JUDGE RULES: Minnesota fatigue program violated Fourth Amendment

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 1/28/2011

Friday, Jan. 28, 2011 – In what the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association legal team calls a “major victory,” U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank ruled the Minnesota State Patrol’s use of CVSA Level III inspections to determine fatigue violated truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights.

OOIDA and its member plaintiff Stephen K. House filed the lawsuit against the Minnesota State Patrol and individual officers on May 13, 2009, on behalf of truck drivers placed out of service after members of the patrol consulted a checklist and arrived at the conclusion the drivers were “fatigued.”

“We got a major victory on the Fourth Amendment. The court held that fatigue inspections are beyond the scope of CVSA’s Level III inspections,” Paul Cullen Sr., of The Cullen Law Firm, told Land Line Magazine shortly after Judge Frank issued his order on Friday, Jan. 28.

Cullen explained that Judge Frank ruled that, in order for Minnesota law enforcement to conduct a fatigue inspection, the officers are required to have “reasonable articulable suspicion.”

“None of the observations made in House’s inspections – which include neck size, urination habits, presence of Playboy magazines, TVs, and computers in the cab – none of those factors satisfy reasonable articulable suspicion,” Cullen said.

The decision will affect fatigue enforcement around the country, not just in Minnesota, Cullen said.

“The judge’s findings, if followed, will affect other states as well that are conducting fatigue inspections,” he said. “Level III inspection procedures are not broad enough to allow officers to inspect for fatigue. This means that they will need to have reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause in order conduct such inspections.”

Judge Frank also ordered that OOIDA and member plaintiff House are entitled to attorney’s fees.

“That’s a very big victory,” Cullen said.

Editor’s Note: OOIDA’s legal counsel is continuing to review Judge Frank’s order and will provide further analysis in the coming days. Watch for updates on OOIDA and Land Line Magazine’s websites as well as coverage on the Association’s radio show, Land Line Now on Sirius XM.

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