Sunday, March 03, 2013

My arrest record

On January 24, 2013, I got pulled over for a seatbelt violation. Also, I didn't have a current insurance card at the time, so I incurred two tickets, totalling $250 or roundabouts. My traffic court date was scheduled for 2/28/13, 5:30pm. 

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I went to the courthouse here in lovely Hampton county, but every door I came to was locked. After two trips around the building, I began to pound on every door until I got someone to come let me in. A sheriff's deputy answers one of the back doors, and I tell him that I have traffic court that day.
He says, no way, "Traffic court is on Mondays only." Well, holy shit, I show him my two tickets, and he verifies that, sure enough, I ain't blind or illiterate like everyone else in this goddamn town, my tickets are both marked for today's date, at what was at that time 5:30pm.
He ushers me inside, with the plan to help me figure this out. I'm standing in the hallway while he's "looking it up," when he pokes his head out into the hallway and asks me if I'm "Gregory Fancher." Yep, since day one.
"It says here that your court date was set for January 28; and since you didn't make it, there's an active bench warrant for your arrest." Oh, wait ... "Technically, I should go ahead and arrest you." Wait for it ... "But, I can't do that in good conscience, since there's clearly been some mistake." Not yet ... "So, you need to get here tomorrow as soon as the offices open up so you can get this fixed." Not yet ... "Now, the thing is, until you can get in tomorrow, this warrant is a standing warrant, and what that means is that, if you get pulled over and the officer runs your license and tags, you could be arrested on the spot." And BOOM! goes the dynamite.
My ass not showing up on the court date that apparently everyone but me knew about, and not subsequently paying the $250 (only $25 of which is really mine to cover) put me in gross contempt of court. This whole month - 1/28 to 2/28 - I've been "wanted," and, had I been pulled over at any point (and, should I venture from this house, I still have until 8:30am) I would be arrested for violating my summons to court.
How far under the speed limit do you think I've driven between the clinic, campus, and back home, covering all told an hour on the road? I'll tell you: EXACTLY 5 mph under every speed limit I've encountered.
UPDATE:  That was February 28, 2013.  One thing I left out, meaningless as it was at the time, was that, when I first happened upon the Town Hall (which I referenced as “the courthouse” above), upon finding all the doors locked, I assumed that I had gotten my location wrong and traffic court was at the actual courthouse located across the street.
I drove the block over, and tried the first door I came to.  Locked.  This was the backdoor, anyway, so I figured I’d have better luck at the front door.  Drove around, walked up to the first door I came to, and before I could really try it, I saw a sign that said, “USE MAIN ENTRANCE.”  So, I gave the side door a quick tug anyway (locked), and wandered over to the main door.  The door on the right side wouldn’t opened, but the door to my left popped open quite easily.  I walked in, and I noticed that the place was dark and no one was manning the metal detector (on the right side of the entrance).  I look at both doors, and I saw no hours of operation posted, so I figured that traffic court was being held somewhere else in the building and I’d meet up with people there.
I walked around the first floor, to find no one.  Thought about walking up the stairs, but after circling two buildings and hoofing it across the front lawns of these municipal buildings, I figured I’d pamper myself and ride the elevator to the second floor.  Once in the elevator, I took a brief pause to stretch my muscles and gather my thoughts.  I lift my head and noticed that the ceiling of the elevator was mirrored.  I stared up, intensely, and I noticed my age making its presence known on my face.  And I looked stern, disgusted, and, given that I had to postpone my class Thursday night by 30 minutes thanks to traffic court, a bit disturbed.  Elevator opened, and I shook off all that bad voodoo and commenced my search for traffic court.  Figured I’d kill some unnecessary effort and blurted out a curt “Hello?”
“Hello?” was the answer.  Not an echo; a woman’s voice.  Hallelujah!
I met her at her office, and I explained my plight.  She set me straight, explaining that traffic court is held at the Town Hall (where I just was).  I huffed out a bit of inconvenience, but I thanked her and she walked with me back to the front door.  She asked me how I got in, and I told her I just … opened the door and walked right in.  She chuckled and said something like, “That’s not supposed to happen,” asked me if I saw anyone else, which I hadn’t, and she shut the door behind me.  I gave it another try to see if it would open again, and it didn’t, so we gave each other the thumbs-up and I left, to meet the officer who explained that I had a warrant, which finished the saga above.
Dateline: Friday, March 1 2013
I basically woke up, dressed for work, drove to Town Hall, and sat at the doors until they opened.  When they did, I was first in the door with my tickets, proof of insurance, et cetera.  Everything got taken care of as expected, and I was informed that, given the circumstances, the warrant was dropped.  All that remained was my $25 seatbelt violation.  I could only pay in cash or money order, neither of which I had, and given that I had a full schedule of clients at the clinic, I wouldn’t have these payments until about 3:00p.  But at 3:00p, I could put this crap behind me.
3:00p.  I paid my $25, and when I finished, I was informed that “Deputy Sherriff Murphy Winn” has requested audience with me.  First thought, “The hell for?” but, eh, no telling.  Working for mental health, you get all kinds of people wanting to talk to you about some of the craziest of shit, once they find out you rep mental health.  And a lot of clients are in dire legal straits, so I figured it was something that was going to make my Friday longer than a Friday needs to be.
I got to the courthouse and walked in the front door of preference – I learned something from last night – and was immediately greeted by three men with heavy tools working on the door.  I blurted out, “Yeah, I was the one who discovered this was broken last night,” referencing the door.  The officer manning the metal detector pipes up, “Are you the one who got in the building last night?”  Yes, that’s me.  “Winn’s wanting to see you.”  Gotcha, and that’s what I’m here for.  I do the pat down, the metal detector, get “wanded” and then, another officer ushers me into an office where he takes my name, address, social, date of birth, phone number, cell number, place of work, work address, work phone number, make and model of vehicle … tons of info.  I had no reason not to give it to them, so I did; I’m cooperative.  Once that was done, they said Winn was not in the building, so they would call me at work to have me come back when he gets in.  Oh no no no, if it was all the same to them, I’d just hang out until he comes back; I don’t sit well beneath the sword of Damocles, so I’ll sit tight and wait.  They end up having to radio Winn in, so he could talk to me.
Winn arrives, and he ushers me back to the office where I had just given my info.  He then instructs me that, “for now,” I’m not under arrest.  However, if I start talking about something he don’t like hearing, he shows me a paper listing my Miranda rights and says that he’ll make sure I’m informed of those.  He then tells me that I can ask for an attorney at any time, and he’ll stop any questions from that point on.  Again, I did nothing wrong, and while I was perfectly content to get up and leave, I figured, eh, why not see where this goes?
What followed was about forty-five minutes of Bad Cop Dinner Theater, and tonight, playing the role of Bad Cop (and pretty badly) would be Chief Winn.  I was grilled about how I got in the door, why I came in the building, what business I had in the building, why I didn’t leave at any point once I came in, and why didn’t “common sense” tell me that the building was closed and that I had no business being in there in the first place.
I contended the following: I had a summons to a court proceeding; the building I was advised to attend was locked up, so I assumed that I was at the wrong location; I went to the appropriate doors that were indicated as appropriate entrances, I opened the door and went in, and while it struck me as odd that I didn’t encounter anyone at first, (I explained) I’ve been in some extremely rural locations, so it wasn’t immediately disconcerting to me to not see anyone at their posts, because if the courthouse (rural as it is) was possibly understaffed, I would find someone eventually that would walk me through proper process and procedure … it was just a matter of finding them.  Remember, during the time that I was in the courthouse, I was under the legitimate assumption that I was supposed to be there, based on a summons from the same police department that Winn supervises; that I opened a door (unlocked, but deemed later to be faulty and in need of repair); and, that I saw no hours of operation on any of the doors that I had encountered during my travels the day prior.
He proceeds to question me, and it occurs to me that he is interviewing me with a legit (questionably legit) expectation that he’s going to arrest me for … trespassing?  (Nope, his exact interpretation of my behavior was “breaking and entering.”)  There were two points – minus his opening introduction to the fun we were about to embark on for almost an hour – where his body language and careful choice of words seemed indicative of an intent to take me into custody … EVEN THOUGH I never faltered from my story, as it pertained to my reason for being in the courthouse, as well as my reasoning process behind why I went down two hallways, up to the second floor, and down another hallway looking for the traffic court.
He made an odd analogy, during his repeated references to the application of “common sense” (which was admittedly the part of the process which was having the effect of pissing me off the most).  The analogy was, “If you knew someone, and they were of the habit of leaving their door open, would you just go ahead and walk into their house?”  My reply: “If that someone had sent me a written invitation, saying that at a certain date, at a certain time, to be at their house, and I walked up to the door and it was open, I would assume they were expecting me, and yes, I’d walk right in.”  This threw Winn for a loop, but undeterred, he went in with his point; “You would?  Well, if you did that to my house … (pause for effect) … son, you’d be dead.”  My reply: “Well, sir, if you had sent me a written invitation to come to your house, at a certain date, at a certain time, and I got there, and the door was open, and I walked in and ended up dead … (pause for effect) … it seems that the law would call that premeditated murder.”
I had to continuously reference the fact that there were no office hours posted, the door was open, and I was under a fair amount of stress, given that I don’t get traffic summons very often at all, and I had received NONE from Hampton county for the period of time I had resided here.  So, my contention was that I didn’t know where to go, just that my mind was fixated on, “Where’s traffic court?  Where’s traffic court?  My court time is 5:30, it’s 5:15 now.  Where’s traffic court?”
That’s when I got to see video evidence of my wandering through the courthouse.  It was narrated by Chief Winn, and the narration mainly consisted of, “See, the minute you walk in here, you shoulda know to turn right around and leave … see, you’re here going down a hall  you GOT NO BUSINESS GOING DOWN! … See …” and so forth.  Then I watch me get on the elevator.
I watch me, staring back at me, upside down, but all the consternation, frustration, irritability is a palpable entity written across my visage.  I looked, in a word, kinda crazy.  The assumption was there, on my own part, that I looked like I was going to hurt someone.
Then I see myself get out of the elevator, lean to peek down one hall, peek down another, and MOONWALK down the hall until I reach that one hallway, DO THE ROBOT around to face down the hallway, and I hear me call out, “Hello?”  And the rest was already history I had lived.
I sighed.  “I can see why you guys might have been worried.”
Winn was dead silent.
“Wow.”  I said, getting comfortable in my chair again.  “You look really intense.”
He remained quiet.
I explained, in no uncertain terms, that my intention was not to come across like an asshole.  I was of a certain mindset, and all the circumstances that I had encountered had lead me to walk into an open public building … that I assumed was the location I was supposed to be … that I assumed was open because of the reason that I was assuming I was supposed to be there … and I had to find someone that ultimately pointed me to the appropriate location.  It was a perfect storm of events that appeared to be very unfortunate.  But, I added, if anyone was going to find out that the door was unlocked and broken, better it be someone like me instead of someone with a mad-on for the courthouse and all its employees.
Winn acknowledged this part, but then he stated that “I just don’t buy part of your story.”  Which ate at me enough that I asked him exactly what part of my story didn’t he buy?  In other words, what could I have possibly been in the courthouse to do, illegally, that I didn’t do when I was in there last night?  He proceeds to explain, laboriously, his main talking points: “Not supposed to be in here after 5:00 … should have walked out when I saw the front lights were off and no one was at the metal detector … shouldn’t have walked down the halls …”  Et cetera.
I was quiet for a while.  He was quiet.  I finally looked up and offered, “I’m sorry?”  He looked puzzled.  I followed up with, “That’s the only thing I know that’s left to say.”
He expresses that he’s going to let me go, but “we have your information and we know where to get hold of you, in case we need to follow up on this.  And if there’s anything more to come of this, and I think there’s just cause, I’ll be back to take you into custody, and I will tell your supervisor.”  (Why not threaten to call my parents, while you’re at it?)
I told him, all joking aside, that I appreciated him talking to me; after all, he could have just arrested me based on his observations and inclinations, but he talked to me and gave me an opportunity to set this situation straight, instead of having to go through all the hassle and unfortunate circumstances that would have to have occurred were I arrested based on the situation as it was.  “Besides,” I emphasized, “owning an entire town would be too big a responsibility for me to take.”
I’m like school on Saturday: No class.

1 comment:

DAmnNearFonzie said...

Great stuff Nate, the man loves to bring you down in any way possible.