Federal appeals court approves Florida toll booth detention

ORLANDO, Fla. - One man's battle to expose the Florida Turnpike's practice of detaining motorists who paid with a $50 bill or higher as unconstitutional has hit a dead end.

Joel Chandler was convinced FDOT's policy violated his rights under the 4th amendment. FDOT argued the policy was in place to catch counterfeit bills.

Toll booth operators would take personal information from drivers and threaten to call police of they did not comply.

But did the policy go too far?

On several occasions Chandler and his son traveled the turnpike to see if various toll booth operators would consistently detain them when they paid with a large bill. They did.

"Their legal department knew that motorists were being unjustly detained and that's their words," Chandler said.

FDOT interoffice memos suggest FDOT attorneys were questioning the toll booth detention policy.

A memo written on July 26, 2010 reads "customers should not be detained nor asked any questions if they present large bills."

Chandler filed the class action lawsuit against FDOT, 8 members of FDOT's top brass and Fanueil Inc., a personnel company, in February 2011.

He was convinced FDOT had been violating the civil rights of hundreds of motorists.

The policy ended in 2010, yet the appeals court ruling seems to leave Florida turnpike drivers at a disadvantage.

The 11th circuit ruling: "Payment with a large-denomination bill and compliance with the Bill Detection Report procedure is an alternative that motorists are free to accept or refuse."

"The Chandlers have not alleged that they were forced to pay their tolls with large-denomination bills, thereby subjecting themselves to whatever delay was caused by completion of the Bill Detection Report. They chose to pay their toll with large-denomination bills. Nor have they alleged that they asked to withdraw the large report-triggering bill in favor of a smaller delay-free bill and were denied that opportunity."

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