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Appeals Court Audio Recording of Roadblock Hearing Now Available

Written by Subject: Arizona's Top News

As previously announced, a three judge panel in the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral argument in my five year running civil rights lawsuit on the morning of November 20, 2008. The lawsuit, filed in December of 2003, stemmed from an illegal joint task force roadblock I ran afoul of on December 20, 2002. A full account of this incident spanning the past six years is available here.

The Appeals court case, no. 07-19531, is an appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, case no. CV-04-264-JMR. The three judges who conducted the hearing consisted of:

* Senior Circuit Judge William Canby
* Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw
* Visiting Illinois Senior District Court Judge Richard

Representing myself at the hearing were attorney's David Euchner and Jim Harrison. Representing the appellees was Roger Frazier for the four named police officers. Additionally, a Mr. Ferraro from the U.S. Attorney's office (on behalf of assistant U.S. Attorney Gerald Frank) represented the United States regarding the lawsuit's malicious prosecution claim.

Each side was granted 15 minutes to present their case to the panel and answer any questions from the judges of which there were many. It's unknown when the panel will issue its ruling but it will most likely be sometime in the next month or so.

To my pleasant surprise, the United States Court of Appeals creates an audio record of each hearing and posts it online a day or two after it takes place. As such, I've downloaded the audio file for this hearing from the 9th Circuit's website and make it available here.

When the panel makes its final ruling, an update will be provided on these pages.

Many thanks to all those who made this hearing possible.

2 Comments in Response to

Comment by Terry Bressi
Entered on:
Actually, Arizona law has no provision in place to allow police to indiscriminantly pull over individuals absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause and demand their license. Specifically, ARS 28-1594 and ARS 13-3883(B) require that an officer have reasonable suspicion before initiating a stop. Once a lawful stop has been initiated based upon reasonable suspicion, a police officer may then lawfully request your license.

There is also no statutory authorization within Arizona law for suspicionless checkpoints of any type but that hasn't stopped police agencies across the state from conducting them anyway while Arizona courts turn a blind eye.

Nonetheless, I have submitted open records requests to several different jurisdictions requesting copies of their checkpoint guidelines. None of them allow officers conducting such checkpoints to ask to see a license unless reasonable suspicion of an actual crime surfaces during the initial stop.

This of course stands in stark contrast to what the tribal police did during the roadblock in question. Specifically, they conducted an illegal dragnet law enforcement checkpoint by actively looking for felons, stolen vehicles, seatbelt violations, drunk drivers, illegal aliens, illegal narcotics and conducted vehicle searches absent probable cause. They also had no guidelines in place regarding how such checkpoints would be conducted.

So far, they've been able to keep the courts from analyzing these facts by claiming sovereign immunity but if the 9th Circuit reverses the District court's summary judgment orders, these facts will become germane.

Comment by Aaron Stichter
Entered on:

This is the first I've ever heard inside such a hearing. It is interesting and I think your lawyer represented you well. The female judge said she would have likely resisted as well so that seems to be a good sign. I am frustrated to find out that it is AZ law to hand over a drivers license when asked and that they are even allowed to pull you over for that action without cause. THANK YOU for fighting!