Sunday, April 28, 2013

You Have the 'Right' to Be Detained

AUGUSTA, GA (by Rocky Eades) - Jason and I were going out to the Pilot truck stop on Riverwatch at I-20 at about 1AM in the morning of Friday, April 26 to get him a phone charger. Coming down Alexander Rd, we came across what looked like a traffic accident down at the intersection of Riverwatch. Within about a block of it, I made a legal u-turn and headed back from whence we came in order to avoid a delay due to an accident backup.

Immediately, a car pulled in behind us from out of nowhere and executed a blue light special. I stopped, put my window down about 8 inches and handed the state trooper my driver's license when he asked for it. Trooper Rhodes then "insisted"that I put the window all the way down - or that I open the door. I told him that I could hear him just fine and that if I needed to, I could speak a little louder. He "insisted" several times that I put the window down or that I open the door - once even grabbing the window and trying to rip it out of the door!

He said that it was a "safety"issue for him, even though I had my hands on the steering wheel and Jason had his hands on the dashboard the whole time. He said that I was "obstructing his investigation" - even though he could not (or would not) tell me what he was investigating except to repeat over and over that I had turned around to avoid a traffic stop. (We could see 2 cop cars with blue lights, a car carrier and a couple of other cars sitting in the darkness - looked at that point more like atypical accident scene than a roadblock).

I repeatedly asked Trooper Rhodes if I was being detained or if I was free to go. He eventually told me that I was being detained. I asked what crime did he suspect me of having committed that warranted a routine traffic stop being turned into a Terry stop. He never answered.

Anyhow, one of the 10 or so officers present went to Jason's door on the passenger side (he had not bothered to lock it! Kids! What you gonna do?) and jerked it open,threatening to taser Jason if he did not exit the vehicle. At that point I felt it might be better to go ahead and exit the truck. I got out of the truck and hit the lock button and started to push the door closed when I remembered I had not taken my keys out of the ignition.I reached back in to get my keys. (Note to self: Don't ever do that again!) I felt at that point that they were going to put me on the ground though cooler heads eventually prevailed and I was allowed to get my keys, but was not allowed to close the door.

As I was being pulled away from the truck by the arm before I had a chance to lock and close the door, I shouted “I do not consent to any search of my truck.” Apparently,the cop who removed Jason thought I said, “Do anything you want.”because he took the opportunity to go through the glove box and look under the seat. Even though we were unable to secure the vehicle, to my knowledge, that was the only “search” that was made. I do believe though that every one of the 10- 12 officers present shined their flashlights into the truck and took a look. Some one of the cops eventually closed both of the locked doors and secured the truck.

The cop said that he was “only”going to charge me with "Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer." Uh, what were your other options Trooper Rhodes?

He told me as he was later leading me to the paddy wagon (not your father's paddy wagon, btw!) that he would have let me go had I rolled down the window or opened the door;all he wanted to do was verify that I had a valid driver's license and that I had not been drinking and driving. He had my driver's license from the beginning of the encounter, and this was the first time that he had even mentioned "drinking"; he never asked"Sir, have you been drinking tonight?" or even mentioned the term "sobriety checkpoint" or anything about alcohol until he was leading me to the van to be processed.

Before I was released they called out a bunch of us from the holding cells and told us to line up single file and march though the door that read “Men's Showers”. I must admit that for someone who is as distrustful of state power as I am, the analogies to other such orders given a long time ago flitted through my brain.

Once inside the “showers” they had us exchange our clothes for the green scrubs-style inmate costume and led us to another gang holding cell. We were taken out one at a time and placed in a single cell to do a “disrobe, bend over and spread your cheeks” check for contraband. Then we were loaded onto a bus and headed off to Phinizy Rd Correctional Facility.

We stopped at the courthouse and some of us assumed that we were going to be arraigned and given a bail hearing and “Oh boy, we would be home by supper time.” No such luck! We sat at the courthouse waiting for those who actually had gone to court to join us for the ride to Phinizy. At that point I thought that it was going to be a very long weekend!

A few minutes after we arrived at Phinizy, another guy and I were called out and told that we had been bailed out and would be returning to the downtown LEC to be processed out. It turns out that my sister – bless her little heart - had gotten a bondsman to bail me out BEFORE I had boarded the bus to Phinizy. I actually saw the bondswoman come into the jail and go in and do the paperwork before we were removed from our holding cell –not knowing of course that she was my ticket to freedom.

Another interesting thing, a guy who was arrested for "disorderly" for telling his arresting officer that he was " up" and then calling him a "mother...ker" had a $280 bond; the "DUI's" that I heard about had bond of $1440 to $1600. My bond for not rolling my window down all the way was $1300!

Long story short (I know, I know; too ate for that!) I spent 12 hours or so in police custody for not rolling my window all the way down. Court date is set for June 20. Hope to see you there.

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