Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tis the Season

Since New Year's Eve is only days away, I thought it would be a good time to re-post this (especially since we had four DUI arrests on Sunday alone!) Keep this in mind if you're out partying. If you've had more than one or two drinks over the course of the evening, make sure someone else drives please!

The following is fiction, but details what a typical DUI arrest might be like—at least in Shaler Township. Definitely not great literature by any means, but you'll get the idea.

I flicked the switch for the overhead lights on my patrol car when the Ford Taurus that I’d been following for half a mile crossed the center line for the third time. When the car didn’t pull over, I turned on the siren. The Taurus slowed down, drifted toward the curb and stopped.

I pulled behind the car, leaving enough of my unit in the travel lane for safety. I notified dispatch of my location and gave them the registration number.

Dispatch repeated the plate information and my location. Another unit answered and said he was on his way to back me up.

I grabbed my flashlight and got out of the car. When I reached the Taurus, I pressed on the trunk. It was closed tight. No one in there. Not that there ever would be, but I didn’t like to take chances.

The driver spoke before I did, asking me why he was pulled over. His words were slurred and he reeked of alcohol.

I told him why. I shined the flashlight quickly around the inside of the car. There were four empty beer cans on the floor of the passenger side and an open can in a cup holder.

The driver fumbled with his wallet, passing over his license three times before he found it and handed it to me. He didn’t know where his registration or insurance card were.

I took his license back to my patrol car and entered the info into the MDT. His license came back DUI suspended. Surprise, surprise. Dispatch informed me his vehicle registration was also suspended. I had them notify the towing company.

As I went back to the Taurus, my back up arrived and I filled him in. He stood by while I spoke to the driver again. I asked if he had anything to drink tonight.

He assured me that he’d only had one beer with his dinner.

I suppressed a smile. Why was it they always only had one? Just once I’d like someone to say, “Hell, yeah, I’ve been drinking all night.”

I asked him to step out of the car. He swayed so much he almost fell. I asked him if he had any illness or disability which would preclude him from taking a field sobriety test. He said no and agreed to submit to the test. We moved to a well-lit parking lot nearby. I demonstrated the first one—the finger to nose test. Instead of listening to my instructions, he tried to do it at the same time as I did. The ability to listen to instruction was actually part of the test. He touched his upper lip with his left hand twice and the bridge of his nose, then the side of his nose with his right.

The second test was worse. I showed him how to hold his leg straight in front of him, six inches off the ground. He didn’t even make it to the count of one thousand two on either leg.

The third test was the straight line walk. He not only couldn’t walk heel to toe, he couldn’t even stay on the line. I placed him under arrest, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of my patrol car. The officer backing me up inventoried his car and waited for the tow, while I took the prisoner back to the station.

In the booking room I turned on the Intoxylizer machine to let it warm up while we waited the required twenty minutes before I could test his breath. In the meantime I read him the Chemical Testing form, which explained that if he refused to submit to testing, his license would be suspended for an additional year. Probably didn’t matter to him—he was suspended already and still driving.

He signed the form and I showed him how to blow into the machine. On his first reading, he blew a 0.25 and on the second, a 0.21. I gave him a copy of the reading and asked if there was someone he could call to pick him up. He arranged for his wife to get him. When she arrived at the station, I explained that he would be charged with DUI by summons and he’d be notified of the preliminary hearing. If he failed to appear, a warrant would be issued for his physical arrest and he’d be taken to the county jail.

That was one off the road. At least for tonight.

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