Holy Wireless Recording Devices Batman!

Richard Rynearson has gone all out in his to protect himself from police abuse. Rynearson’s black bulletproof Mitsubishi Eclipse comes equipped with SpectraShield fabric inside, bulletproof glass, and a RadioShack worth of recording devices. The car has a wide-angle camera in the front, back, and under both side view mirrors with separate microphones that feed into a hard drive in the back of the car. And that’s just the start of the recording devices in Rynearson’s batmobile. The car’s hard drive not only streams everything it records to an online server, it records how fast the car drives, it’s GPS position, and whether the turn signals are on, the doors are open or the car is braking.

All told, Rynearson spent $50,000 prepping his ride. So what drives a man to spend 50K gearing up against law enforcement?

Richard Rynearson, like many Americans living near the southern U.S. border, was detained for an “immigration checkpoint.” In 1976, the Supreme Court chipped away at the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment, making it legal for the government to stop people without suspicion at a highway up to 100 miles from the border. The Supreme Court ruling mandated that the checkpoints be brief, and “minimally intrusive.”

Rynearson is one of many in the U.S. now feeling the effects of what happens when government agents are allowed “minimal” intrusions. After Rynearson refused to roll down his window while providing identification, U.S. Homeland Security Border Patrol agents detained Rynearson for 34 minutes. While an immigration checkpoint stop without reasonable suspicion of a crime is legally allowed for only a couple of minutes, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled in Rynearson’s case that refusing to roll down his window and calling his lawyer caused the delay and helped create reasonable suspicion of a crime. The video of Rynearson’s detention, and the complete details of the District Court ruling are below.

According to Rynearson’s site.

“The plaintiff, Richard Rynearson, argued that a thirty-four minute detention for a suspicionless immigration inspection sixty-seven miles from the Mexican border violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures.  Rynearson provided video of the encounter that shows he offered a driver’s license, a military ID, an official passport, and a personal passport  and answered all eighteen question the agents asked him, with the exception of a single question concerning the identity of his supervisor at his place of employment (a question the agent told Rynearson he did not have to answer).

Still, the district court ruled that a thirty-four minute immigration detention was reasonable, and gave two separate arguments for its decision.”

During his detention, Rynearson gave border patrol agents his military ID, a driver’s license, two passports, and answered around 18 questions.  Under the Fifth Circuit, a stop of a “couple of minutes” is permissible at these checkpoints without reasonable suspicion. In one popular YouTube video, a man who refused to show ID or drive into a “secondary” checkpoint area was twice released to go free on his way. However, the judge in Rynearson’s case created an exception to the Fifth Circuit decision based in large part on Rynearson’s refusing to roll down his window during his stop.

Homeland Security Officers have spent their time working outside of the law to punish people who challenge their authority. According to Rynearson, border patrol agents called his commanding officer in the military during the 34 minute detention “and then a few weeks later wrote a letter to my commanding officer suggesting I be punished under the UCMJ.”  Terry Bressi a professor at the University of Arizona who has also recorded police checkpoints and asserted his right to travel freely, similarly reported that the Border Patrol Union wrote letters of complaint to the University of Arizona President and Arizona legislature trying to get Bressi fired, as well as letters to local law enforcement to try and have Bressi arrested for filming border patrol officers.

Rynearson’s case and Bressi’s story both demonstrate the importance of recording police interactions. Almost daily, another example of unlawful police behavior has emerged, and police awareness that they are being recorded helps to keep officers on their best behavior. Of course, making groundless traffic stops unconstitutional once again and electing city and state government officials to only employ responsible police officers is a more lasting solution.