We received exactly 100 applications for this year’s scholarship! After carefully reviewing all of them, we are pleased to announce the winner of our 2019 scholarship.
Congratulations Brandon! Brandon recently graduated from Florida State University this past spring and has been accepted to the University of Virginia School of Law, which he’ll be attending this fall.
Brandon interned with Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta of the 13th Juicial Circuit of FL, and this experience instilled a desire within him to legal education in order to help protect vulnerable citizens from entering the court system.
Brandon tells more of his story in his scholarship essay, which he has agreed to have published below. We invite you to read it.
Before I even graduated high school, I had developed a desire to be a lawyer. If you asked me what sparked this interest, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. As I continued my academic career with this unfounded desire, I was able to earn experience in the legal field. The most influential experience occurred during my internship with Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta of the 13th Judicial Circuit of Florida. During my time with Judge Ficarrotta I noticed a disproportionately high number of offenders being from poor backgrounds. This disappointed me and inspired me to utilize my legal education to help keep this population from entering this cyclical system.
Having the opportunity to receive this scholarship would be used to take some of the enormous financial burden law school poses for me; allowing me to pursue my passion of protecting vulnerable citizens from entering the court system. Aside from these goals, in my free time I am an avid golfer. Golf serves as an outlet for me, an escape from the stresses of the real-world. It challenges me and teaches me lessons that help me progress as a student and a professional.
Why we should be allowed to warn of DUI checkpoints:
The legality of DUI checkpoints has been tested many times in the past. The argument that a DUI checkpoint violates the fourth amendment was shut down in the Supreme court case Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz. The court ruled 6-3 that these checkpoints were constitutional and that they only caused a minor inconvenience to motorists, not violating their 4th amendment right. With the legality of these checkpoints being settled, the right to freely talk about them is now being questioned.
Even though DUI checkpoints are legal, the existence of these should not restrict the first amendment right of free speech. Any person can let a fellow motorist know “be careful, there may be a DUI checkpoint tonight”, just like a mother can tell their 16-year-old kid driving on the 4th of July, “be careful, there will be many cops out tonight.” Just like it is legal to let someone know to be careful because of the possibility of something occurring, it should be legal to be more specific, saying “be careful, I heard there will be a DUI checkpoint on the corner of Tampa and Racetrack road.” On the surface, this seems like it would inhibit the police from doing their job. Regardless of if this is the case, the existence of these checkpoints cannot, and should not legally restrict one from talking to another person about a given checkpoint at any given place or time. The justification for this argument is clear when we look at a very similar police operation, speed traps. Speed traps are an operation where many officers are directed to work at a certain location and pull people over for speeding. During these traps, many motorists will flash their headlights to let oncoming traffic know of the speed trap. Similar to letting motorists know of a DUI checkpoint, flashing headlights can be seen as “inhibiting the police from doing their job.” Recently, a federal judge in Missouri, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey, ruled on the headlight flashing issue. Judge Autrey stated that it is protected under the first amendment that motorists are allowed to flash headlights to let other motorists know of a speed trap. Because of the parallels between DUI checkpoints and speed traps, Judge Autrey’s reasoning can be extended to DUI checkpoints; protecting citizens from letting other motorists know of DUI checkpoints.
Some may argue that this justification from Judge Autrey does not apply because a speed trap and a DUI checkpoint differ in the fact that a DUI checkpoint is aimed at catching people driving under the influence, a state that cannot be changed from last-minute knowledge of a DUI checkpoint. With this argument, many claim that knowledge of a DUI checkpoint incentivizes drunk drivers to avoid a given area, putting other drivers in danger. Even though these points are valid, arguments can be made that knowledge of a DUI checkpoint incentivizes drivers to not drive under the influence and to operate their vehicles more safely.
From the arguments presented above, it is clear that it is 100% legal to let motorists know of a DUI checkpoint. Even though it is legal to do this, it is tougher to determine whether this should be allowed. Both sides make valid and convincing arguments. Since there is a level of uncertainty to this question, it is important that the 1st amendment right to free speech is protected. Therefore, letting motorists know of a DUI checkpoint is not only legal, but it should be allowed.
Headlight flashing OK, Missouri judge says. (2014, February 06). Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/06/police-speeding-headlightsaclu/5253337/ Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz (1990).