Now that most of you have given your tacit approval for TTAC to continue to post stories about police and motorist interaction, please consider this strange case. It all began at 2:10 AM on April 20, 2012 when an officer observed Frederick Weaver weaving and driving an estimated 25 mph in a 15 mph zone in his Acura as he cruised through the Carleton Place town home community in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Weaver was pulled over not by a traditional LEO, but rather by security guard Brett Hunter of the private firm Metro Special Police and Security Services, the Homeowner’s Association police for the community. Officer Hunter’s training for his position consisted of four hours of classroom time and a full day on the gun range. He proceeded to go all Paul Blart on Weaver’s ass, issued him an HOA citation for speeding and radioed nearby agencies for backup as he smelled alcohol on Weaver’s breath but did not possess the power of arrest.
Ten minutes later, an officer arrived from the University of North Carolina Wilmington police force arrived. She realized she had no jurisdiction on the property and called for the Wilmington Police Department to intercede. When they showed up another twenty five minutes later, they found Weaver sitting quietly on a curb. They administer a field sobriety test and arrested him for DUI.
Weaver was subsequently found guilty of driving while impaired and carrying a concealed weapon. He appealed and claimed that the arrest was illegal because the HOA officer had no training in speed and DUI enforcement and was denied his Fourth Amendment “reasonable suspicion” rights. The court agreed, saying Officer Hunter was acting as an agent of the state of North Carolina and thus he was bound by the Fourth Amendment, which he clearly violated.
Last month an appeals panel overturned the court’s ruling. They said that Officer Hunter was not acting as an agent of the state and thus the normal rules of law enforcement did not apply and the bust was legal. “A traffic stop conducted entirely by a nonstate actor is not subject to reasonable suspicion because the Fourth Amendment does not apply,” wrote the appellate court.
In other words, HOA security guards can perform traffic stops that would be illegal for traditional LEOs to conduct. Which means we all can!
This case will likely end up in a higher court and we will continue to monitor. In the meantime, B&B, should the Del Boca Vista HOA police have such power? And what would you have done if you were the motorist?