Thursday, January 27, 2005

No constitutional violations for motorist who got cited for refusing to say anything about insurance
In Burrell v. Commonwealth of Virginia, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Luttig, joined by Judges Motz and Duncan, held that the police who charged the plaintiff for refusing to give insurance information at an accident scene did not violate his Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights.

On the Fifth Amendment issue, where the plaintiff was claiming he had a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to give information about insurance to the police at an accident scene, the Court relied on the analysis in Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760 (2003). In that case, the plurality concluded that "a violation of the constitutional right against self incrimination occurs only if one has been compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case," and the plaintiff was not claiming that anything that happened at trial implicated his Fifth Amendment rights, so there was no claim.

On the Fourth Amendment claim, the Court bypassed the interesting question of whether there was a seizure when the plaintiff was given his citations, and went on to conclude that the citations were supported by probable cause.

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