of corrupt.

You're comment is facile, reckless and inaccurate.

Ralph Spoilsport's picture

You're a fucking lawyer so you have zero credibility. Of course you think the bizarro world you operate in is wonderful. Tick tock motherfucker.

detached.amusement's picture

cmon dont be so hard on him, he won *one* appeal by having things go as they ought to have in an unfucked world!




Ace006's picture

Had I used "fuck," more in what I wrote I suppose I WOULD have more credibility.

Fukushima Fricassee's picture
Fukushima Fricassee (not verified) Jul 28, 2015 9:55 PM

Actually cops are afraid for good reason. Blame it on Obama's "if I had a son" thug gangbang . Let the mother fuckers see your hands at all times unless of course you plan to fight but if I were you I would save that fight for the fucking politicos that give the cop orders .

WTFUD's picture

OK so the moral of the story is DON'T DRIVE without an AK beside you under the passenger seat or tucked under your feet and if you're stopped USE THE FUCKER. I'm SERIOUS for any cunt who says WTF.

If you do this then these FILTHY PIGS will soon change their UNTOUCHABLE outlook on life, no matter if the FILTHY PARASITIC POLITICIANS got their BACKS.

bill1102inf's picture

Have you not seen the videos of idiots who have tried this? They always leave in a body-bag.  Your a fucking jackass

WTFUD's picture

Says you fuckwit. You wouldn't say that to my face you sniveling little cunt.

PS If you haven't noticed folks are already leaving in body-bags for traffic offences.

i_call_you_my_base's picture

Doesn't help that cops are both dumb and roided up in most cities.

Ace006's picture

Much like some of the people commenting on this article.

SgtShaftoe's picture

Rural property is the new gold rush. We're probably 5 years ahead of trend, but either way. You can grow your own food, no HOA, and no serial murderers with badges roaming the neighborhood. Just lock your front gate.

elvado1's picture

The article seems to imply that she died because of the traffic stop but that's not true.  She died because she hung herself.  And if she was that unstable it was only a matter of time before it happened under another circumstance.  Maybe she was trying to commit suicide by cop by being belligerent and uncooperative and cop just wouldn't give her the satisfaction so she had to do it herself.

Sandmann's picture

Well she wasn't called Magnitsky so noone in the US will care

DeadFred's picture

Somehow while incarcerated she found materials to hang herself. And of course she was ruled to be a suicide, as was the guy who shot himself in the head multiple times with a nailgun. But it must be true, I read it on the internet.

eddiebe's picture

elvado, my guess is you vote. Am I right?

moneybots's picture

She did die as a result of that traffic stop.

fzrkid's picture

There was a time where I grew up, if a cop gave us a ticket for stupid shit they would find 2x the damage to their personal property.. Most of the time this got them off our backs but only to fahk with someone else.


Police now watched judge dred 1 too many times. They act like fearful little pricks thinking the world is full of vile evil people that are out to destroy the very communities they patrol.. Mindless minions..


Too many people dont understand our tax dollars pay their fahking salary, they are supposed to work for US..

FreedomGuy's picture

Two issues:

First, cops are fellow citizens who are hired for nothing more or less than protecting person and property from harm and even guarding our civil rights. They are NOT "the law", do not make laws, and do not get to interpret it. They are allowed to apply it only under specific conditions. Too many think they are the rulers and we are subjects. We do not have to show them deference or be submissive. Respect goes both ways. Frankly, every conversation should start with "Fellow citizen..." To establish equality.

Second, the traffic game is a revenue game first and about safety sixth. Everyone knows this. Police are never on the streets to help you. They are there to catch you. It is why people go abnormally slow or panic when driving near cops. Unless you have a flat tire or called them, the cops are there to collect revenue. If anyone knows any cops ask them or yourself, "How many cops speed...every day?" The answer is 100% if they are not behind a desk. They all do it and they break every other law. The traffic game, including red light cameras is first and foremost a game to raise money. That is why they give you a deal for submitting and paying while they threaten you with extra points and court fees if you even think of fighting it. It.Is corrupting in and of itself. If it was about safety first about 90% of tickets would be helpful,warnings to the fellow citizens, neighbors and friends,

When the law is a game it leads to cynicism. Cynicism leads to abuse. Abuse in the open is oppression. This is how you become a third world country.

WillyGroper's picture

There is no constitution.

Soon, WE won't be either nor the jackboots along with alleged representatives.

FEMA coffins make more sense now. No one escapes this.

The extent of this evil has no measure.

besnook's picture

something will be done when white people start getting killed regularly by cops. killing their dogs has created some blowback but not enough yet. in the meantime, do as they tell you and wish they die soon. maybe karma will work.

PoliceThePolice's picture

"something will be done when white people start getting killed regularly by cops".

Unlikely as most white people will be to busy watching TMZ to see which celeb is turning into a woman or said something deemed offensive. 318 of the 663 people killed by police this year are white, according to THE Counted.


These are the same people who are just so asleep that it's gonna take a lot more than some random white getting killed for them to notice. Hey, maybe if Caitlyn Jenner gets shot, people will be outraged by this police brutality. 

Kina's picture

The US is sounding like it is turning into a total South American el Generale shit-hole.

Reaper's picture

The cops abuse because so many dumb fools want to trust anyone in a uniform. Local magistrates who hear traffic cases are tax collectors. One thing most likely in any trial, even in traffic court, is that police are lying.

If on a jury, vote for acquittal as a nullification of our law and our courts. You owe the police nothing. Be clever as a fox if stopped.

The OJ verdict was not about justice for OJ, but the higher value nullification of a corrupt system.

chosen's picture

It's real simple.  The cop has a gun, I don't.  I do what the cop says.  Afterwards I tell everybody I can find that cops are disgusting pigs, agents of the state, which is to say, agents of the wealthy.  They are no different from the Gestapo.  Under no circumstances should you support the police, unless you like being fucked over every now and then by a braindead automaton.  I have never been bothered by a street criminal.  I have been assaulted a number of times by police, for no reason whatsover.

Sandmann's picture

Why are they similar to the Gestapo ? Gestapo means Secret State Police which is FBI and CIA. Gestapo had nothing to do with police in uniform which was Schupo although all were part of RSHA - Reichssicherheitshauptamt equivalent to DHS in USA.

So let's assume ALL US police are now run by DHS and behave like an Occupying Power inside the US treating Americans like Palestinians or Iraqis and the police as armed militias working for local warlords.

That sounds like a fine system Americans accept and vote for and pay for and fly a flag for and have a Constitution when and why did they let this happen ? Was it popcorn and porn and TV or simply obesity and sugar complacency ?