Fun with Drunk Drivers

 

I didn’t want to hijack @dougwatt‘s post with my experiences, so I’ll relate them here.

I was a DWI investigator for three years, a certified “expert,” and the go-to guy for DWI investigations for most of the squads I was assigned. Unlike Doug Watt, I arrested a lot of “DWI virgins,” although “studies have shown” that the average offender drives drunk ten times before they actually get caught.

Unlike some states, New Mexico allowed DWI roadblocks. On one of these, a drunk pulled up in an RV. He was arrested and we turned the vehicle over to his sober passenger. Who drove the RV to the jail and bonded the guy out. Then gave the keys back to him. He immediately drove back to the same roadblock and was arrested again. This time we arrested the passenger, too, for aiding and abetting, and towed the vehicle.

Police cars are magnets for drunk drivers. I had my squad hit or almost hit so many times I lost count. Once I was pulling out of a parking lot and had stopped for traffic on the street. The driver behind me didn’t stop. (He was not only drunk but had a library book in the car that was six months overdue; miscreants are seldom one-dimensional.)

Another time, I had my car across a lane of the freeway to protect a crash scene. A drunk tried to drive between my car and the median barrier, without success. I even got hit when I wasn’t on a street or parking lot. When I was doing traffic control for a large event, I would pull up next to the traffic light box so I could change the signals while inside my car. A drunk drove over the curb and rear-ended my car.

I got called to assist a motorcycle officer with a possible DWI. After I arrested the guy, I looked up his record; even though he was from another state, he had a conviction in New Mexico several years previously. The motor cop joked that it was probably me. I didn’t remember the guy, but I pulled the other report and it was. Apparently the guy only came to New Mexico to drink and drive.

Toward the end of my career, I arrested a DWI offender with multiple previous convictions in New Mexico. I pulled his record and found he had 19 previous arrests in six different states. The first arrest had been by an Officer Pluma in the early ’80s. When you’re a cop, you realize there are nothing but coincidences.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Helluva nice set of anecdotes, JP. Reassuring for us civilians to know that we have law enforcement at this high level of common sense. 

    • #1
  2. MISTER BITCOIN Member
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    How does a guy get arrested 19 times and somehow avoids incarceration?

    In New Mexico, what portion of DWI were illegal aliens?  what portion was Navajo?

     

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    JosePluma: Once I was pulling out of a parking lot and had stopped for traffic on the street. The driver behind me didn’t stop. (He was not only drunk but had a library book in the car that was six months overdue; miscreants are seldom one-dimensional.)

    Had a warrant out on him? Now that’s a tough library district.

    • #3
  4. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    JosePluma:

    When you’re a cop, you realize there are nothing but coincidences.

    That’s the big takeaway I got from my dorm-guarding/extensive Campus Police ride along experience. 

    • #4
  5. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Driving sober in four corners area of NM I was stopped by police (for violating center line on a very rural road)who searched my van with a dog. One held me behind the car threatening me if I moved, while the others were banging on my engine up front, ostensibly looking for drugs saying the dog tagged that area. 
    They found nothing and let me go. No ticket, just about 35 minutes of discomfort ( it was quite cold) and fear.

    Traveling through the night into Utah my engine seized. No oil. True story. They sabotaged my vehicle.

    They were tribal police. I was a gringo paleface from New Jersey. So I was ambushed. Needless to say after that experience my trust in LEO’s took a nosedive.

    Have you heard of this practice, Joe?

    • #5
  6. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    As a Military Policeman at Ft Polk, LA, I did a ride along with a Leesville Policeman. Commanders on Ft Polk thought that their soldiers were being treated unfairly by this policeman. In an eight hour shift, this guy stopped eight soldiers. I saw nothing wrong with the driving of any of the eight. After the first four I asked what he was looking for. He told me, if a driver touched a lane line, he was going to be stopped. It didn’t matter how well the driver did with the field sobriety test, he was going to blow. The breath tests were performed according to generally accepted standards. All eight failed. I was amazed. My first impression, was this policeman is stopping random cars with Ft Polk windshield stickers. I walked away thinking this guy is a wizard.

    • #6
  7. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    As a Military Policeman at Ft Polk, LA, I did a ride along with a Leesville Policeman. Commanders on Ft Polk thought that their soldiers were being treated unfairly by this policeman. In an eight hour shift, this guy stopped eight soldiers. I saw nothing wrong with the driving of any of the eight. After the first four I asked what he was looking for. He told me, if a driver touched a lane line, he was going to be stopped. It didn’t matter how well the driver did with the field sobriety test, he was going to blow. The breath tests were performed according to generally accepted standards. All eight failed. I was amazed. My first impression, was this policeman is stopping random cars with Ft Polk windshield stickers. I walked away thinking this guy is a wizard.

    Hmmm. I’d think any smart defense attorney would want to test the calibration on that breathalyzer.

    • #7
  8. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Helluva nice set of anecdotes, JP. Reassuring for us civilians to know that we have law enforcement at this high level of common sense.

    The police are civilians.  They are not military.

    • #8
  9. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    As a Military Policeman at Ft Polk, LA, I did a ride along with a Leesville Policeman. Commanders on Ft Polk thought that their soldiers were being treated unfairly by this policeman. In an eight hour shift, this guy stopped eight soldiers. I saw nothing wrong with the driving of any of the eight. After the first four I asked what he was looking for. He told me, if a driver touched a lane line, he was going to be stopped. It didn’t matter how well the driver did with the field sobriety test, he was going to blow. The breath tests were performed according to generally accepted standards. All eight failed. I was amazed. My first impression, was this policeman is stopping random cars with Ft Polk windshield stickers. I walked away thinking this guy is a wizard.

    Hmmm. I’d think any smart defense attorney would want to test the calibration on that breathalyzer.

    I think any smart defense attorney would like to examine the probable cause as well.  Touching a lane line is pretty lame.

    • #9
  10. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Then there was the highway in the rural county of Maryland where we ended up, due to my husband’s job transfer. (There was a big Naval Air Station on the end of the peninsula, and Amish horses & buggies on the roads.) Well, the highway was split with a wide grassy median, and periodically, there was a business or two in the middle, but you could only enter the business area from one side–north or south bound. Sooooo….on the side where there was an entrance, the speed limit dropped from 55 to 30–but only on that one side, just a few hundred feet before the turn off. The other part of the road, in the opposite direction, kept the 55 speed zone.

    I did not notice, at first, this weirdness on the speed limits (and some of the signs were obscured by tree branches–very verdant back there in Southern Maryland.) The main reason I learned to watch for which side the entrances were on was the THREE TICKETS I got in a month when we first moved there! Prior to this, I’d had ONE TICKET in 25 years of driving in Wyo, Idaho, and SoCal.

    So, I also learned that I could scrub them off my driving record by paying the fine, and then helping the local volunteer fire department on their Bingo Fundraising Nights. One ticket/one night…I don’t know if this was the stupidest set up I’d ever experienced, or the smartest set up I’d ever experienced. I also had NO other tickets in the ten years we lived there.

    • #10
  11. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I often covered the clinical lab and blood bank on night shift at an Army base hospital. MPs delivering drunks for first aid (or worse) were not uncommon.

    My favorite memory is a staggering drunk who fell on a fence post or a sign of some kind and punched a small but obvious hole in his cheek. We sent for a surgeon while he sat in the waiting room.

    He took out a cigarette (it was the 1970s) and lit it but he could not draw a puff. He closed one eye and carefully examined the cig for a breach in the paper with as much concentration as he could muster. Finding none he tried again. By then there was a small group of observers. A nurse, two corpsmen and a doc enjoying a performance that could have been done exactly the same by Buster Keaton or Stan Laurel.

    Suddenly his face lit up (you could have drawn a carton lightbulb over him) and he stuck his thumb in the wound to restore suction and he inhaled what was clearly a deeply satisfying drag. The observers reacted disparately. One nurse gagged. The medics laughed and the doc offered mock applause.

    Less amusing were the drunk driving autopsies I had to prep and assist.

    • #11
  12. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    @skyler At catching DWI schools one is taught probabilities of DWI based on the infraction or behavior. I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant. Also, things like driving too slow and driving w/out headlights are significant signs of DWI. Driving w/out headlights is close to a dead give away. So, if you want to meet a policeman, and see how good you are at saying the ABCs backwards starting with U,  drive at night w/out headlights.

    • #12
  13. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion. 

    • #13
  14. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    @fritz I checked the breathalyzer to see if I would blow DWI. .00, so, seemed legit to me. They were all legitimately DWI. One soldier did the field sobriety so well, I thought, no way he’s going to take him in for the breathalyzer.  Turns out he had the highest of the night.

    • #14
  15. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    • #15
  16. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    The drunk driving laws are reasonable but there should be more discretion in enforcement.

    Often,  the ones who break the law causing maximum damage are beyond control.

    The ones who drive a few country miles home from a local tavern are generally harmless. 

    There’s a big difference between  teenagers guzzling beer and taking extreme risks in high speeds and some geezer who’s had one too many beers carefully trying to maintain his lane within the speed limit on the dark road home.

    This very post highlights the issue. The repeat offenders are insufficiently controlled by the system, while many ordinary, exponentially lower ‘threats’ to the safety of the roads are the easy fish to catch and control.

    I see this dynamic everywhere.

    • #16
  17. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    One night, about 0200hrs I gave my platoon leader a ride home rather than a ride to the PMO. He didn’t even recognize me.  I don’t know how he even found his car in the morning. I was a SGT E5 then. When I was a SGT E8, no rides home. A ride home put my career on the line, a bet I was unwilling to place.

    • #17
  18. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand.  I’m not impugning you at all.  I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool. 

    • #18
  19. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The last time I drove drunk was on leave at home in Washington DC in 1972. When stopped by the flashing lights for weaving (must have been that lane marker thing, eh), I fumbled for my license and registration and also handed my military ID to the officer. He asked questions and incorrectly formed the opinion I was just returning from combat. He then said something like “If you survived that we are sure as hell not going to let you get killed back here.”

    I then drove home across the District of Columbia behind a squad car with flashing lights clearing traffic for me. The two policemen waited for me to park (I’m a city boy—I could parallel park on one try drunk, sober or asleep). They again warned me not to be stupid and to stay safe.

    I realized then that I had probably just used up more good luck than I deserved in a lifetime and never even considered driving and drinking ever again. God bless the Metropolitan Police Department of DC.

    • #19
  20. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand. I’m not impugning you at all. I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool.

    My point was if you went to court claiming lane infraction was weak, you had no chance. I didn’t think you were attacking me. I was trying to say the argument has been argued.  My only experience was military justice where the purpose isn’t justice, it’s discipline. So, in a civilian court, lane infraction may indeed be weak.

    • #20
  21. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand. I’m not impugning you at all. I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool.

    My point was if you went to court claiming lane infraction was weak, you had no chance. I didn’t think you were attacking me. I was trying to say the argument has been argued. My only experience was military justice where the purpose isn’t justice, it’s discipline. So, in a civilian court, lane infraction may indeed be weak.

    I don’t do criminal law.  I do think that the cops frequently use boiler plate reports that are unverifiable; lane infraction, “glassy eyes,” etc.  For the life of me I have no idea what “glassy eyes” mean.  Sure sounds authoritative though. 

    • #21
  22. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand. I’m not impugning you at all. I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool.

    My point was if you went to court claiming lane infraction was weak, you had no chance. I didn’t think you were attacking me. I was trying to say the argument has been argued. My only experience was military justice where the purpose isn’t justice, it’s discipline. So, in a civilian court, lane infraction may indeed be weak.

    I don’t do criminal law. I do think that the cops frequently use boiler plate reports that are unverifiable; lane infraction, “glassy eyes,” etc. For the life of me I have no idea what “glassy eyes” mean. Sure sounds authoritative though.

    Cops do learn how to write.

    • #22
  23. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand. I’m not impugning you at all. I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool.

    My point was if you went to court claiming lane infraction was weak, you had no chance. I didn’t think you were attacking me. I was trying to say the argument has been argued. My only experience was military justice where the purpose isn’t justice, it’s discipline. So, in a civilian court, lane infraction may indeed be weak.

    I don’t do criminal law. I do think that the cops frequently use boiler plate reports that are unverifiable; lane infraction, “glassy eyes,” etc. For the life of me I have no idea what “glassy eyes” mean. Sure sounds authoritative though.

    Cops do learn how to write.

    Huh?  Then why do they use the same formula again and again on their incident reports.  If you read one DUI arrest report, you’ve read them all.  The only change is the street name.  “Glassy eyes” is a meaningless term that sounds meaningful.

    • #23
  24. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    One of the city cops I knew, back in the day, was telling us one night about a traffic stop he just made on a suspected DUI. Turns out the guy was an Olympic-class gymnast, and when asked to walk a straight line out ten steps and back, he made a straight line line out, and came back walking on his hands. 

    • #24
  25. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    One of the city cops I knew, back in the day, was telling us one night about a traffic stop he just made on a suspected DUI. Turns out the guy was an Olympic-class gymnast, and when asked to walk a straight line out ten steps and back, he made a straight line line out, and came back walking on his hands. 

    So he was arrested for not following the instructions . . . 

    • #25
  26. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Franco (View Comment):

    Driving sober in four corners area of NM I was stopped by police (for violating center line on a very rural road)who searched my van with a dog. One held me behind the car threatening me if I moved, while the others were banging on my engine up front, ostensibly looking for drugs saying the dog tagged that area.
    They found nothing and let me go. No ticket, just about 35 minutes of discomfort ( it was quite cold) and fear.

    Traveling through the night into Utah my engine seized. No oil. True story. They sabotaged my vehicle.

    They were tribal police. I was a gringo paleface from New Jersey. So I was ambushed. Needless to say after that experience my trust in LEO’s took a nosedive.

    Have you heard of this practice, Joe?

    No, and I’m pretty incensed by that.

    • #26
  27. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    As a Military Policeman at Ft Polk, LA, I did a ride along with a Leesville Policeman. Commanders on Ft Polk thought that their soldiers were being treated unfairly by this policeman. In an eight hour shift, this guy stopped eight soldiers. I saw nothing wrong with the driving of any of the eight. After the first four I asked what he was looking for. He told me, if a driver touched a lane line, he was going to be stopped. It didn’t matter how well the driver did with the field sobriety test, he was going to blow. The breath tests were performed according to generally accepted standards. All eight failed. I was amazed. My first impression, was this policeman is stopping random cars with Ft Polk windshield stickers. I walked away thinking this guy is a wizard.

    There are a lot of subtleties that take years of training and experience to pick up on.  One field test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, indicates impairment even if the person is able to do the other tests.  Unfortunately, it is not obvious to an outside observer what is happening when you administer that test.

    • #27
  28. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Joe Boyle (View Comment):
    I’ve forgotten the numbers but the probability of DWI based on lane infraction is not insignificant

    A very convenient conclusion.

    Not sure I understand your point. But I’m not making it up, just reporting the news.

    You misunderstand. I’m not impugning you at all. I just think the people making the conclusion and teaching you this found a very convenient tool.

    My point was if you went to court claiming lane infraction was weak, you had no chance. I didn’t think you were attacking me. I was trying to say the argument has been argued. My only experience was military justice where the purpose isn’t justice, it’s discipline. So, in a civilian court, lane infraction may indeed be weak.

    I don’t do criminal law. I do think that the cops frequently use boiler plate reports that are unverifiable; lane infraction, “glassy eyes,” etc. For the life of me I have no idea what “glassy eyes” mean. Sure sounds authoritative though.

    Cops do learn how to write.

    Huh? Then why do they use the same formula again and again on their incident reports. If you read one DUI arrest report, you’ve read them all. The only change is the street name. “Glassy eyes” is a meaningless term that sounds meaningful.

    One defense attorney pointed out that my description of the DWIs I arrested all had the same symptoms:  Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, odor of an alcoholic beverage to their breath.  I replied “That’s true, the people who didn’t have those signs didn’t get arrested.”

    For the record, I never used the term “glassy eyes” in any of my reports.

    • #28
  29. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    One of the city cops I knew, back in the day, was telling us one night about a traffic stop he just made on a suspected DUI. Turns out the guy was an Olympic-class gymnast, and when asked to walk a straight line out ten steps and back, he made a straight line line out, and came back walking on his hands.

    I’ve had people do things like that.  They immediately get arrested.  It shows good coordination but an appalling impairment of judgement.

    • #29
  30. Joe Boyle Member
    Joe Boyle
    @JoeBoyle

    I used glassy eyes when describing a marijuana offense. I had no idea what it meant. I did know it worked. I wasn’t trying to convince a jury or a judge. My audience was a company commander.

    • #30