A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals made an absurd ruling regarding a truck and Fourth Amendment rights that should, for good reason, be challenged.

A horse and cattle rancher, Ron Calzone, sometimes uses his farm truck to transport his own farm materials. A Highway Patrol officer pulled Calzone over and demanded to search the truck, though admitting Calzone had done nothing wrong. Instead, the officer said state law gave him the right to stop Calzone’s “commercial vehicle” without probable cause.

Calzone sued. He argued that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

The court – one that did not act in the capacity of an “activist court” – addressed the issue based on what lawmakers legislated. Judges read the rules, listened to arguments and came to the conclusion that the patrolman acted within the law to conduct an inspection of Calzone’s vehicle without having to show probable cause. Of course, the court could have ruled on the constitutionality of the law, which appears absolutely ridiculous in this case, but the court chose not to take the position that an unwarranted search is, on the face of it, not what this country’s Founding Fathers supported.

“One of the primary grievances the revolutionary generation had against the British Crown was its reliance on ‘writs of assistance’ that allowed the suspicionless search of private property,” Calzone said.

The government’s position is that the U.S. Supreme Court has justified such searches in connection with industries that are regulated so pervasively that a participant in that industry must necessarily waive Fourth Amendment protections. The government further contended driving a truck that state law defines as a “commercial motor vehicle” makes one a part of the “commercial trucking industry.”

The argument is all about “legalese,” throwing common sense out the window. The argument means that if a vehicle is subject to “regulations that include height, weight and length restrictions, licensing standards, state-conducted inspection requirements and safety standards,” then the driver waives Fourth Amendment protections. Taking the next and logical step, all vehicles are subject to size and weight limits, licensing requirements, inspection requirements and safety standards.

If the ruling stands, then the way the court applied the rules to Calzone could be applied, at some point, to anyone driving a half-ton pickup truck – which covers most Missouri farmers, including in Ray County – or just a car.

Calzone said he would appeal.

He should.

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