The Mules wrongful arrest by CHP outside Paso Robles and sent to jail and animal shelter in San Luis Obispo

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, after walking 15.3 miles from Pleyto and past Lake Nacimiento, we stopped here along G14 to spend the night. We have walked this scenic back road route repeatedly in past years.

On Thursday morning, I awoke, fixed breakfast and packed up the mules. We got back onto G14 heading towards Paso Robles and walked approximately three hours when a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruiser pulled up along side us. He said he had been getting calls that we were walking on the road. He asked me to do him a favor and not walk on the road. My reply was that the Mules have the right to walk on the road. We are not breaking any laws and we will continue to do so for the simple reason that we have the right to. There was no alternative side road or trail along G14 to walk to Paso Robles. At that point he left.

Road G14
Road G14

We continued walking 10-15 minutes when the CHP officer returned with another CHP officer in another cruiser. He stopped in front of us, got out of his cruiser and told us that we could not walk on the road. We reasserted our right to walk on the road.

It was obvious if you looked at the road there was no where else to walk. we were walking as far to the edge as possible. Little Girl who I was leading was walking right abreast of me and Little Ethel was abreast of Little Girl. Little Ethel was the one furthest in the road. There was plenty of room for a passing motorist, slowing his or her automobile (which is required by California law when approaching other legal users – cyclists, equestrians, pedestrians – of the public thoroughfare) to an appropriate speed to safely pass. Motorists on G14 were doing so, slowing down and passing safely with no problem. 


The officer continued to assert that we could not walk on the road. We continued to assert we had the right to walk on the road and that we could not sprout wings to go anywhere else as we were landlocked and there was no alternative way to walk out of where we were standing. We went back and forth like that for a good period of time. Officer trying to convince us that we had no right to walk on the road which was ludicrous. 

The California Driver’s Handbook clearly states that equestrians have the right to use the public thoroughfare. 

Animal-Drawn Vehicles

Horse-drawn vehicles and riders of horses or other animals are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles. It is a traffic offense to scare horses or stampede livestock. Slow down or stop, if necessary, or when requested to do so by the riders or herders.

California Driver Handbook – Sharing the Road

Side note: On August 31, 2013 in Morgan Hill California we had a similar encounter where the Mules were stopped by California Highway Patrol and told to get off the road or be arrested. (Details here.) We had no place to get off the road where we were without walking on the road (because we don’t have wings). We were arrested and mules impounded for “Code 2800(a) VC – Disobey Peace Officer – Lawful Order“.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler dismissed the case based on the arrest being invalid. Citation was for “disobeying the lawful order of a peace officer” when the Mules refused to leave the highway. Judge Nadler determined that the Mules had a legal right to be on the highway and therefore was not disobeying an officer since the Mules were abiding by the law. Below is video taken by documentary film maker John McDonald interviewing Judge Nadler about our case.

“I’m Jerry Nadler, I’m a superior court judge for Santa Clara County. On September 5, 2013 I was handling what’s called the arraignment calendar in the South County Courthouse of Santa Clara County in Morgan Hill and he was on my arraignment court calendar and in custody. He was charged with a vehicle code violation of failing to follow the orders of a peace officer.

Well here’s a guy that is simply proceeding down the side of the road lawfully with his mules and people are simply distracted because they haven’t seen mules in a long time. Unfortunately the system doesn’t work really well with really unique individuals or types of cases. And perhaps Mr. Sears is that sort of unique case where he’s charged with an offense that it appears that he had better insights about than the officer.

You know the officer is really concerned about protecting the highway, especially on a holiday weekend. But the officer still has to be aware of what the law is with regard to it as well. And again in this case it is sort of a unique case. I’m sure it’s the first mule case the officer has ever run into. But again, the officer is obligated to know what the law is. And, if the law allows for a pedestrian and his animals to be on the highway, then he’s got to perhaps make some other decisions. But I can certainly understand why the officer acted the way he did.”

Jerry Nadler, Superior Court Judge for Santa Clara County

We bantered back and forth for a good period of time when the officer finally said if I come back again you will be arrested and your animals will be impounded. He then left with his fellow officer. 

Little Girl and Little Ethel along G14
Little Girl and Little Ethel along G14.

Well now what were we to do? There was no side roads to take off on. There was nothing but G14. There was no cell phone service for us to call or post for trailer assistance. The officer offered no alternative means for which we could safely proceed to our destination of Paso Robles. We had no choice but to stand there on the side of the road for hell to freeze over or to continue to walk to Paso Robles on G14. So we had to do just that, because again, the mules and myself do not have wings.

After walking 10 minutes further down the road, the officer was stationed with his partner on a side road to our left. I do not know the name of this side road or if it was an alternative road to get to Paso Robles. The officer got out of his cruiser, approached me, stepped in front of me and said I was under arrest. He then took the lead rope from my hand and handed the lead rope to the other officer who took Little Girl and Little Ethel to the other side of the road and told me I was under arrest. He asked me to put my hand behind my back, which I did. Then he hand cuffed me, took me to his cruiser, opened the door, and asked me to get inside, which I did.  I offered absolutely no resistance. 

We have now been charged with obstruction. We were not charged for walking on the highway because we had every right to be walking on the highway. We have been charged with obstruction resisting arrest. I did not resist arrest. Little Girl and Little Ethel were taken to San Luis Obispo Animal Services, while I was taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail where I was booked around 3pm and charged with resisting arrest under California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC, a broadly defined criminal offense that makes it illegal to intentionally resist, delay or obstruct a law enforcement officer.

California Highway Patrol website with horses on the cover
Note the irony of California Highway Patrol website with horses on the cover and statement: “The mission of the California Highway Patrol is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service and Security.”

If the CHP officer was able to contact animal services to bring a trailer to transport the mules and myself to San Luis Obispo 40 miles away, why couldn’t they make a decision to “provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security” and escort or order trailer to transport the Mules to Paso Robles our destination at the end of G14 about 5-10 miles away?

Side note: On New Year’s Day January 1, 2020, we had a similar encounter  with San Benito County CHP (documented here) under much the same circumstance. However, San Benito County CHP gave up on telling us we couldn’t walk on the highway as they knew that we had the right to walk on that road as documented in the San Benito County General Transportation Plan. Instead, the officer relented on his assertion that we could not walk on the highway and offered us a solution that we could continue to walk along the shoulder of the road (which we were already doing) and they would escort us from behind to our destination San Juan Bautista. But at that moment, a local resident who followed our 3 Mules Facebook page stopped and told us that we had an alternative back road to walk to San Juan Bautista, which we took and no longer required a CHP escort. CHP did not tell us about this alternative route 100 yards away.

During booking, they took away my sandals that I was wearing so I was barefoot on the cold floor in jail wearing only a t-shirt and thin pants. Jails like to keep the temperature inside very cold. Don’t understand why my shoes were taken away. Did not have to share a cell with anybody. I paced from the time I entered the cell well into the next morning. Must have walked about 20 miles building the spiritual energy I knew that would be harbored and used to deal with our ongoing challenges of our upcoming court case and our use of the public thoroughfare.

I was released from jail without paying any bail with a court date to appear March 23, 2020 at 8AM in San Luis Obispo Superior Courthouse Annex Room 220, 1050 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408 .

Cite Release

After I was released from San Luis Obispo County Jail, I walked over to Animal Services next door where Little Girl and Little Ethel were housed. The cost for release is $266. We posted a GoFundMe to help pay for the cost for release and within minutes of posting reached the limit quicker than we could turn off the fundraiser to stop raising funds. A total of $500 was raised. The Mules are humbled by the response from those who donated quickly and generously to our request. Thank you very much. A detailed accounting with receipts on how this money was spent will be posted on this website.

Paid Receipt for release of the mules from Animal Services
Paid $266 receipt of release of Little Girl and Little Ethel from SLO Animal Services.

While at the animal shelter, we had another dilemma. The mules were in San Luis Obispo, but our gear and belongings were at the CHP office in Templeton, 31-miles away. So we posted on our 3 Mules Facebook page asking if anybody could transport the three of us from San Luis Obispo to Templeton before CHP closed for the day.

The Nation, the Three Mules Nation, shared our request for trailer assistance. As well, Animal Control Supervisor Patrick was reaching out to his contacts to help find a trailer ride to reunite us with our belongings. He was able to find a group that could help but they couldn’t arrive until after 4pm, which risked us not getting to the CHP office 31 miles away before its closing for the weekend. The Mules want to recognize San Luis Obispo County Animal Shelter Supervisor Patrick and his staff for taking care of Little Girl and Little Ethel and trying to help us find a trailer ride to our belongings.

Patrick and his caring staff at San Luis Obispo County Animal Shelter with the Mules
Patrick and his caring staff at San Luis Obispo County Animal Shelter with the Mules

We received a private message from Jennifer who said she could assist and bring us to Templeton, which she did. While waiting for trailer ride, we met Jim who stopped by the animal shelter to offer his assistance as well. He lives near the CHP office and offered us to rest the night on his property so we could re-gather ourselves which we accepted.

Jim and Little Girl
Thank you Jim for your hospitality.

Jennifer arrived at San Luis Obispo animal shelter with her trailer and drove us to CHP office in Templeton so that we cold pick up our pack boxes and other belongings.

Jennifer, Little Girl and Little Ethel
Thank you Jennifer for transporting us to Templeton.
Little Girl and Little Ethel at CHP Templeton office packed up and ready to go
Little Girl and Little Ethel at CHP Templeton office packed up and ready to go

We arrived at CHP Templeton in the afternoon to pick up our belongs. While there we had a conversation with CHP Lieutenant Coomer, who provided us a map outline every CHP Area boundary in the state and a document listing the contact telephone number for every CHP Communication Center and Area Office in the state. He said it might help if we the Mules called these area offices ahead of time and let them know we will be traveling through their area so that when the dispatchers get calls from the public, the dispatchers will know to be expecting it.

CHP Geographical Organization
CHP Geographical Organization map given to us.

While we appreciate Lt. Coomer providing us this information, we live in the United States of America. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happinessis a well-know phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect. Freedom of movement (travel) was also thought to be a fundamental right of all U.S. citizens during the drafting of the U.S. Constitution as not needing explicit enumeration. Lt. Coomer’s suggestion for us or any U.S. citizen to call law enforcement in every place we walk in California is requiring U.S. citizens to ask for permission to travel within California, which is against our unalienable rights and against state law.

If a concerned citizen calls dispatch and an officer comes out to investigate, the officer should know the California codes that we are allowed to walk where we are. The officer should communicate with dispatch and other law enforcement in the area of the situation, whether it be equestrian travelers, pedestrians, cyclists or people in wheel chairs.

In the California Driver Handbook, cyclists and equestrians have the right to take the lane if there is not sufficient shoulder on a road to ride or walk. Motorists must slow down or stop until they can safely pass leaving 3 feet for safety or until the cyclists, equestrian, or pedestrian has sufficient shoulder room to move aside.

The Mules were not breaking any laws walking on G14 as we were not cited for obstructing traffic because we were not. Traffic was simply required by law to slow and pass at a safe speed. We were cited for resisting arrest for disobeying a lawful order which was obviously not a lawful order. The officer wanted us to get off the road when we had no physical way to get out of the location where we were at (because we don’t have wings) without walking out of the location. We did not have phone service in the area to make any phone calls or post to the Nation, the Three Mules Nation, for trailer assistance. Again, the officer did not provide us any solutions or alternatives on how we would continue our journey without use of the public thoroughfare.

When we arrived at CHP Templeton office, Marcia and her daughter Tisha were there waiting for our arrival. Marcia has been a supporter and follower on 3 Mules Facebook page since June 16, 2014. We always enjoy when we get to connect a name we see regularly on our page via comments to a live person.

Marcia with Little Girl and Little Ethel
Marcia, Three Mules Nation support since 2014
Tisha with Little Ethel

The Mules will continue to post more about this case as it evolves and progresses up to our March 23, 2020 arraignment in San Luis Obispo. Our next step is to obtain a copy of the CHP police report. The Mules feel that we were wrongly arrested because we had the right to walk on public thoroughfare G14. We feel that this citation and case should be dismissed immediately and that we should be reimbursed $266 of the mules impoundment fee.

The Mules are seeking a pro-bono attorney willing to represent us. Court Date scheduled for 3/23/2020 at 8 AM in San Luis Obispo Court Annex Room 220, 1050 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA. If interested, please message us with your contact information.

We are as safe as anybody could be under those circumstances. It’s not our fault that the state of California is allowing these automobiles to move at these horrendous speeds. These speeds are killing people, maiming people, it goes on all day every day. The insurance rates are outrageous and very well understand the chances are that when you get into these automobiles with your children, your families, you’re going to turn into a bucket of blood. It happens every day, all day. These automobiles are not safe.

The Mules move at 2-3 miles per hour. We’re not going to hurt anybody. We never have. We don’t deal out death and destruction as we go along. The automobile does. We are not going to give up our right to move freely in this country.

These public thoroughfares are all that is left. There is no other mechanism to express your right to freedom to move that body of yours from one place to the next when you choose how you choose. When that’s gone, that’s the bone of freedom you don’t have any freedom.

We are not going to give it up. Our way of life depends on moving, living with our surroundings, the trees, the grass, the brush, the insects, the animals, with a meaningful relationship, reacting to these forces all day long with our feet on the ground surrounded by that energy. We have to have the right to do that using the public thoroughfare.

We’re not going to give up that right. When the Megatropolis tries to disguise its real purpose using safety as the mechanism, it’s real purpose is to remove all other venues other than the automobile from the public right of way. It’s to get rid of us, there is no question about it.

March 23, 2020 is a long time away to wait in San Luis Obispo for our arraignment.

Six years ago, on May 29, 2014, the Mules were cited in San Luis Obispo for sleeping outside, which we have slept outside for over half our life. Sleeping is another human necessity to eating and breathing. No life can stay awake and keep moving 24/7/365. Our citation for that case was dismissed on January 15, 2015. Read more about that San Luis Obispo case here.

At the time, a San Luis Obispo newspaper published an editorial that the Mules were a public nuisance, which we strongly disagree. We are one human being traveling with his or her animal companions living a nomadic life outside all day every day as our ancestors have done for hundreds of thousands of years with respect and reverence for this place we call home – Earth.

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25 thoughts on “The Mules wrongful arrest by CHP outside Paso Robles and sent to jail and animal shelter in San Luis Obispo”

    1. Agreed, I’m so thrilled to be able to read this real life real time saga. What a time to be alive. I have tears running down my face of joy and wonder. Why are we here? The 3Mules know and experience it every day.

  1. On an annual “burro walk” in AZ a few years ago (a man and his burro, some supporters on horses and on foot, I was driving “safety” behind with a caution sign on my truck) local police were concerned about a gnarly stretch of road. They could have sent us on dirt roads across the desert to reach the destination – instead they provided an escort through the stretch of narrow road with blind curves on hills and no shoulder at spots.
    Police can be entitled jerks or a wonderful part of the community.
    Walk on in health and peace.

  2. As i looked out my office window, I saw John and his two mules walking south on calloway, approaching rosedale hwy in bakersfield, ca. I raced across the street with cold water and bible scriptures in hand. It was a pleasure to spend that brief moment in time chatting about his experiences and prayer. It was a pleasure to serve him with love; especially during these challenging times with covid 19 and all. The bible says in Hebrews 13:2 that show hospitality. Some have even served angels without knowing it. He and the mules are an inspiration, as we all need to trust God, through Jesus Christ for our needs. May God continue to bless John Sears and his mules. amen

  3. So glad to become aware of the Mules and John Sears! Shame on the CHP officers who looked for any excuse to exert their power and authority over sentient beings living a life they rightfully choose. Kudos to all who help & support this cause. Wish Funke-Bilu had won the election but glad Mr. Dow did the right thing and dropped this ridiculous waste of time & money !
    Lockyoupfornia indeed!

  4. The most amazing story I’ve read in a long time! God bless you and your beautiful girls/mules. Thank you for educating me and many of us in California. I’m sorry you’ve been harassed by chp/cops/law without cause. Please California stop wasting our tax money on harassing our law abiding citizens!

  5. Meanwhile, folks in Paso were being mugged, knifed, shot, robbed, assaulted, and I bet you 4 out of 5 cars driving on G14 were exceeding the speed limit creating an unsafe situation for all. But these cops decided they needed to harass Mules who were not breaking the law. Most cops are really good, but there are always those to have an axe to grind. But what agenda they had that day is beyond me. Fear of Mules?

  6. I know this was terrible for you and your lovely mules. But you did connect with wonderful people willing to help. Roadways can be dangerous, but I very much support you in that the roads are there for you and your mules. The fact they arrested you means you were outside of the box and they didn’t have a better answer. I’m very sorry this happened, especially in my area. If you need further assistance while on the central coast, please contact me.

  7. You are welcome at our place anytime! 4465 Oak Flat Rd. Paso Robles. Let us know if you ever need trailering. Monica. 805-975-5351

  8. I am completely mystified on what grounds the CHP could cite you?? The law is clearly written and you are clearly within it. These episodes smack of “police states” and power plays. There are reenactment groups who pull wagons with horses, oxen and mules , complete with outriders, traveling cross country on roadways of all kinds with no problems. This is really a sorry state.

  9. I am sorry that Paso Robles did not welcome you. It is not the town it used to be since its now full of uppity wine-o’s and best to just stay as far away from that town as you can. There are much nicer and more hospitable communities nearby like Atascadero and Santa Margarita where we appreciate having a mule pack grace us with their company. I got to see you today down ECR and you were the talk of the town. Safe travels and be careful of all the homeless down the hill in San Luis Obispo.

  10. An arrest for 148 PC under these circumstances is an abuse of authority, plain and simple. Fight the good fight. Itis a shame you have to do through this, I hope you get an attorney to help you. Good luck.

    1. I just read an article reference from the LA Times on John. I think we should all show up on 3/23 in support of 3 Mules!

      This reminds me of “Peace Pilgrim“ and “Planet Walker” both who traveled by foot. It’s a great reminder to fight the good fight, and stand up for “old school ways”.

  11. You continue to be an example of right action to a purpose, and every time petty functionaries try to impede your progression across the land they only show their own agenda for what it is.
    Those who have given up their dreams will discourage yours.

    1. myMy issue with this situation is that if the officer felt you walking you mules on the side of the road was a danger, then he should have escorted you to safety. Instead it sounds like he harassed you and may have been an antagonist. What were the choices. I’ve been on that road. Not lots of traffic. I would insist on viewing his dash and body cam. Hopefully it would show what an embarrassment he is. Shameful.

  12. “I know people think horses shouldn’t be on the road but where else would they go? Their majestic beauty should be shared by all! Besides, it’s just like cyclists and pedestrians – they have as much right to be there as cars.”

    Click the link below to read about Nathan at Starbucks, who had to learn about equestrian rights in the drive-thru!

    Click this link to read more about the law regarding the rules of the road relative to equestrian rights!

    Help us support the Monk! Join us in supporting him when he appears in court regarding an unlawful arrest and detainer of #3mules! Click the link below for the full story!

    And here’s the link for the event!

    #Horseview #Lifebetweentheears #Betweentheears #Illrideanywhere #Starbucks #Wileysworld #Retired #Add3minutes #AQHA #cowgirl #parelli #KernCounty #California #Bakersfield #Passfarandwide #Passwideandslow

    1. Let us also not forgot that many of these roads were initially created by mules and horses. And driving on them now we should show our respect for history.

  13. It is insane that the officers would take the time to even stop you at all. There are crimes being committed all the time and they have nothing better to do than harass law abiding citizens. The case was dropped before and should be dropped again, but again INSANE that we are wasting your time and tax payer money to even involve law enforcement and court. I hope the judge has the common sense to insist that the local law enforcement is retrained on what the legal rights of citizens are. Always with you!

  14. Sir, why dont you get someone with a trailer, to load you guys all up and get the hell out of Lockyouupfornia. I dont see what you see in that state. have them take you all to Arizona or Texas where you would be welcomed. What a shitty state that will not allow people and animals to walk freely on the side of highways after all, we paid the taxes to have them built. Sorry but that is my opinion.

    1. Probably because he shouldn’t have to move. He staying to fight and bring awareness. California is a gorgeous state with beautiful weather. If you live your life outdoors that’s the place to be.

  15. John,
    You and your mules are welcome to stay at our small ranch in rural Arroyo Grande on Highway 227 while you await your court date.
    Best regards,
    David & Terri Shearer

  16. Hi John, LG, and LE,
    We’re with you on this journey ! I’m wondering how much was spent in wages, fuel, etc. with these badges running back and forth making sure they prevailed over a wise man and his mules … for the time being only. Mules Nation is watching and here to help. Goodness shall prevail! Love, Kathy & Mike

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