The week was done and my client, let’s call him Joe, finally made it to his favorite watering hole.
You know police are out in force looking for drunk drivers, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. So, Joe didn’t start out intending to get drunk and drive. But, as the drinks began to flow, his inhibitions weakened and the thought of “just one more” didn’t seem like such a bad idea. After all, he was there among friends.
Finally, the thought occurred to him to leave – to drive himself home, before he felt that he had “too much” to drink. Do I really even know how much is “too much?” Joe thought to himself as he fumbled for his keys. Of course not. But he felt fine. He wasn’t stumbling or losing his balance – “no problem” he told himself.
While driving down a long stretch of road, Joe noticed some headlights pretty far behind him. As he approached a stop sign, he turned his blinker on to turn left. He stopped, turned left and proceeded on down the road.
Suddenly Joe noticed those headlights behind him quickly getting closer. It was then that he realized it was a police car with its emergency lights illuminated. “Is he after me?” Joe thought out loud. What did I do wrong? Is he going to know if I’ve been drinking? Will I be arrested for DUI? Joe’s stomach felt sick and he started to worry. He had a friend that lost her license for a year after a DUI. If that happened, how would he get his daughter to school in the morning? How would he get to work? What would he tell his wife? His friends? Joe had responsibilities. He was a good person.
Sure enough, the flashing lights got closer and closer in Joe’s rear view mirror. The police car pulled him over, and Joe’s heart wouldn’t stop thumping as the cop approached his window.
“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer bellowed. His voice was deep, and he spat out his words with the authority of a drill sergeant.
Joe thought to himself, “I don’t think I was speeding… I stopped at the stop sign… I used my turn signal.”
“No officer, I don’t think I was speeding or anything.” Joe replied, trying to enunciate his words as clearly as possible while maintaining eye contact so the officer wouldn’t suspect anything.
“OK well you didn’t turn your blinker on between 300 feet and a half a mile before you turned,” the officer explained.
The officer had been following Joe since he left the bar. He noticed Joe squealed his tires when he pulled out of the parking lot back at the bar, and that was what called his attention to Joe in the first place. The failure to turn on the turn signal at least 300 feet before the intersection gave the police officer a reason to pull Joe over. Joe felt compelled to explain that he had never heard of that law.
The officer moved in closer, apparently intent on hearing what Joe had to say. As he got closer, he thought he smelled the odor of alcohol on Joe’s breath. He looked Joe in the eyes. He looked tired, and his eyes were watery.
“License and registration please,” said the officer.
Joe had difficulty getting his license out of his wallet because he hadn’t taken it out in over a year. After trying his best to get the license out from behind the clear plastic cover, he gave up and just handed his entire wallet to the officer. The police man reached into the wallet with his thumb and first finger and surgically removed the license in one yank, then handed the wallet back to Joe without blinking.
Joe fumbled around in the glove compartment, until he found the document he was searching for. “Here ya go” he said as he handed it to the cop.
“That’s your insurance card, sir. Registration please.”
Joe went back to fumbling.
Joe wanted to be as cooperative as possible. Hopefully the officer saw that. He found the registration stuck in the front of his owner’s manual and handed it over to the waiting patrolman, who then walked back to his patrol car. The officer sat in the patrol car with his eyes down for a long time. The lights kept flashing.
“I guess he can’t see those flashing lights from inside the patrol car,” Joe thought to himself. They were driving Joe crazy as they danced off all the shiny objects surrounding him — his side mirrors, his rear view mirror, the chrome trim on his dashboard.
After an eternity, and after checking Joe’s documents against the computer in his cruiser, the officer returned to Joe’s window and asked, “Sir, have you had anything to drink?”
Joe was raised to believe that honesty is the best policy, and he so wanted to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but not all at once. So he said, “Yes sir, but… I’ve had two beers this evening.”
Joe thought he saw the corners of the officer’s mouth curl upward ever so slightly to form a faint grin when he said “two beers”.
“Please step out of the car”.
Joe stepped out of the car and was directed to walk to a spot on the shoulder of the road in front of his front bumper.
Standing on the shoulder of the road, Joe saw that the officer wasn’t as tall as he seemed when he first came to Joe’s window. Joe felt this wasn’t so bad. Strangely, the fact that this police man wasn’t as tall as Joe made him feel like things weren’t so bad. Maybe this was just a regular guy in a uniform protecting the public. Joe actually kind of felt bad for the officer. It was starting to rain and here he was standing out there getting wet, and for no good reason. “This will be quick” Joe thought to himself.
The officer stepped up to Joe and looked him in the eye. He started describing to Joe what they were going to do there on the side of the road. “You’re going to stand like this” he heard the officer say, and then something about “hold your toe up in the air” and “look straight ahead”. He didn’t catch all of what the officer said, but when the officer said “OK Your Turn”, Joe did his best to mimic what the officer had done.
“Now you’re going to count backwards from…” Joe couldn’t really hear all of what the officer was saying but he didn’t want him to think he was drunk and out of control, so he did his best to follow along with what he was being told to do, and he gave it the ol’ college try.
After going through what must have been half a dozen of these types of roadside tests, the officer told Joe to stand and face the front of his car. The officer pushed his shoulders forward and Joe caught himself by placing his hands on the hood of the car. The officer pulled one arm behind Joe’s back. He felt the clicking of a handcuff around his wrist. Then the officer made him put his other hand behind his back, and he felt that clicking sensation again and he couldn’t use his hands any longer.
The officer walked Joe toward the police cruiser and opened the back door for him. Joe felt the officer’s hand on the top of his head as he crouched to get into the back seat. Joe tried to sit still in the back of the patrol car, but he had to lean to the side because the handcuffs hurt his wrist. The officer got into the driver’s seat and spoke on the radio. Joe felt like his head was spinning. He could hear the officer talking but he was so upset that none of the words made any sense. Joe looked out the window and tried not to start crying. He had never been arrested before.
The people driving by were looking into the back of the police cruiser and seeing Joe. One woman looked him right in the eyes. “She thinks I’m a criminal” he whispered to himself.
And then they pulled away, leaving Joe’s car on the side of the road.
To be continued…
This story is a purely fictional account. Any resemblance of this story or the characters in this story to real DUI arrest cases or real persons is purely happenstance.
Matt Stiller is the Delaware DUI Defender. If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Delaware, call Matt today for a free consultation. Matt handles DUI cases in New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County, Delaware.