Military and Police

Playing in Traffic Leads to Jail for Roadside Lawyer

The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is a nationally-administered protocol to measure the competencies required to engage in Law school studies. After a three-year stint, one undergoes examination to pass the Bar and ultimately become an attorney. Not everyone cares to recognize this crucial step, and this is one man’s portable story.

Armed with two cell phones, a car full of audacity, and a disregard for wearing a seatbelt as prescribed by Oklahoma state law, a would-be sovereign citizen morphed into a roadside lawyer. You know, the type who knows more about law and government better than law enforcers and legislators who write the statute books.

A Tahlequa, Oklahoma police officer on patrol took note of a male driver not wearing his seatbelt while operating a motor vehicle. Dime-a-dozen traffic stop in most jurisdictions. Tahlequa police Officer Matt Frits conducted a traffic stop to address the minor civil infraction, but the driver decided to make it a major roadside production.

After repeatedly refusing to identify himself and/or roll down his window, the motorist fumbled with two cell phones: one for recording the police officer standing in traffic (you’ll hear/see it in the following police bodycam audio/video) and the other to look up and cite verbatim the nonsense some sovereign citizen yahoo likely told him to say if ever contacted by a cop. (The self-imposed insulation is comedic.) Playing roadside lawyer and the proverbial I-know-my-rights skit didn’t go quite as planned for the unbelted motorist, resulting in four police cruisers and a fire engine showing up to address obstinance and pure stupidity. Public safety can be a colorful industry.

After the driver was granted ample time to purge his hiccup and come to his basic senses, patient-like-Mother-Teresa police Officer Frits, who exceedingly and politely delivered lawful requests for the driver’s license and proof of insurance, eventually opted to enforce the obstruction of justice charge he kept warning the driver about. Oklahoma’s obstruction of justice statute reads: Any person who willfully delays or obstructs any public officer in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his office, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Ding, ding, I do believe we have a valid contestant in Tahlequa.

After the Tahlequa Fire Department crew arrived, a crowbar was presented. It tested the integrity of the driver’s door window. Glass 0, crowbar 1. Police officers extricated the sovereign citizen script-reader and invited him to hug the ground while they regarded officer safety. Handcuffs were applied. The driver’s roadside shenanigans bought him a trip to county jail and the impounding of his automobile. Oh, and the traffic summons (seatbelt violation amounting to a $50 fine), now the least of his worries.

Watch the almost-16-minute bodycam footage and have fun counting how many times the policeman in his lawful capacity politely asks the driver for his state-issued driver license and law-required auto insurance card. Professionally, Officer Frits addresses and re-addresses the fundamentals of the lawful stop and the requirements by which motorists must abide as stipulated when one receives a license to operate motor vehicles.

Incidentally, the duration of this particular stop which went far too long and needlessly endangered the police/fire personnel illustrates the purpose for states’ “move over” laws. Not to mention the extra cost of city resources because of a driver who felt he was exempted by basic traffic rules (imperative for his own safety and mortality), this citizen thought he had his hands on the joysticks. He found out differently once law enforcement officers went hands-on.

Much of the footage is laughable. All of it is avoidable, requiring a grain of common sense. I can dissect the heck out of this particular traffic stop and police protocols, but it is more conducive for you to view the content and judge for yourself. The cop is not in question here at all; the sovereign citizen is:

Did this particular police officer conduct a lawful stop, exercise patience, and exhibit a professional demeanor? Most certainly, and he was awarded his department’s “Meritorious Service Award for his going above and beyond while on the job.” Upon research, the aforementioned award (May 7) stemmed directly from how he handled/investigated this specific traffic stop (April 20, 2019). Kudos to him!

So many standout lines in this encounter. I think my fave is when, once the police extricate this individual from his car, he says “Okay, I’m not resisting”…after effectively doing so for approximately 16 minutes.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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