Simeone v. Lindsay, 65 Atl. 778, 779; Hannigan v. Wright, 63 Atl. 234, 236:

The RIGHT of the citizen to DRIVE on the 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.

People v. Horton 14 Cal. App. 3rd 667 (1971):

The right to make use of an automobile as a vehicle of travel long the highways of the state, is no longer an open question. The owners thereof have the same rights in the roads and streets as the drivers of horses or those riding a bicycle or traveling in some other vehicle.

No where does it specify you can only travel as a passenger, where is the confusion coming from that you can ONLY travel freely by public conveyance or as a passenger?


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 respect.

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 officers.”

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:

  1. 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 parts.

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    It's funny, then, if that document was signed with the name of the biblical god, that the citation is to the Cal.Rptr. 666. – Stackstuck Feb 28 '18 at 5:15

Rights, even fundamental rights, are never absolute. They are always subject to appropriate regulation, restrictions, and conditions.

It would be up to courts to determine when such restrictions are appropriate, and when they infringe upon the underlying right to an impermissible degree.

In this instance, I believe it is well established that a requirement for a driver's license is an appropriate and constitutional condition to place on the exercise of this right, and I don't see any indication that the courts you cite meant to overturn that. I certainly don't know of any cases in which license requirements have explicitly been found to be unconstitutional.

| improve this answer | |

If you must ask for permission to do anything, it is not a right, as rights are automatic, and need not require a reason to be exercised.

Therefor, you are suggesting that we again are forced to abide by man made restrictions to travel and can only do so freely if we are a passenger in some sort of conveyance, though case law separates an operator of a motor vehicle (commerce), from a person merely removing from one place to another in the normal course of daily life (not for hire).

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Case law does no such thing, at least as far as license requirements are concerned. What it does do is distinguish between passengers and drivers. Passengers don't need a license; drivers do. It also clearly establishes the legitimacy and constitutionality of license requirements, even for those not engaged in "commerce". The cases these loons cite are invariably about something entirely different, and are quoted out of context. – cHao Mar 3 '18 at 8:11
  • BTW, "traveling" can also be done freely by foot, by bike...even by horse or moped (which, even though they're often operated on the roads, do not require a driver's license in many jurisdictions). Your right to travel is not infringed. – cHao Mar 3 '18 at 8:17

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.