Storm chasing and the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,893
2,642
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Dallas County, Texas has been pulling over drivers since their shelter-in-place order went into effect yesterday. There are numerous reports on Twitter from people who were pulled over and threatened with fines for being out for non-essential reasons.

“We did hear some complaints today of people being stopped going to work. Let me be clear, that is perfectly legal from our officers' perspective,” said Pete Schulte of the DeSoto Police Department.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: James Hilger
My very brilliant lawyer wife says restrictions depend on how the shelter in place orders are written. In some instances, LEO are granted the right to pull you over and ticket you for being out without an exemption as noted within the order. However, most exemptions do allow you to acquire food, medicine or go for a walk. Local Courts are closed, so how would you pay a fine? Most of the orders I have seen exempt the media. I would imagine storm spotters would be allowed to track storms, but again, you might have a problem if the local LEO sees out of state plates. I have NO doubt that one or two of the most aggressive chasers out there will have problems this year, unless they fake their purpose, which we all know happens. :)
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,072
378
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
My very brilliant lawyer wife says restrictions depend on how the shelter in place orders are written. In some instances, LEO are granted the right to pull you over and ticket you for being out without an exemption as noted within the order. However, most exemptions do allow you to acquire food, medicine or go for a walk. Local Courts are closed, so how would you pay a fine? Most of the orders I have seen exempt the media. I would imagine storm spotters would be allowed to track storms, but again, you might have a problem if the local LEO sees out of state plates. I have NO doubt that one or two of the most aggressive chasers out there will have problems this year, unless they fake their purpose, which we all know happens. :)
So how do local or state orders supersede the 4th Amendment, and case law precedent following Terry v. Ohio, that set very clear standards for reasonable suspicion? Given that the constitution's Supremacy Clause applies to Supreme Court cases as well, I don't see how local directives can trample articulated reasonable suspicion thresholds from existing case law.

Also, Dallas PD apparently issued a directive saying they are NOT randomly stopping cars now.
 

Attachments

  • Like
Reactions: James Hilger

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,128
669
21
49
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
1) Watch the terminology. There are no formal "shelter in place" orders that I've seen. SIP / lockdown is a term used when you WILL NOT LEAVE WHERE YOU ARE NOW. Other than China I know of no other instance.

2) For the ones where you say police can pull you over to ask - can you share a link? Jesse seems to point out the flaws in that type of order, but I haven't seen one with those words.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,072
378
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
1) Watch the terminology. There are no formal "shelter in place" orders that I've seen. SIP / lockdown is a term used when you WILL NOT LEAVE WHERE YOU ARE NOW. Other than China I know of no other instance.
The only one I've seen that used the terminology "shelter in place" was Oak Park, IL, which has a municipal order in effect. Honestly it's not really much different from the stay-at-home order that Illinois put into place at the end of last week: Oak Park Order for Shelter in Place
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,893
2,642
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
None of the actual orders I've read have any clause explicitly stating they would be enforced. That doesn't mean that they aren't going to be, as we've seen in at least two locations in chasing country:



The Dallas area activity seems to be mainly local municipalities (Desoto, Arlington, Richardson, etc) making the stops rather than state or county officers. However, the Indiana State Police are saying as such directly.

True, we might see some backpedaling of this once the public starts to object, but it doesn't mean it's going to stop happening in every county or municipality.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,072
378
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
None of the actual orders I've read have any clause explicitly stating they would be enforced. That doesn't mean that they aren't going to be, as we've seen in at least two locations in chasing country:



The Dallas area activity seems to be mainly local municipalities (Desoto, Arlington, Richardson, etc) making the stops rather than state or county officers. However, the Indiana State Police are saying as such directly.

True, we might see some backpedaling of this once the public starts to object, but it doesn't mean it's going to stop happening in every county or municipality.
I will say that Indiana said they would enforce the order, but they never said, at least not that I saw, that cars would be stopped en mass and checked for compliance. He even addressed that in subsequent Twitter replies. So I do think ISP is aware of their limitations.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,893
2,642
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
One thing to keep in mind is that I've heard many police officers say that if they follow *anyone* long enough, they can find a reason to pull them over. For a chaser, this could be going 1mph over the limit, being illegally parked on the side of a road, having a laptop mounted, etc. It would be quite easy for a LEO to perform a de-facto shelter-in-place violation stop "legally" under the pretense of another violation.
 
May 18, 2013
435
368
11
1) Watch the terminology. There are no formal "shelter in place" orders that I've seen.
The Dallas County TX order does say "All individuals currently living within Dallas County are ordered to shelter at their place of residence." Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Judge Jenkins Orders

There are lots of exceptions. The surrounding counties took issue with that wording and when they issued orders later, they used "stay at home". Despite rumors and media reports, it doesn't appear to be enforced except as a pile on charge (and even then I have not seen reports of anyone being arrested or ticketed).

If you read the entire order, you will note it doesn't restrict travel of non-residents of Dallas County (they didn't order anyone to stay out, just "individuals currently living in Dallas County" to stay at their residence).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Keith LaBotz

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,893
2,642
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
There are numerous social media reports of people being ticketed in the Dallas metro area. Also, an actual ticket from Michigan was shared privately with me, the charge was "violating the governor's executive order". So, where non-essential travel is explicitly prohibited in the executive order, a chaser could be charged with that (a misdimeanor) if they are stopped for a traffic offense. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems it would be hard to defend with out-of-state plates and/or a chaser who posts about their chase on social media, sells video to TV, Youtube, etc.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,072
378
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
There are numerous social media reports of people being ticketed in the Dallas metro area. Also, an actual ticket from Michigan was shared privately with me, the charge was "violating the governor's executive order". So, where non-essential travel is explicitly prohibited in the executive order, a chaser could be charged with that (a misdimeanor) if they are stopped for a traffic offense. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems it would be hard to defend with out-of-state plates and/or a chaser who posts about their chase on social media, sells video to TV, Youtube, etc.
As I said a few days ago I don't think hobbyist chasers from out of state are a qualified exception under most of these executive orders. You can try to fight the whole "outdoor recreation" loophole if you want, assuming there is one. Your odds are still better than not that you won't get stopped, but it's best to know what orders exist in which states before you decide to chase and accept any risks.

Even with paperwork being given out by media entities, if you get stopped, that's not likely to do much good outside of your home state or outside of the DMA, unless you are truly working for a national network. To add insult to injury, if you're in a professional situation like I'm in, conviction of a criminal misdemeanor is likely to result in termination of employment, so that's something to think about depending on your present career.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dan Robinson
So how do local or state orders supersede the 4th Amendment, and case law precedent following Terry v. Ohio, that set very clear standards for reasonable suspicion? Given that the constitution's Supremacy Clause applies to Supreme Court cases as well, I don't see how local directives can trample articulated reasonable suspicion thresholds from existing case law.

Also, Dallas PD apparently issued a directive saying they are NOT randomly stopping cars now.
The 4th. involves searching a vehicle, e.g, "unreasonable searches and seizures." The police can pull you over if they suspect you are in violation of the law, including orders issued by a state or local government.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
2,072
378
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
The 4th. involves searching a vehicle, e.g, "unreasonable searches and seizures." The police can pull you over if they suspect you are in violation of the law, including orders issued by a state or local government.
That is correct but I don't see how just driving your car down the road is equating to suspicion of violating the order. By that metric anyone driving on the road would be subject to being stopped for suspicion of being out for a non-essential reason. To me that's a violation of your rights as an unreasonable intrusion. I should be able to drive to Walgreens without having to worry about getting stopped to prove that I'm out for an essential reason. The concept of reasonable suspicion to articulate a traffic stop, however, is something that was carved out of 4th Amendment case law as being a threshold below probable cause but something that still involves an unreasonable intrusion akin to Fourth Amendment issues.
 
  • Like
Reactions: James Hilger
Cars with or without out of state plates, cameras mounted on dashboards or any vehicle obviously tracking storms would be considered "suspicious" and subject to a traffic stop if there is an active order. I'm not saying this is going to happen, but most LEO's in chase areas are aware of storm chasing. There is always a lot of traffic near storms and they can't stop every vehicle. But like I said before, if you are a LEO who does not like chasers, this gives you a way to turn the screws.
 
I think any of us with weather stations on top and Skywarn stickers might find out before others, although it may also depend on the weather conditions at the time as to whether we are stopped or not. The public wherever we go thank us for our service (something we aren't used to hearing) but it will be the interpretation of the orders that will get people into trouble especially when officers 'think' they understand the applicable law but actually don't (as happened to us a few years ago in a Kansas county where we were threatened with arrest if we didn't turn up with a Kansas licence) - what the deputy sherriff failed to understand is that Kansas is a state that requires visitors (ie: us from Australia) who are here for between 4 and 6 months a year with active I-94's to drive on their own country licence and they WILL NOT issue a Kansas licence. All very well until the officer decides 'you are wrong' even if you are right.

That's the same sort of thing I think chasers might find with this because all the orders are different in different counties and states and are written differently and there is no specific wording to cover out of state vehicles for whatever purpose.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bill Meier
Sep 7, 2013
603
424
21
Strasburg, CO
Colorado closed until April 11. This includes a non-essential travel restriction. While I don't expect this to have any impact on our season (June), it's still something to consider, should this order be extended.