Fourth Amendment

UNC Professor Challenging DUI Stop by Firefighter

Argues use of sirens gave color of law to a citizen arrest and amounted to an illegal search and seizure

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When a North Carolina firefighter switched on the siren atop his Chapel Hill Fire Department truck to get a driver he suspected of being impaired to pull over, he probably didn't expect to ignite a constitutional debate.

But that's exactly what has happened. The woman Fire Lt. Gordon Shatley pulled over on his way back from a call was Dorothy Hoogland Verkerk, a professor at the University of North Carolina and former town council member who is arguing use of the fire truck and siren—which are not authorized for law enforcement actions—gave the color of government to what might otherwise have been a lawful citizen's arrest. And although a lower court upheld Verkerk's arrest, an appellate court remanded the case with instructions to consider whether it was an illegal search and seizure.