I got to watch someone argue that the traffic laws were an unconstitutional abridgement of his 1st Amendment rights. He argued that the police had no jurisdiction to police MD 140 (Westminster Pike) for violations of the posted speed limit, since he had a 1st Amendment right to travel – a highly dubious claim, though perhaps remotely a component of the right peaceably to assemble or, if en route to his Congressman or his Father Confessor, of his right to petition his government for redress of his grievances or of his free exercise of his religion.
The judge’s response could have been more on point, but in fairness the judge probably did not bone up on “crankball” First Amendment theories before sitting down to preside over a docket of mostly speeding tickets. The judge noted that even fundamental rights have some limits placed upon them in the face of a compelling state interest. Ultimately, the motorist’s claims that the police could not police a road that the government itself owned and built did not succeed.
Particularly embarrassing to me was the arrogant tone of this defendant. The motorist asked the trooper whether he worked for the State of Maryland; he indicated that he did. The motorist asked the officer if he was sure. He asked the officer whether he knew that the “Class C” marker on his license meant that he was a commercial driver (it does not; it means the Maryland motorist can drive non-commercial non-motorcycle vehicles below a specific gross vehicular weight.) He asked the officer whether he (defendant) was engaged in commercial activity and, if not, why the officer thought he had jurisdiction to stop him on the road. He confused “cause of action” with “charge” – a mistake no 4th week law student would make twice. It was so embarrassing, ran so long, and demonstrated the motorist’s incompetence and lack of even a passing familiarity with the Maryland Rules of Evidence or of Criminal Procedure, that I actually stood up from the gallery and, after yet another legally inane question was asked, asked the Court to be appoint me as legal counsel for the defendant. The Court politely declined my offer. (Note: neither a client relationship nor a prospective client relationship was formed, hence my liberty in commenting here freely.)
In his closing, defendant cited a case from, apparently, another state showing that a non-commercial vehicle was exempt from that state’s use tax; this he cited in defense of the idea that the police had no power to issue speeding tickets to him for allegedly doing 66 in a 50. I have seen idiotic arguments like this from illegal tax protestors, but I must confess never before in traffic court in nearly 17 years of law practice have I seen them in traffic court. The Court convicted the motorist but was careful to advise him of his appeal right to Circuit Court.