I was only able to get $540 together, but it would be enough. They told me I could pay whatever I could afford each time I saw them, just so long as I was all paid up on the last court date. Armed with this cash, I put on my suit of armor. Well, okay, it was just a suit, and it was kind of big for me. I used to weigh 306 pounds, and that was when I got the suit. I’m down to 220, so it hangs off me. One way or the other, I was dressed to win. This is the kind of outfit blood-thirsty people wear when they go to court.
Fortified with a breakfast of Pop Tarts and Tang, I hit the road and got to court early. Yes, I am a very punctual person. Impression is everything. Besides, if there were any problems, I wanted my lawyer to have plenty of time to talk with me.
When I got into the courtroom, where I was to meet my lawyer, I settled in and looked around at my fellow defendants. I was surprised by how many people chose not to wear suits. Many were in t-shirts and jeans. One fellow was wearing his finest soccer shirt. Another was wearing a stained, ripped Slayer shirt. Almost everyone had a dull look in their eyes. It was as if they’d already accepted that they were guilty and were going to have to pay up. Either that, or they were intoxicated on their court date, which I wouldn’t discount. I didn’t smell alcohol, but more than a few individuals seemed to be on the nod.
I don’t think it comes as any surprise that I was the only one in that courtroom who was there to fight the charges against me. One by one, these hangdog people went up to the judge and offered their throats up to be torn out. Maybe they were right to. Maybe the evidence was too much for them.
But not for me. I came ready to roll the bones, and I was excited.
Remember when I was in the drunk tank? There were two guys in the cell next to mine, if you’ll recall. One of them was with me in court, the guy who’d blown .23. Apparently, he’d gone with Don, as well, but since he’d blown, he was here for his punishment. He went up, pled guilty, and was clubbed down like a baby seal. Suddenly, I was very glad that I hadn’t taken the breathalyzer.
My lawyer found me and pulled me out of the courtroom. It wasn’t Earl, and it wasn’t Don, so I decided he must be Steve. And, of course, I was right. Steve sat me down outside and started going over my case. As it turned out, all the paperwork on the roadblock was good, so it was perfectly legal for them to stop me. However, looking over the officer’s paperwork, he came to the conclusion that certain procedures were not followed correctly. It was possible to get this thing thrown out because of this. He also notified me that there actually was footage of my field sobriety test. Chances were, we could go ahead without viewing it, but he wanted to get a glance at it and was looking for a DVD player.
He then gave me the officer’s official report and said he was going to consult with his other client. I looked over the paperwork and grinned. The officer was using an old journalist trick to make me look like a fool. When a reporter wants to make an interviewee look good, he cleans up the “uh’s” and “ah’s” and “um’s” and stammers and stutters when he quotes the person. However, when the reporter doesn’t like the poor bastard, he leaves it as is.
Most people use these verbal crutches. Even the President of the U.S. uses them. I’ll wager that 99% of the people reading this use them, as do I (which is why I’m a writer, not a public speaker or a radio host). To exploit this seems to me to be a bit shady. It makes me think the writer is trying to cover his bases (and his ass).
I was also shocked to find that he’d reported a complete and total failure of the whole field sobriety test. I knew I’d done bad with the balancing stuff, and the alphabet one was kind of iffy, but the finger-eye test? I was certain I’d done well. He said I hesitated a little bit. Also, even though I got all the letters of the alphabet correct, I paused for a second between P and Q, which failed me.
Isn’t that ridiculous? I think this test is geared toward making everyone fail. It reminds me of the old Bill Hicks bit about sobriety tests. “Okay, now do the alphabet backwards. Now touch your nose. Now do calculus.” Shit, if that’s all they want, why not be obvious?
Anyway, I went over the report, and Steve was still with the other client. He said the judge wouldn’t call me for a while, so I should wait outside. Luckily, I had a book with me. I never go anywhere without one. If there’s anything in the world I hate, it’s being bored with nothing to do. I’ll read while waiting for a movie to begin, waiting at stop lights, hell, sometimes while even driving.
I whipped out Jim Thompson’s THE KILL-OFF, which kept me entertained for about an hour and a half, at which point Steve said he’d found a DVD player. We settled in to watch my field sobriety test, which was kind of weird. Honestly, I thought I’d look like a gibbering fool, but as it turned out, I was conducting myself pretty well.
At one point, the officer turned me around, and I saw myself from behind. Why hasn’t anyone told me how baggy my pants are? It is not a deliberate fashion statement, I assure you. Well, like I said, I used to weigh 306 pounds, and I haven’t bought any new pants in a while. I think I should probably get on that immediately.
While I’m poking fun at my non-existent fashion sense, I should also note that I’ve never really thought about my denim jacket before. It doesn’t really look good on me, which is unfortunate, considering how I’ve been wearing denim jackets since freshman year of high school. Since 1992, for those who care or are keeping score.
Steve didn’t care about what I was wearing. He was too busy doing important things, like watching how I was performing. “That’s not so bad,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot worse. This should be a breeze.”
I stumbled a few times while walking the line, and I kept putting my arms up to restore my balance. I could see why the officer might have thought I needed to be arrested. If only I’d thought to mention my crooked right foot to the officer at the time, I might not have had to put up with all of this.
“Why didn’t you?” Steve asked.
I really hadn’t thought of it at the time. I was too busy trying not to fail the stupid sobriety test. Besides, I don’t think the officer would have believed me.
“Good,” he said. “The judge is going to want to know why. You tell him that, and be firm. Don’t shrug and don’t say things like ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I guess,’ just be firm.”
This was good advice, and I was glad he was my lawyer.
We went back in, and I sat for a while, watching more cases. Since I was actually going to get a hearing, they decided to save me for last, so I got to see a lot of defendants get slain. The only interesting case was another hearing. They actually had a nurse as a witness, in addition to another Lisle cop. Apparently, the defendant got out of hand, so the officer had to mace her. But she had an allergic reaction, so they rushed her to the hospital, where they tried to get blood and piss from her for a variety of tests. The woman faked the urine test, but they got her on the blood test. The nurse didn’t know a lot, and the cop hemmed and hawed, so they weren’t able to reach a decision on the case.
Finally, I was up. They called the arresting officer to the stand, and Steve started hammering him with questions. It was a delight to watch. The officer was able to fend for himself pretty well, as he was well spoken, but he answered too many questions with “I don’t know” and “I don’t recall.” When he was asked about procedure, he didn’t remember some of it, despite the packet he was given on the night of my arrest. He also admitted to having a “brain fart” when he asked me to walk the line. He didn’t get the starting position correct.
Things were really looking up. Steve started in with my crooked foot when the ref rang the bell. 12:15. It was time for the court to close down. This was going to be continued at a later date? Yeah, I was disappointed, too. Steve was getting ready to deliver his knockout punch, and it would now have to wait.
The judge asked the officer when he’d be available, and the officer told him that he was free on the 23rd. Steve objected to this immediately because my suspension was scheduled to begin on the 17th. After a bit of talk, they settled on the 16th.
On the way out, Steve told me that things were looking really good. It was too early to be certain, but considering the officer’s neglect of certain procedures and his uncertain answers to some of Steve’s questions, he thought I had a good chance.
I was impressed with Steve’s professionalism. He went at the officer like a bulldog, and didn’t let up. And the prosecutor only objected once (which was overruled), which I think is a good sign. Apparently, the police are only supposed to check your license, your insurance, and to make sure that your car is in legal working order. Then, you should be sent on your way. This did not happen with me. He detained me a bit longer than he should have, making conversation, and then he said that he detected a “faint” odor of alcohol. Steve says it usually takes a “strong” odor of alcohol to be forced into the field sobriety test.
Steve went on to say that “faint” is usually an indicator of beer intake, rather than anything stronger, which would back up my story of only having two beers. He also said that it’s not illegal to drink and drive, it’s just illegal to drive when you have more than a .08 BAC. This, combined with the fact that I was not slurring my words at all, that my speech was very clear throughout the evening, showed that I was not driving under the influence, and that I should not have been given the sobriety test.
So, yes, things are looking very good.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!