A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was pulled over in May of 2011 for driving while intoxicated, and now she’s arguing that the incident was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Professor and former Town Council member Dorothy Hoodland Verkerk says that when she was pulled over by Fire Lt. Gordon Shatley in his fire truck, she was unreasonably searched. Shatley is a firefighter, Verkerk says, and his fire truck and siren are not authorized to take on law enforcement actions.
According to Cornell Legal Information Institute, the Fourth Amendment states that, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
According to Verkerk, her incident was in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, but Shatley says that he wasn’t pulling her over to arrest her at all. He says he simply was trying to get her to stop driving and make sure she was okay.
Still, as soon as Shatley approached Verkerk at her car, she drove off, and eventually police caught up with her. She was later charged and convicted of driving while intoxicated, ordered to spend 30 days in jail plus 18 months probation, pay a $1,000 fine, and perform 72 hours of community service.
Judge Elaine Bushfan denied Verkerk’s motion, saying that the firefighter performed a citizen’s arrest, but now Verkerk is taking her case to the court of appeals.
According to the UNC Chapel Hill website, Verkerk is an Associate Professor of Art History at the college, has received numerous awards, and has published an array of books on the subject.
The court of appeals has now ordered a trial judge to decide whether Shatley had legitimate authority to pull over Verkerk, and whether or not a firefighter can use a fire truck to arrest a motorist.