Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Friday, May 29, 2009

DWIs, The Fourth Amendment, and Differing Views

Recently, my friend Tamara responded to a story in a Dallas paper, which warned that Memorial Day Weekend would be a "No-Refusal Weekend." The paper claimed that drivers arrested for DWI would be made to submit a blood test. Period. That's all the story said.

This made Tamara understandably a bit pissed. Y'all know Tam, right? Kind of libertarian?

Seeing Tam's post early, I began composing what I thought would be the very first response. Heh. During my long-winded typing session, three others managed to post before I did, and then I discovered that I had exceeded Blogger's 4000 character limit in responses, and had to divy up my reply. Sadly, there's no way
to edit responses, or I would have changed a lot. (Such as a "One:" without a "Two:". Ouch.) It read thusly:

Oops. You're mistaking the Dallas Observer for quality journalism; it ain't so. (Note: former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller (2002-2007) came to Dallas as an exposé journalist for the Observer, having [I believe] just left the National Enquirer. Kinda brings the whole damned city down a notch or two, doesn't it? Puts it in the same pool as Cincinnati, once you find out that Jerry Springer was their frickin' mayor, once.) There's some stuff you're not hearing there.

One: In Texas, when a driver is arrested for DWI, he is read a DIC-24 Statutory Warning. It tells, in medium legalese, what will happen if you don't submit a specimen of your blood and/or breath. You are provided with a copy of the DIC-24, and it is read aloud to you in either English or Spanish. (I suppose if there were other languages, we'd call the Language Line. So far it's always one of these two for me.) We then ask the arrestee, whom we MUST have had probable cause to arrest, for a specimen, and he or she can either refuse (and be subject to a lengthy D.L. suspension, since they agreed administratively to give a specimen when they obtained their license from the state), or submit to the specimen. If the driver refuses, then the officer usually shrugs and says, "cool-- one less piece of paperwork to keep up with," and books in the driver. The book-in will include writing an affidavit of probable cause, which in the morning a judge or arraigning magistrate will review with a critical eye toward whether the officer had sufficient reasonable suspicion to stop the driver and investigate as to his level of intoxication, and whether the officer had found, and could articulate under oath, sufficient probable cause that he could legally arrest the driver.

Think these don't get kicked back without P.C. found? It happens. I've seen it happen. (NEVER to one of my P.C. affidavits, I hasten to add.) If the officer puts down "saw drunk, arrested same," that's not gonna fly. If the officer simply states that the stop was based on "weaving," that's not sufficient. D.W.I.s are tough to get to P.C. for.

Now, there are times where the driver really, really, REALLY needs to give his blood, but refuses. What's the officer to do? Well, he can try to compel the driver to give that blood up. How? Well, that takes a warrant. In fact, it's a search warrant (and some now type 'em up as search and arrest warrants, since they have to meet the same criteria.). The judge has to be a member of the bar (can't be a Podunk Municipal traffic judge or mayor, and can't be a Justice of the Peace). Deep at night, judges are typically asleep in their beds, and most cops don't want to wake them up, so this hasn't typically been done. But if, say, you have an egregious Hit & Run, or a felony DWI (3rd or more, or with a kid in the car), you go ahead and wake the judge, and present your PC while another cop watches your prisoner. (Note: it's *BAD* for a cop's career to bring a prisoner to the judge's home. This makes judges understandably cranky.) The judge puts a VERY careful eye to the officer's probable cause before granting a warrant to seize the driver's blood.

The problem, of course, is that, tick-tock, tick-tock-- that ethanol is being metabolized out of the driver's bloodstream at an average rate of .02% BAC per hour. Arrest a driver who was at 0.119 at midnight, and by 02:15 he may very well be below 0.08, which is the prima facie level to presume intoxication.

It's happened more than once that an officer seeking a warrant for a blood draw has been refused one by a judge, even though another judge or magistrate found sufficient P.C. to arraign, and set a bond for the crime. The standard is usually a little higher for the warrant than for arrest.

The officer must, upon the order of the judge to do so, forthwith obtain a specimen of the driver's blood. He has no choice in the matter, under penalty of Contempt of Court.

What Dallas has been trying out on its No Refusal Weekends is that they're having judges at the jail or at the mobile command posts, ready and on duty to review the officer's probable cause for arrest right then and there. If he finds none, I would assume that the driver is cut loose, absent another cause for arrest. This could actually save a driver a night in jail.

The paper kinda forgot to mention the fact that the Dallas Police are only going to be taking that blood without consent after obtaining a warrant from a judge to do so.

And that's constitutional.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

A LOT of comments were made in response, (go read if you want; I'll not post them all here), and I ended up responding yet again:

Wow. Busy thread. But that's good. This is a discussion worthy of having. Might be nice to tone it down just a tad so people don't get their feelings hurt*, but otherwise, I'm all for it.

theirritablearchitect, you seem to be making some assumptions about me. First, I'm a citizen, too, and I'm a staunch supporter of all of our rights, and most especially those recognized by the Bill Of Rights. Second, I'm a cop, and I'm one who is proud of the fact that I pull drunk drivers off the road ethically and legally. I know very well that I will save more lives with my DWI arrests than I ever will with my gun. I won't detail the very sad and very grisly scenes that I've observed, which were directly caused by a drunk driver; that's the kind of emotional plea that we see too often from the gun-grabbers and those who similarly wish to incite us to give up our rights out of response to emotion rather than logic.

I WILL say, that today's system is much, much better than it was. And it will get better. Back in the day, a person might or might not have been drunk, and you basically had to just take the cop's opinion for it, without even reference to validated evidence. Now, there are very highly validated tests that let the officer see and testify to actual clues of intoxication. Frankly, I've had to cut folks loose at roadside after being CERTAIN, before the tests, that they were going to go to jail. One swig of beer and answering their cell phone had caused me to strongly suspect that they were drunk... until the tests proved otherwise.

So it's an assault, when I sit an intoxicated person down in a chair or gurney at a hospital, and have an experienced phlebotomist draw his blood with an 18 gauge needle, and then put a band aid over the spot, even with the judge's order to do so? The last guy that I gave a blood draw to (by his videotaped consent, you'll be glad to know) said, " I didn't even feel it, and I HATE needles. I guess that I'm too drunk to feel it." I'm not buying that.
You want to bring up Kathryn Johnson, about this? Really? So the issue isn't so much that you're unhappy with the cops obtaining evidence of DWI by a non-consensual blood draw, after obtaining a warrant from a judge. The real issue, for you, is the sweeping pervasiveness of unethical policing that you see, am I right? (I don't want to make generalizations about you. I don't know you. I can only go from what little of your writing that I've read. Perhaps you might read a little of my writing, on that very issue.)

Question: if I and all of my fellow cops are dirty, then why do we keep finding that our arrestees are acquitted, periodically? I had a stop thrown out because I had to answer that I couldn't recall if THAT day I had already checked the calibration of a radar unit that had never failed to show calibration on the hundreds of times that I had checked it over the preceding years. I stated truthfully that I didn't know the time that my intoxylizer operator began observing my arrestee after she went to the bathroom, and her breath specimen was thrown out. My co-worker stated truthfully that he had not observed any traffic infractions on a traffic stop made for a broken tail light, which the judge felt was not sufficient for a stop (under brand new case law), and that stop was thrown out.

DWIs/DUIs are the hardest cases that we pursue. It is a fact that it is harder to convict someone of murder than for a first DWI, which is a class B misdemeanor in Texas (one step higher than a mere traffic ticket). They are a pain in the ass to file all of the administrative paperwork on, and to fill out the lengthy case report on. They have disproportionately high likelihood of having to go to court, which few cops like doing. Our supervisors generally don't like them, because they take so much of our time. On average, a DWI takes 4 hours to deal with. Frankly, mine take longer. Maybe I'm thorough, or maybe I need to manage my time better. And we will never know if this drunk was the one that was going to kill someone before making it home. What in the world would possibly compel me to want to mess with them, other than the fact that I believe that I'm protecting the community that I work in, and also happen to live in? The answer is: there is a direct correlation between the increased enforcement of DWIs and the reduction of alcohol-related collisions.

For what it's worth, I am against checkpoints, and have made this clear to my co-workers. Regardless of the fact that some courts have found them to be constitutional in some circumstances, I believe that DWI/License/Insurance checkpoints are patent violations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Yeah, I've dealt with ketoacidosis. I've called ambulances to the scene more than once, to administer treatment to a fragile diabetic. The first time I did it, I was amazed. A little sugar paste in her mouth, and 60 seconds later the driver was alert and asking where in the world she was. She had wrecked out several times before I found her. She had been very close to going comatose. The next time I found it, it was an interesting case, because in fact the driver had been drinking, but not much. He hadn't been watching his sugar. On a hunch, I called out an ambulance, and took a blood sugar reading from this very surly driver. He insisted that he was FINE, and wanted to fight. This guy wasn't right. Something was wrong. We took a NON-CONSENSUAL blood sample from his finger, and found that he had a glucose level of 24. After some sugar (we could only get him up to 75-- he was big), he calmed down, got coherent, complained of a headache, and blew a .03 on my portable breath test device. Not high enough to meet the standards for intoxication, but high enough to confuse the issue. Given the totality of the circumstances, I decided he needed a ride, and called one for him. Another time, I called an ambulance and just had the guy sent to the hospital, and towed his vehicle. I talked the wrecker driver who picked up the driver's car into giving the driver a huge break in his tow fee when he got out of the hospital.

They say that the ketones smell "fruity," but to me they smell like acetone, which no one in their right mind would be swigging. A routine question that we ask early in the investigation for DWI is "Do you have diabetes?" Ketoacidosis is not found in adult-onset Type II diabetes, but rather is found in full-blown Type I diabetes. People who get it know that they have diabetes, because this is an ongoing disease. That first girl that I mentioned above, I asked what prescription medications she was taking, and she muttered that she took insulin. Bingo. And what about those that are already passed out and can't tell me? Well, they go to the hospital, anyway. Anytime I've got one that can't answer my questions coherently, I check them out with a medic, and most specifically ask for a glucose check.

But you don't want to hear about protocol. You've already said so.


* "That scenario should be met with one of several different actions that I can think of, and some of it involves your duly earned harm, in one way or another. Statist lout, hope you sleep well with this shit."

I am sincerely sorry for tying up Tamara's comments. I do not apologize for what I said, nor for what I do as part of my duty.

I have to admit always feeling uncomfortable, anytime that I find myself defending Dallas P.D. on something, though. :)

And, yes, I'm aware that this post resembles one of those television episodes that is comprised of mostly clips from previous episodes that you've seen before. :)

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Silly little scam email.

We all get Nigerian 419 scam emails. This one hit my email today, and banks on the recipient's greed that they will send $219 in the hopes of getting free money.

Believe it or not, I actually had someone receive some very nicely-forged travelers cheques and try to cash them before sending money, and they brought them to my PD to make a complaint. I asked whether the complainant had sent any money, and the complainant responded that they thought that it probably was a scam, and had not. I didn't even bother with a case number, typing a quick incident report instead. There's zero chance of catching these international folk. You just have to be alert, and send to money to uninvited emails.

I post this scam text in its entirety simply to document it on the search engines. Then again, people who are smart enough to check the text via a search engine are usually smart enough to know not to respond to this kind of scam.

The email title is: Alert:shipment information

"Customer Service:We have been waiting for you to contact us for your Package that is been registeredwith us for shipping to your residential location. We had thought that your sendergave you our contact details. It may interest you to know that a letter is also addedto your package. However, we cannot quote the content of your package, except that ithas a Bank Draft worth of $288,000.00 (Two Hundred and Eighty Eight Thousand USDollars). As you know, FedEx does not ship money in CASH or in CHEQUES but BANKDRAFTS are shippable.

The package is registered with us for mailing by an official of the united nationoffice in UK. We are sending you this email because your package is been registeredon a Special Order. What you have to do now, is to contact our Delivery Departmentfor immediate dispatch of your package to your residential address. Note that as soonas our Delivery Team confirms your information, it will take three (3) working days(72Hrs) for your package to arrive at your designated destination.For your information, the VAT & Shipping charges as well as Insurance fees have beenpaid by your colleague before your package was registered.Note that the payment that is made on the Insurance, Premium & ClearanceCertificates, are to certify that the Bank Draft is not a Drug Affiliated Fund DAF)neither is it funds to sponsor Terrorism in your country. This will help you avoidany form of query from the Monetary Authority of your country.However, you will have to pay a sum of £105 GBP which is equivalent to $210 USD tothe FedEx Delivery Department being full payment for the Security Keeping Fee of theFedEx Company as stated in our privacy terms & condition page. Also be informed thatyour colleague wished to pay for the Security Keeping charges, but we do not acceptsuch payments considering the fact that all items & packages that is registered withus have a time limitation and we cannot accept payment without knowing when you willbe picking up the package or even respond to us. So we cannot take the risk to haveaccepted such a payment incase of any possible demurrage. Kindly note that yourcolleague did not leave us with any further information.We hope that you respond to us as soon as possible because if you fail to responduntil the expiry date of the foremost package, we may refer the package to theBritish Commission for Welfare as the package do not have a return address. Kindlycontact the delivery department (FedEx Delivery Post) with the details given below:
Contact Person: Mr. Richard raynor
Tel: +234-7062266794
Kindly complete the below form and send it to the email address given above.. This is mandatory to reconfirm your Postal address and telephone numbers.

As soon as your details are received, our delivery team will give you the necessarypayment procedure so that you can effect the payment for the Security Keeping Fees.As soon as they confirm your payment of £105 GBP which is equivalent to $210 USD,they shall immediately dispatch your package to the designated address. It usuallytakes 72 Hours being an express delivery service.Ensure to contact the delivery department with the email address and ensure to fillthe above form as well to enable successful reconfirmation.

Yours Faithfully,
Mrs .chiara dallavalle
FedEx Online Management Team.
All rights reserved. © 1995-2009 FedEx."

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's not crazy....

...that I keep poultry in my little back yard in town, is it?
Or that we named them?

Clockwise from the top: Pot Pie, Yolky, Lulu, and Bock-Bock.

Lulu is the head of the pecking order, and we thought that Bock-Bock would never fit in, because we got her last, and for the first week the others pecked at her. We had originally gotten four chicks as un-sexed birds. It's hard to tell gender until they're mostly full grown. We didn't want roosters, because we would be unpopular with the neighbors. We found that one of our original four was a rooster, and took him back to the feed store to trade him for a pullet, which we brought home in an empty yellow Shiner Bock case box. My wife and I quickly dubbed the poultry conveyance device the Bok-Bok Bock Box, for the sounds emitting form it on the way home. The name stuck, and we named her Bock-Bock. :)

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Friday, May 15, 2009

That's it! I'm leaving this country!

Not to sound like a Baldwin, or Streisand, or anything. Frankly, as I don't consider myself the star of my own movie, if I were leaving for political reasons, I wouldn't say so here; I'd just go. And just as frankly, with Barry O' in office, I actually have more incentive to stick around and keep a sharp eye on my money.

But go I shall, and soon. My wife and I are taking our first vacation in 6 years, and it is to be our very first international vacation together.

See, last year, we got the hunger to go afield so badly, that we applied for and received our very first passports. I was shocked, once I finally did it, how easy it was. I had built it up in my head into this mammoth task that would take months and many hundreds of dollars to overcome. Instead, I took my docs with me to the post office, and stood in one short line, and after I had paid my state department fee and my post office fee, I was ushered back to get my picture taken. One-stop shopping! I was grinning so big when I signed for my receipt, that the guy across the desk shook my hand and said "Congratulations." To be honest? It wasn't funny to me. I felt like a citizen of the world all of a sudden.

I got my passport in the mail less than two weeks later. (I'm serious. There are areas of the government that seem capable of some efficiency.)

So my bride and I found that, by some oversight or other, we had managed to accumulate enough money to go on vacation. When my father and step-mother offered to take the kids off of our hands for a week, we said, "Take 'em!" and then set to planning.

My bride wanted a cruise. But having read the Atomic Nerds' experiences, I was kind of cautious about putting myself on a ship where I was to be unarmed, and relinquishing control of my destiny. All of the cruises gave you less than a day at each port. Knowing that a full hour would likely be devoted to disembarking at each port, this time seemed to me to be too short.

So we looked at some places to go. I threw out the idea of Belize. My wife challenged me with, "Fine. Do it."

So I did it. 7 days in Belize. While I do have some serious plans to be repeatedly served drinks on a beach by gracious Latinas with British accents, I still want to see culture, ruins, and I want to sunburn my butt whilst I snorkel the reefs.

So here's my request, gentle readers: From your own experiences, please give me some pointers, some must-sees, and some for-Gawd's-sake-stay-away-froms. I'm NOT a regular traveler, and I'm not too proud to take notes.

"Under the shade I flourish." I can handle that motto.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

17 minutes of really interesting commentary.

Have you seen Bill Whittle's video? In it, he presents a very concise and fact-filled response to Jon Stewart's assertion that Truman was a war criminal for having bombed Japanese cities. *

Already having known the story, I didn't need convincing, but I'll admit to having found it fascinating, nonetheless.

I had visited his blog, Eject! Eject! Eject! before. But I'd never heard him speak. Not bad.

*Stewart was apparently moved to retract his statement. Good for him.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Buy this shirt.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

And as they were thrown out of their own embassy,

...a voice from behind the door could be heard to say, "Is not bacon. Is round ham!!!"

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Busy, again.

Every May that I've been at university, I've hated myself for putting off my studies for my classes. This May is no different.

Things have been slow here, I know. That will continue for a short while longer. Sorry.

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