Bad Choices

I was on routine patrol at about 10 A.M. when I saw a car stopped in the traffic lane, with its emergency blinkers flashing. I pulled in behind it and saw that there was no one inside, so I ran the license plate and prepared to tow the car out of the traffic lane. The dispatcher immediately told me that the vehicle was stolen. That wasn’t something I expected, but I got out of my car and started filling out my paperwork to recover the stolen vehicle. As the dispatcher gave me the information I needed about the vehicle, he asked me, “Do you want to know who stole the car?”

Well, that’s new. I told him that I did. “The report says that the suspect is Bob Sanders, white, male, adult, six foot two inches, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks.”

I acknowledged the report and looked up and saw a white, male, adult, about six foot two, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks. He saw me and hesitated, then started to turn down a side-street.

I called out, “Mr. Sanders, can you talk to me for a moment?”

Sanders’ whole body sagged as he stopped and turned to walk over to me.

I placed him under arrest for vehicle theft, handcuffed him, and put him in my car.

Now, my county engaged in a sort of competition during the holidays in which all the law enforcement agencies would try to arrest the most DUI drivers. This was highly publicized in an effort to reduce DUI incidents altogether. This incident occurred during that competition time frame. When I returned to the police station with him and read him his Miranda Rights, he agreed to talk to me. (Never do that, by the way. Ask for a lawyer). He explained that the vehicle was his employer’s and he had been sent out to pick up some materials. Instead, he found himself in a bar with some of his friends and they drank and did drugs into the wee hours of the morning.

Drinking, you say. Doing drugs, you say. Hmmmm.

I asked him to perform field sobriety exercises and he failed miserably. I added the charge of DUI, based solely on his statement, because, well, it was that time of year.

Months later, in court for his preliminary hearing, I was on the stand to testify. His attorney, who appeared fairly young, approached and asked me (in a condescending tone), “Sgt. Blalock, as a University police officer, how many DUI arrests have you actually made in your career?”

I’m certain that she was expecting me to answer, “Well, I’ve seen the CHP do it a couple of times, but I haven’t really had to do it myself.”

But instead, my answer was, “Ummm, about 300.”

This flustered her and her eyes got big; her whole defense of the incompetent investigator had vanished. She shuffled through her reports and her notes and she regrouped and asked, “Sgt. Blalock, my client was on S. 4th Street when you stopped him. Do you usually patrol this far off the university campus?”

The prosecuting attorney actually started laughing out loud, as University police in California have authority anywhere in the State as state police. And S. 4th Street bordered the campus. The defense attorney withdrew her question.

I learned later that he simply plead guilty to all the charges, including the DUI. I had never even seen him in the vehicle, much less driving. He definitely deserved a better attorney.