Apparently, people are citing these cases for the proposition that there is a right to drive a car without a license (several facebook accounts making this claim have been shut down and a document making this argument is signed with the Biblical name of God). This is frivolous poppycock reserved for conspiracy theory crackpots that also never works.
A lawyer who tried to make an argument like this in court would probably be sanctioned by the trial court judge for making a frivolous argument, and might even risk suspension of his license to practice law, unless he made clear that he was arguing for a change in the law that is not supported by any current law.
Like all rights, the right to travel, including the right to travel by motor vehicle, is subject to reasonable restrictions which include the requirement that one have a driver's license that is currently valid.
No court has ever held that having a traffic code regulating the use of motor vehicles on public roads is unconstitutional, nor has any court every held that the government may not obstruct public roads in a reasonable manner for purposes such as maintenance, parades, and the like.
The question in People v. Horton (the correct citation to which is 14 Cal.App.3d 930, 92 Cal.Rptr. 666 and not the one cited that conflates two separate citations in different reporters to the same case), entered by an intermediate appellate court in California on January 29, 1971, is whether a search of an occupant of a motor vehicle requires probable cause under the 4th Amendment as incorporated by the 14th Amendment to apply to the states, and under parallel California constitutional provisions, and it hold that even occupants of motor vehicles have a 4th Amendment expectation of privacy despite the exigent circumstances associated with a motor vehicle. A more complete quotation from the case states:
Applying these principles to the instant case, we are impelled to
conclude that Officer Winfrey did not have legal cause to stop
appellant's automobile. Appellant was driving within the legal speed
limits, not erratically, and there were no visible operational defects
on the vehicle. Furthermore, although the officer observed two young
passengers in the vehicle, he saw no furtive or suspicious movements
and he had no information that the youths were being kidnaped,
detained or molested in any manner. In fact, the only reason given by
Winfrey for stopping appellant was that appellant was driving a
vehicle along the streets of Modesto at 1:15 in the morning with two
young passengers and that he did not look old enough to be their
parent or guardian. Clearly, even if we should assume that what the
officer observed constituted unusual activity, and it is difficult to
make such an assumption in this modern age, the activity alone did not
suggest that it was related to criminality.
The Attorney General
argues that Officer Winfrey had reasonable cause to stop appellant's
vehicle on suspicion that appellant was aiding and abetting his two
young passengers to loiter in violation of the municipal ordinance of
the City of Modesto. However, driving along city streets, even at
1:15 in the morning, is not “loitering.” (In re Cregler, 56 Cal.2d
308, 312 [14 Cal.Rptr. 289, 363 P.2d 305]; In re Hoffman, 67 Cal.2d
845, 853 [64 Cal.Rptr. 97, 434 P.2d 353].) For all that Officer
Winfrey knew, appellant could have been driving his two young
passengers home from a theater or other authorized place of amusement.
We are not insensitive to the numerous problems which face police
officers on patrol in a mechanized nation. As we stated in Bramlette
v. Superior Court, 273 Cal.App.2d 799, 804 [78 Cal.Rptr. 532], “[t]he
use *934 of the automobile in criminal activity has vastly increased
the possibility of unlawful conduct, and the likelihood of escape by
criminals from the scene of their crimes.” Moreover, we are cognizant
of the fact that the great majority of police officers assume the
grave responsibility which our society has foisted upon them in a
courageous and conscientious manner. Nonetheless, the right of the
citizen to drive on a public street with freedom from police
interference, unless he is engaged in suspicious conduct associated in
some manner with criminality, is a fundamental constitutional right
which must be protected by the courts. Consequently, while we do not
censure Officer Winfrey or question his motives, the fact remains that
he stopped appellant's vehicle solely because it was occupied by young
people. Were we to condone the stopping of vehicles for this reason
alone, no matter how altruistic the officer's motive might be, we
would lend our approval to the creation of a second class citizenry;
we would also contribute to an already deteriorating relationship
between the youth of America and law enforcement officials; in a free
nation this relationship must be based on mutual confidence and
Having decided that Officer Winfrey did not have probable
cause to stop appellant's vehicle in the first instance, it follows
that the subsequent search was unlawful, even though consented to by
appellant, and that all evidence adduced therefrom was the product of
an unlawful search. As our Supreme Court said in People v. Haven, 59
Cal.2d 713, 718, 719 [31 Cal.Rptr. 47, 381, P.2d 927]: “A search or
seizure made pursuant to a valid consent before any illegal police
conduct occurs is obviously not a product of illegal conduct. A search
and seizure made pursuant to consent secured immediately following an
illegal entry or arrest, however, is inextricably bound up with the
illegal conduct and cannot be segregated therefrom.” The case of
People v. Franklin, 261 Cal.App.2d 703 [68 Cal.Rptr. 231], is squarely
in point. There, as here, the officer stopped the defendant's vehicle
without probable cause, and afterward defendant consented to the
search which ultimately uncovered marijuana. The court in reversing
the conviction, at page 707 of the opinion, had this to say: “The stop
having been illegal, the search, though by consent of the vehicle
owner, does not breathe legality into the resultant find by the
A later California case before the same intermediate appellate court a few years later, also distinguished People v. Horton, holding that while driving in a car as a juvenile as 1:15 a.m. was not "loitering" that similar conduct did violate a municipal curfew ordinance for minors which was validly enacted and not unconstitutional. In re Francis W., 117 Cal. Rptr. 277 (Cal. App. 5th Dist. 1974).
The claim that People v. Horton recognizes a constitutional right to drive without a license was analyzed and rejected in the case of Newman v. Garcia, 2016 WL 8939133, Case No. 3:16-cv-137-J-PDB (M.D. Fl. September 26, 2016) in which a federal trial court ruled on a motion to dismiss a civil rights claim brought by a man alleging that his constitutional rights were violated because he was arrested for driving with a suspended driver's license in which he sought $28 million of damages. The judge in that case held in pages 3-5 of the Slip Opinion that dismissed this claim that:
- Right to Travel
Newman primarily argues Officer Garcia violated his constitutional
right to travel by issuing him a citation for driving with a suspended
license and stopping him from driving his car. See generally Doc. 2,
Doc. 12. He contends he has a protected liberty interest in driving on
public highways, he does not need a license to drive, and a driver's
license is a contract between the state and a person that is cancelled
when the state suspends a license. Doc. 12 at 3–4, 7. In Kent v.
Dulles, the United States Supreme Court explained the right to
travel—the freedom to move “across frontiers in either direction, and
inside frontiers as well”—is “part of the ‘liberty’ of which the
citizen cannot be deprived without the due process of law.” Kent v.
Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 125 (1958). It has long been recognized as a
basic constitutional right. Att'y Gen. of New York v. Soto-Lopez, 476
U.S. 898, 901 (1986). “A state law implicates the right to travel when
it actually deters such travel, when impeding travel is its primary
objective, or when it uses any classification which serves to penalize
the exercise of that right.” Id. at 903 (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). A restriction on one method of travel does
not violate a person's constitutional rights. Miller v. Reed, 176 F.3d
1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 1999). There is no constitutional right to the
“most convenient form of travel.” City of Houston v. FAA, 679 F.2d
1184, 1198 (5th Cir. 1982).
*4 The constitutional right to travel does not include a fundamental right to drive a motor vehicle. Duncan v. Cone, 2000 WL 1828089, at *2
(6th Cir. 2000) (unpublished); Miller, 176 F.3d at 1206 (9th Cir.
1999). The Supreme Court has recognized a state's power to “prescribe
uniform regulations necessary for public safety and order in respect
to the operation upon its highways of all motor vehicles.” Hendrick v.
Maryland, 235 U.S. 610, 622 (1915). That includes passing legislation
requiring drivers to have licenses. Id. Such a regulation is “but an
exercise of the police power uniformly recognized as belonging to the
states and essential to the preservation of the health, safety, and
comfort of their citizens.” Id.
Newman cites many state-court cases he contends support his argument
he has a right to drive without a license. See Doc. 12 at 3–4. They do
not. See People v. Horton, 92 Cal. Rptr. 666, 668 (Cal. Ct. App. 1971)
(addressing legality of traffic stop and search; observing, “The right
of the citizen to drive on a public street with freedom from police
interference, unless he is engaged in suspicious conduct associated in
some manner with criminality, is a fundamental constitutional right
which must be protected by the courts” (emphasis added)); Schecter v.
Killingsworth, 380 P.2d 136, 137–38 (Ariz. 1963) (addressing state law
suspending license of uninsured motorist involved in an accident who
does not post sufficient security); Berberian v. Lussier, 139 A.2d
869, 871, 872 (R.I. 1958) (addressing state law suspending license for
failure to deposit security with the registrar; observing, “[T]he
right to use the public highways for travel by motor vehicles is one
which properly can be regulated by the legislature in the valid
exercise of the police power of the state”); Payne v. Massey, 196
S.W.2d 493, 495–96 (Tex. 1946) (addressing ordinance regulating
operation of taxicabs); Teche Lines, Inc., v. Danforth, 12 So. 2d 784,
785, 787 (Miss. 1943) (addressing state law regulating stopping on
certain portion of highway; observing right to travel “may be
reasonably regulated by legislative act in pursuance of the police
power of the State”); Thompson v. Smith, 154 S.E. 579, 583 (Va. 1930)
(addressing contention city could not change ordinance to permit
revocation of license; observing, “regulation of the exercise of the
right to drive a private automobile on the streets of the city may be
accomplished in part ... by granting, refusing, and revoking ...
permits to drive an automobile on its streets”); Swift v. City of
Topeka, 23 P. 1075 (Kan. 1890) (addressing ordinance restricting use
of bicycles on sidewalks and a bridge).4
Newman does not cite authority to support his contention a driver's
license is a contract with the state that is cancelled when the
license is suspended, and he does not explain how the existence of a
cancelled contract would support his argument that Officer Garcia
violated his constitutional rights. See generally Doc. 12. Other
courts have rejected similar arguments as meritless or frivolous. See
Oliver v. Long, No. CV-06-2429-PCT-LOA, 2007 WL 1098527, at *5 (D.
Ariz. Apr. 12, 2007) (unpublished) (argument that by cancelling all
contracts with California Department of Motor Vehicles plaintiff could
violate traffic laws with impunity “frivolous,” “specious,” and
“nonsensical”); North Carolina v. Ellison, 471 S.E. 2d 130, 131 (N.C.
Ct. App. 1996) (argument that by cutting up license and returning it
to Division of Motor Vehicles plaintiff had rescinded contract with
state and could drive without complying with statutory requirements
“without merit”). Absent authority to support the argument that a
suspended driver's license is a cancelled contract with the state, and
in light of states' authority to regulate the operation of motor
vehicles on their roads, the argument is meritless.
*5 Though Newman enjoys a constitutional right to travel, he has no fundamental right to drive. A state may regulate the operation of
vehicles on its roads, including requiring a license. Officer Garcia
informed him of the suspension and informed him of the consequences of
driving with a suspended license but did not restrict his right to
travel by other means of transportation. The complaint does not
plausibly allege Officer Garcia violated Newman's right to travel
The other two cases cited, in addition to the flaws noted below, also predate the U.S. Supreme Court's conclusion that a state has the power to “prescribe uniform regulations necessary for public safety and order in respect to the operation upon its highways of all motor vehicles.” Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 U.S. 610, 622 (1915), including passing legislation requiring drivers to have licenses. Id.
Simeone v. Lindsay, 65 Atl. 778, 779 is an opinion from a Delaware state trial court entered on February 27, 1907 (111 years ago as I write this). It held that at the time, in Delaware, on the public highway in question, both cars and pedestrians had an equal right to use the road and both had a duty of care in the contexts of a lawsuit against the car owner for causing an accident through negligence. It did not reference any fundamental or constitutional right and has no precedential value and has in any case been superseded by statute.
Hannigan v. Wright, 63 Atl. 234, 236 is an opinion from a Delaware state trial court entered on December 13, 1905 also involving liability for an automobile accident. It says in the pertinent part:
A traveler on foot has the same right to the use of the public streets
of a city as a vehicle of any kind. In using any parts of the streets
all persons are bound to the exercise of, reasonable care to prevent
collisions and accidents. Such care must be in proportion to the
danger or the peculiar risks in each case. It is the duty of a person
operating an automobile, or any other vehicle, upon the public streets
of a city, to use ordinary care in its operation, to move it at a
reasonable rate of speed, and cause it to slow up or stop if need be,
where danger is imminent, and could, by the exercise of reasonable
care, be seen or known in time to avoid accident. Greater caution is
required at street crossings and in the more thronged streets of a
city than in the less obstructed streets in the open or suburban
Like Simeone, it predates the adoption of a statutory traffic code in the state of Delaware, has no precedential effect, is no longer good law, and does not purport to establish any fundamental or constitutional right. It merely enunciates the default rules governing the use of public highways by cars and pedestrians in the absence of other laws or regulations.