MARV’s Dash – See, No “Manipulated” VIN Number!

On July 1st, 2010, after arresting Ademo & myself at the Franklin County House of Corrections, our good friends at the Greenfield Police Department (GPD) broke into my home, damaged and stole my property, and charged me with VIN manipulation (a misdemeanor) and possession of a firearm or ammo without a Firearm Identification Card (a felony).

In a classic “let’s pile on as many charges against those who question our commands” Todd M. Dodge of the GPD sought to enter my RV (MARV, the Mobile Authority Resistance Vehicle), though it was parked blocks from our arrest location and not involved in the incident at all. Dodge claimed that the VIN number on the dash was manipulated (submitting a photo of a vent as proof) so he wasn’t able to discern if the vehicle had been stolen. After first threatening to break the window to gain entry, his colleagues took my keys off my person when being I was booked and entered my home without a warrant or probable cause.

During the illegal search, the VIN number was found on the MARV’s frame near the engine, which confirmed that the vehicle was not stolen (as if they actually thought that was the case – they just wanted in and were going to use any justification, no matter how nefarious). And sometime before that, Dodge’s colleague lieutenant William Gordon (badge #105) claims to have “located a metal ammo box containing boxes of .40 cal ammunition in the rear of the RV on the passenger side clothes cabinet,” hence, the additional felony firearms/ammo charge.

We’re scheduled for trial on July 18th, 2011.

For more:

  • The meta-post about our experiences in Greenfield
  • All the documents, including the reports submitted by Dodge and Gordon, from our incident (also listed on the meta-post)

If you feel like letting these bureaucrats know that they messed up, that’d be much appreciated:

  • David F. Guilbault / Todd M. Dodge – “Chief, Greenfield PD” / “Sgt., Greenfield PD.” – 413.773.5411
  • Jeffrey A. Bengston – “Dist. Atty. Off. (Franklin Co.)” – 413.774.3186
  • William F. Martin – “Mayor, Greenfield” – 413.772.1560
  • The Recorder – Greenfield’s local paper – 413.772.0261
EPN

Pete Eyre

Pete Eyre is co-founder of CopBlock.org. As an advocate of peaceful, consensual interactions, he seeks to inject a message of complete liberty and self-government into the conversation of police accountability.

Eyre went to undergrad and grad school for law enforcement, then spent time in DC as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Koch Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, Directer of Campus Outreach at the Institute for Humane Studies, Crasher-in-Chief at Bureaucrash, and as a contractor for the Future of Freedom Foundation.

In 2009 he left the belly of the beast and hit the road with Motorhome Diaries and later co-founded Liberty On Tour. He spent time in New Hampshire home, and was involved with Free Keene, the Free State Project and The Daily Decrypt.

  • Ed

    Pete,

    @ 5:25 into your video, where you are recording the driver’s side vent, two screws can be seen in the dash along the top, middle part of the vent. They are different colors and don’t appear to have been placed there to secure the vent or any other object. These screws can be seen along the left side (as you are looking at the picture) of the vent in Tard M. Dodge’s picture.

    I believe Tard is saying those two screws, which serve no apparent purpose, that are driven into the dash above the vent must have been used to secure a VIN plate. What are those two screws and why are they placed where they are in the dash above the vent on the driver’s side?

  • Guy Fawkes

    It probably would not be a bad idea to find out from a dealership as to whether MARV originally had a VIN plate on the dash. If the answer is no, get a signed letter from them stating that is the case. If it is supposed to have one see if there is any way you can get it replaced, so you don’t run into the same problem in the future. You already know all too well the cops are going to jump on any excuse to harass you.

  • Jase

    In watching the video, I too am seeing those two dark color screws in the dash that are what appear to be about a VIN plate distance away from each other. From the police report, it seems that those screws are the same as what the police were referring to. If they are indeed about a VIN plate width distance apart, it seems reasonable that a VIN plate used to be there.

    I don’t specifically know Massachusetts law but I believe many or most states allow seizure of a vehicle with a missing VIN plate. When seizing a vehicle, police are required to inventory the contents of the vehicle and anything found of an illegal nature can be used against you.

    Unless you can demonstrate that the belief that a VIN plate once was where the screws are is unreasonable, I think you’re going to have trouble coming out of this unscathed.

  • Dan

    Ok people I’m about to make it simple

    “It is illegal to permanently erase or destroy the dash VIN”

  • Ed

    Personally, I don’t think it is reasonable to conclude that those two screws are for securing a VIN plate. They are both rather large and their position in relation to one another isn’t consistent with them being used to secure a VIN plate.

    One screw is in the 6 o’clock position, the other in the 12 o’clock position, thus:

    X
    X

    If the screws were for securing a VIN plate one would be at one end of where a plate would be (the 3 o’clock position) and the other would be at the other end of were a plate would be (the 9 o’clock position), thus:

    X X

    In addition, looking at the VIN plate on my car, it is secured by what look like rivets, not by screws.

    I am just curious if Pete knows why those two screws are where they are.

  • Rob

    Regarding the two screws, (as a former DMV inspector) VIN plates need two be riveted or permanently affixed to the vehicle, two screws would not work. Usually on RV’s you will find the VIN in the door jam (depending on the make) and also on the frame.

  • Jase

    Ed, The two screws I’m referring to are in those 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions that you mentioned. See image at following link for clarification

    http://img600.imageshack.us/i/sdash.jpg/

    Rob, I wasn’t suggesting that the screws pictured were necessarily original equipment. They could have been put in to cover up the holes created by removing rivets.

  • Truth Seeker

    You need to get evident and/or expert testimony about RV vin number locations. By focusing on the fact that all VINs are RIVETED ON, not screwed on, you must prove that it was unreasonable and unwarranted for them to enter and search the RV.

    Get that and you get the ammo evidence thrown out!

    You need to get a hot-shot Attorney to start filing motions and get serious about defending you against all these charges!

    Good Luck!

  • MerlinYoda

    I don’t know if you have to go as far as getting a “hot-shot attorney” like Truth Seeker suggests, but I would definitely get *written* testimony from the manufacturer of your Class A motor-home as to the “standard” location of VIN plates on those units.

    For instance, I know from professional experience (I work in the IT department for an RV manufacturer) that they will *always* at very *least* have a VIN plate on the chassis (the one the officer located) as that’s how they are delivered to the RV manufacturer. The actual location of the plate on the chassis may vary by manufacturer (this I’m not sure on).

  • Dick Tighe

    You need to check out the Firearms Owners Protection Act of Federal Law.
    One of the law’s provisions was that persons traveling from one place to another cannot be incarcerated for a firearms offense in a state that has strict gun control laws if the traveler is just passing through (short stops for food and gas) and the firearms and ammunition are not immediately accessible, unloaded and, in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, in a locked container.[6]

    An example of this would be that someone driving from Virginia to a competition in Vermont with a locked hard case containing an unloaded handgun and a box of ammunition in the trunk could not be prosecuted in New Jersey or New York City for illegal possession of a handgun provided that they did not stop in New Jersey or New York for an extended period of time. (as per Wikipedia)

  • Whiskey Brother

    I thought VIN plates were rivoted in? Every vehicle I’ve owned they are attached with rivots, not screws. Looks like they are trying to screw you with a srewball story involving screws…

  • Don’t get caught up in the excitement of purchasing a or used car without doing a Used Car Check and risk thousands in costly repairs.

  • Pat

    VIN plate are not required on motorhomes. The motorhome company did not build the chassis, and the chassis manufacturer assigns and attaches the VIN number. There is no place to attach it to until the coach builder builds the coach. The motor home coach builder applies a manufacturer’s ID plate with the vin and axle weight information someplace in the area of the front foot kick panel on the drivers side. This is all that is required for a Class A motorhome built on a different companies chassis. And most states do not consider motorhomes to be motor vehicles. The are considered “House on Wheels” or “Wheel House”, and do not fall under passenger vehicle laws.

    The LEOs not finding the so called VIN plate was their “excuse” to perform the illegal search.