I had quite the personal experience Thursday night, an experience that kept me from doing some of the things I’d have liked to in my professional life, my personal life, and on this site. Because I don’t have much of a history with Virginia law enforcement, I may have accidentally screwed up in the events leading up to Thursday night. However, if government screwed up there’ll be no accountability on their end. No apology, no way for them to restore the dignity I lost for a few hours.
What I’m sharing now is probably a part of the public record. I’m just adding the personal details.
While driving home Thursday night in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Alexandria, I suddenly had blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror. It’s become quite evident that local police are in the constant state of running people’s license plates, looking for offenders (thus possible revenue). The officer came up and explained the sticker on my license plate had expired and requested to see my vehicle registration. I told him the car was registered, but after quickly digging through my glove compartment, could not produce the registration. The officer said not to worry and would verify this from his car.
He did and found that my car was indeed registered, but there was also a bench warrant issued against me in the City of Fairfax and that my license was suspended. Again, without getting into deep personal detail, I explained to the officer that a couple of weeks prior I had gone to the Fairfax District Court building, paid a ticket, got a letter from them to produce to the DMV, and got my license reinstated and showed the officer that letter.
Even though I proved I’m legally authorized to drive, the officer told me it didn’t matter because there was an outstanding bench warrant out and asked me to step out of the car, walk to the back, and put my hands on the trunk. In the middle of rush hour traffic, he proceeded to pat me down, ask me to put my hands behind my back, and without reading my rights, put me in handcuffs and had me sit in the back of his cruiser for the next ten to fifteen minutes while waiting for another officer who’d supervise the impounding of my car.
I was then driven for less than a mile to a mini-mall parking lot where we waited for another fifteen minutes or so for a Fairfax Police officer to take me to his jail. When he arrived, I was asked to get out of the vehicle and had the handcuffs removed, told to put my hands on my head as the Fairfax officer patted me down again. Then I was told to put my hands behind my back, handcuffed again, and placed in the backseat of the Fairfax police cruiser that had zero foot room. Besides the uncomfortable factor of cuffs alone, the twenty-five or so minute trip to the Fairfax jail was one of the longest I’ve experienced in a long time.
After arrival at the jail, I received the most efficient and personal pat down in my life. My belt was removed, pants pockets were pulled and left out, and my dress shirt left half untucked.
I will add that on the way to the jail, the Fairfax officer was listening to Mark Levin, so we did get into some friendly conservative politics and that officer accompanied me the entire time while in custody.
I was then brought to booth #3 and met with a judge magistrate. He examined his computer screen and then asked me for my side of the story, which I told him truthfully and under oath. I couldn’t raise my hand to take that oath because I was still in handcuffs.
I was then lead to another area for booking.
The jail officer assigned to me looked like a moron. Sorry, if there was a physical trait one could attribute to morons, this guy had it. At one point, the television in a waiting area went to NatGeo and once seeing animals, this guy paused and smiled for about half a minute before commencing with his job.
He failed to pronounce my last name correctly. While aided with a short printout with what I assume was my information, he was very slow at inputting it, in fact (as I could see what he was doing) I’ll bet your average eight-year-old could have done it in three minutes. It took this guy near 20 minutes and that was before he electronically took my fingerprints.
I told the conservative officer that during my entire time in his custody, he performed with courtesy and professionalism. Then I told him I’d be talking about this moron tomorrow upon which the officer shook his head and smiled, clearly also irritated at the length of this process.
I was then led back to the magistrate, who after looking at all my paperwork told me it appeared I had done everything required of me with the City of Fairfax and had no idea why there was still a bench warrant out for me. Because I had been cooperative and seemed like a nice fellow, he told me I didn’t have to pay bail, placed me on an unsecured bond with the assurance I appear in court next month (which I added the date is circled in red on my calendar), and told me I was to be immediately released.
I was then taken to a public hallway, given my personal items, and it was there (three hours after my arrest) that I could make myself presentable, make a couple of cellphone calls, and walk out of the building a free man. Then again, maybe not….
If the wheels of justice stay the course, I still have a bench warrant out for my arrest. Today, I’ll be walking to the DMV to get new tags for my car so Cory can get it on Monday. But as cops in Virginia seemingly spend more time running license plates for revenue than going after bad guys, should they run ours, we could be pulled over and I arrested again. I may have this hanging over me for almost a month until my court date.
Because of this screw up, I now have a police record and a mugshot somewhere in cyberspace, neither of which I am personally or professionally happy about. Then again, with that jailhouse officer inputting my information, I could be just fine.
If it turns out this has been a governmental mistake, there is no one to hold accountable. The government has shielded itself from responsibility. I probably won’t even get a “Sorry ’bout that.” I kind of feel like a radical Muslim: paranoid and full of rage. Rage I held in for three hours Thursday night because I didn’t think it wise being expressed while in custody.
If, at the end my ignorance of Virginia law finds me at fault, so be it. But if they screwed up and left me in a constant state of fearing arrest for the coming month, I will be pissed. Not just because whomever screwed up will probably never know it, but because there is no accountability from government. The government has sovereign immunity thus it can screw with people’s lives as much as it wants.
And it will.