This Could Be You: The Jericho Police State

A Reddit poster tells us of his ordeal:

This started over a year ago.

I was pulled over in Jericho, two hours from where I live in Ravenloft, an other city. I was told the reason for the stop was that I wasn’t wearing a seat belt, even though the officer noted that I was wearing it as he walked up. He asked if I had put it on while I was pulling over, commenting that he had never seen anyone “sneak it on that well” before. I indicated how my shirt was the same color as my belt, and that he must have been mistaken. He offered that we could “go check the tape if I’d like” to verify, and I enthusiastically confirmed that I would like to do just that, and took it as an invitation to get out of the car, which I started to do, but he held my door closed and said something to the effect of “I’ll let you off on this one, but you should always be wearing it in the future.”

After asking for my license and proof of insurance, I gave him my license, but the insurance card I handed him was out of date. My fault for forgetting to replace the one in my wallet, but I started looking in my center console and glovebox for the current one. He let me do that for about 15 seconds, before he said that I obviously didn’t have it, and he had better things to do than play games with me. He wrote me a ticket for no proof of insurance. Of course, Merphy’s Law, I found the right card as he was pulling away, however I was already late for a service call with a client (mobile on-site computer technician). I did however notice something interesting on the ticket. The reason for stop was listed as no seat belt. However it was scratched out. On the check boxes at the bottom of the ticket, one of the items was “Seatbelt?” and “YES” had a check mark beside it.

The interesting issue about this is I could have had a kilo of blow in the car, but it wouldn’t have mattered, because he admitted on the ticket (and did not site me) that I had in fact been wearing it. Therefore, he had no probable cause for stopping me, which invalidates Discovery, meaning anything after that is void. Legally, he did not know about the insurance card (even though I had it, anyway), because legally, the stop didn’t take place.

As I said, I’m late for my service call, I toss it in the back seat. Afterwords I had lunch with a friend, and drove home, by this point honestly having forgotten about it.

Months go by, and in my home city I am pulled over for something trivial (head light out I think) and the officer asks if I knew I had a warrant in Jericho. I say no, still having forgotten, and an other car pulls up. I’ve worked on their computers before; we aren’t friends, but they knew me. One of them comes back after some time, and they tell me that Jericho really didn’t want to come and get me, and they really didn’t want to take me up there, but gave me a phone number to call ASAP.

I call the number later that day, and they suggested that I come up and “get it taken care of” as soon as possible. I told them I was planning on heading that direction the next weekend anyway to visit my girlfriend, and that I could leave early in the friday afternoon so that I could get there on a week day while they were still open. They said that was alright and we hung up.

By that thursday, I was sick, and I would have canceled my plans if not for the Jericho issue. Thursday night, I didn’t sleep much, and I looked like complete shit by friday. But I still started the long drive up there. Being sick and on no sleep, I was driving slower than usual, and my reaction time was down. I was pulled over in Cloverfield, on the way to Jericho, by an officer who asked if I was alright, because I had stopped at a green light (I was kind of out of it.) He asked to breathalyze me and I complied, and of course blew nothing, as I was sick, not drunk. He suggested I pull over and have a nap, maybe get some nyquil, then corrected himself and said dayquil, forcing a laugh. His partner was running my license while we were talking. I knew there was a problem when they both went back to the car, and put on latex gloves.

I was ticketed for driving on a suspended license, which Jericho never told me they had done; remember, it was they who told me to come down that friday to take care of it, which I was doing. I was also arrested for a failure to appear, and my girlfriend bailed me out a few hours later. I had pulled over in a shopping center parking lot, and parked under a lot light to make the officers feel more comfortable initially, and because my car was already in a parking lot, correctly parked in a stall, they didn’t tow it.

By that point, the Jericho office had closed because Cloverfield kept me so long, the whole point of my having taken off work early. I was afraid of getting in my car and driving back to Ravenloft on a suspended license, but I drive for a living; not driving isn’t an option. Taking a taxi isn’t an option either; I wouldn’t make enough at each client to pay for the trip to get there (many of them are Dell warranty service calls, replace a motherboard, etc, and they are out in the woods down dirt roads).

I stay till monday morning, when I can call Jericho back and tell them what’s going on. They say that “ofcourse your license is suspended” as if that was obvious, and that I should have just known that, even though they never told me, or gave me any indication that I should have asked. Remember the officers that stopped me in Ravenloft only told me I had a warrant, not that I had a suspended license.

I inquire what’s necessary to fix it, what is the next step. I’m told that I can be issued a new court date, and she gives it to me over the phone, which is over a month away. I explain what I do for a living, and that I can’t just not drive for a month, nor do I have the ability to not go home for a month. The only thing I can do is pay the fine for no proof of insurance. I explain the situation with the ticket, the lack of Discovery due to no probable cause, “I don’t know anything about that.”, or words to that effect, was the reply. She’s adamant that I can either pay, or wait a month with no license. Waiting a month isn’t at all an option, so my GF gives me a ride down there, I pay, and am given a notary of reenlistment or some such, which I have to take to Driver Control to have my license reactivated. DC, incidentally, costs $100 to reprint my license. After paying the fine for no proof of insurance, bail, and license reprint, I’m in it almost to $400 dollars, over an issue of paperwork. Paperwork I had, incidentally.

License reinstated, I go home late monday evening. Come back to Cloverfield for my driving on a suspended charge, only I find out when I get there, that they aren’t having court that day, they’re just taking peas that day. Without even going in the court room, you record your plea with the clerk in the hall outside the courtroom. I give a not guilty, and a given a date for actual real court which is over a month away at that point, and ends up being two days before my Jericho court date. I go home to Ravenloft.

A month goes by before I’m pulled over, again in Cloverfield, this time for cell phone use. (I was using the navigational features of my Droid X, not actually talking on it. Wasn’t actually cited for the thing I was stopped for this time, either. That hasn’t happened in any of these times, ever, make a note of that.) I’m told I’m driving on a suspended license in Cloverfield again, and that I have a warrant in Jericho again. Off to detention again, bail out again.

I know I’ve taken care of everything and I’m getting very upset. I find out the one in Jericho, after calling and “inquiring” about the matter, that while, yes, I had paid the fine on the no proof of insurance in Jericho, I hadn’t done anything about the failure to appear for that ticket in Jericho. I had paid the ticket, yes, but not the fine for not appearing about the ticket. Also, in Cloverfield, this is another driving on a suspended license again (and again not knowing it was suspended).

I get it rescheduled, about a month away, license invalid again. (I need to get a license in Canada or Mexico or something, one that they don’t have the authority to suspend, and just discontinue using my USA license. Someone I used to know had an Australian license. Would get pulled over all the time, and they would just let him go with a warning every time, because they didn’t know what to do with it. It was incompatible with their software for being able to issue tickets based on it.)

I drive for a month on it suspended, as what choice do I have, but am never pulled over during that time.

I arrive back in Cloverfield for my court date, I go in, I sit down, and I wait to be called. They’re going in alphabetical order. There’s no judge, just a DA and two assistants. When I’m called on, I go into some detail about what’s going on in Jericho, and wished that I had been able to take care of that first, etc. He interrupts me with a raised hand, and tells me that he’s going to file a continuance for me. “Get Jericho straightened out first,” he says. The new date is almost a month and a half away.

A few days later is the Jericho court date. The town has fewer than a thousand people in it. The Jericho courthouse doubles as a town hall and church on sundays. There is a kitchenette at the front of the single room building. I mentally note the small kitchen style trash can in the corner near the sink, complete with a few crushed Bush beer cans in it. I’m wearing a tie. I’m the only one that is.

The judge will hear nothing of the issue with the original ticket (which I had with me; Bailiff wouldn’t bring it to him to look at), probable cause or discovery. I’m bullied into paying or going to jail right then and there. Not having enough to cover it, they offer a payment plan, at a higher fee. I take it without any option. Upon the first payment, I’m able to reinstate my license again, for another $100, but at least I can (legally) drive again.

The next month is uneventful. Then my Cloverfield court date for driving on a suspended license. The same DA and assistants from before. They never call on me, and are wrapping up. I speak up and suggest they may have missed someone. The DA assistant who was near me and heard me asks for my name and DOB, which I give. He thumbs through files, finds me, reads for a moment, “<inaudible, inaudible>… Ah okay, yeah suspended.. And is that taken care of now? In Jericho?” I take out my license and show, “Yes, everything’s squared away, they reinstated it.” He closes the file and shoves it back into his binder without doing anything else with it, “Alright, you can go.” “Really? We’re good? Everything’s completely finished?” “Yes <disinterested and attention focused on someone else trying to talk to him now>” “Thanks,” I say, and leave, felling pretty great.

I’ve been paying $50 a month to Jericho since then. If I happen to be near there visiting friends, I would take it in personally if it was a friday afternoon (not open on weekends). Otherwise, its $58 to do it online ($8 “convenience fee”). It needs to go in every month before a certain day. Some months I had been paying it online a few days early, because I would get paid that day, or just have extra money, and want it over with.

This last saturday, the 23rd, I go to Cloverfield for a friend’s babyshower / dad-congratulations-day, and stay the weekend. I didn’t end up having much work that monday, so I planned on home to Ravenloft in the afternoon, but driving through Jericho to pay in person for that month. I get there and that same smug clerk asks if I knew I had a warrant again. I almost kill everyone in the world with my mind in a psychic blast. “What?” I ask, enunciating my T the way the Heath Ledger’s Joker says “No I’m not.”

Turns out, every day I paid my fine early, had reset the “due” date to that date. And the one month that I paid it two weeks early, made the next month’s on-time payment become two weeks late, which caused them to suspend my license again and issue an other warrant.

I had the money, so I went ahead and paid out the rest ($170 and change) of what I had been paying $50 on every month. She gave me my ticket and told me to walk it across the street (in the same building as the fire department, yeah) to the police department, but not to drive over there, obviously.

The police station was locked, no one there, and I was about to leave when a car pulled up. “You <insert name>?” “Yes,” I say. “Yeah there’s no one here, clerk called ahead. Come over to the side door.” They unlock the door and we all walk inside together. This town has only two squad cars, no dispatch (that I can tell), and they were both roaming around.

For how mad I was, I have to give these officers some credit. They were the most un-douchey cops I’ve ever met. They didn’t rifle through my pockets, they asked me to empty everything myself and turn my pockets inside out. It had been rather hot out, and I was sweaty, and they asked if I needed anything to drink, and they told me where to go (unattended) through the building to the water fountain. I came back and they were looking through paperwork, and I sat back down. They had me sign something, that I’d been served I believe, and it had the new-new court date on it for Jericho. Oh, to get my license unsuspended again, I have to give them again the same amount I had just finished giving them over the course of several months, or wait for this new date. I couldn’t help notice the irony that they were installing a new roof on the court house / town hall / church. Someone has to pay for those upgrades.

They checked to see if I had any other warrants, as they are wont to do, and it turns out I did have one, in you guessed it, Cloverfield. They ask if there’s anything I need out of my car across the street, and roll up the windows and lock it for me, and take me half way to meet Cloverfield cops. I had told them the issue with my splintered scapula and bad rotator cuff (I had fallen out of the rafters in my teenage years from a height of ten feet while hanging upside down with a fake chainsaw to scare customers; they hadn’t ever told me to do that, it was my idea, and we were all volenteers anyway, so I didn’t sue them or anything like a douchebag) and so they cuffed me in the front, lose and comfortable. The ride there was cordial, and they asked if I was getting enough air conditioner back there, or if I was too hot or too cold. When they handed me over to Cloverfield cops, it was entirely different.

After Jericho took off their cuffs, which were lose and in the front, Cloverfield put theirs on very tight (I had marks for hours), tops of wrists turned painfully toward eachother in the back, and gave me an aggressive pat down. I’m 6’4″ and there was not enough room in the back seat. I told them this as I was trying to sit down, and that I had scarring inside my knee from a torn meniscus years before and that I couldn’t bend it that way for very long. He didn’t acknowledge that I had even said anything, instead shoving my thighs down so that my feet were flat on the floor, causing my knees to press into the dividing wall in a space they were too long for. I was also shoved back into the seat by the shoulders, against my wrists which I lost feeling in (three fingers on the left hand were numb for hours, and even now, they itch) and searing white hot pain in my shoulder. My objections were ignored, as though I hadn’t said anything, and he put the seat belt on me as tight as possible so that I was unable to lean forward to take pressure off anything. The ride was through 5pm traffic and took almost an hour. The dividing wall window was closed, and there was no A/C getting back there. It was over 95F outside, and at least 100F in the backseat with the windows up. I was dripping sheets of sweat and getting nauseous from and pain, and I was ignored the entire trip.

Before, when Jericho officers had asked if I needed anything from my car, I mentioned my shoes (I was wearing cheap flipflops as it was hot as hell), they said they didn’t mind getting them for me, but that they’d be taken away anyway, and I would get issued shoes in holding. I thought about it for a minute and nodded, no reason to give them any excuse to dig around in my back seat, and I didn’t need extra inventory to worry about anyway.

When I finally was let out of the car at Cloverfield, I could barely stand, and I must have taken too long getting my legs (which were wedged against the dividing wall in front of me, remember?) out of the car, because the officer grabbed me by the arm and tried yanking me out. Being as sweaty as I was, his hand slipped off of me, and I fell back in, him taking a step back to keep from falling. He screamed at me to stop resisting or we were “going to go a few rounds,” his hand on the hilt of his holstered taser. He tried again to pull me out, this time by my shirt, and was successful. In processing, I was told to get a few phone numbers for later out of my phone, but “do not text or call anyone, period. Do you understand? No facebook, none of that.” Not allowed to tell anyone where I am? I don’t think so. I managed to fire off a two word text to a friend who would understand, and got my numbers.

In holding, when my belt and shoes were taken, I wasn’t given any other shoes, and because I had flipflops, I had no socks with me. I was put in holding with bare feet on the filthy floor covered in hepatitis, aids, rat-cancer and anything else that had ever been in there. This was about 5:30pm, according to the last time I checked my phone before it was taken. I was alone in there for the time being. I went to take a piss at the wall mount metal toilet/sink combo, and standing in front of it, I noticed the floor was wet, about a fraction of a second before I leaned forward to aim the stream just before it started. That’s when I slipped forward and hit my head. I’m not sure where I hit my head, either on the concrete wall or the metal sink itself; that part is a blur. I did get up off the floor though and my left eye was not working properly. I reached a hand up to my head and pulled away a bloody hand. I had no idea how badly I was hurt, having no mirror. I knocked, pounded, on the door, yelled, cried, no one ever came. I was dizzy and nauseous, and a unique feeling for me if you knew me, afraid. I had no way of knowing how badly I was hurt, but I was bleeding from the head and I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that.

After two hours, they brought someone else into holding with me, and when he opened the door to shove him in, the officer remarked “What are you doing to yourself? Do you need to go in the gimp chair?” I pointed at the wet floor (it was too cold in there to evaporate) and to the blood and hair on the sink and said I had fallen and hit my head and where the hell were you, I’ve been calling for hours. Their excuse? Shift change. Also, the nurse has gone home for the day, and she can look at me tomorrow. About 20 minutes later, an other officer comes in with paper towels and alcohol, and cleans my face off. He also cloroxes the entire surface of the sink. I asked for “aspirin or something” and was told, again, that the nurse was gone for the night and that was the only person who could give out medication.

A few hours later I was taken to an other department where I got to find out what was going on. It was a failure to appear, and it would be $700 to get out. I was still very upset, dizzy, nauseous, and wasn’t thinking that I only had to pay 10% of that for a bondsman. I was thinking $700, on top of what I’d already given Jericho, was now almost in the $2000 range over literally nothing. I didn’t have that kind of money in my account. I said as much too, that I wasn’t going to give them any more money, and I wanted a lawyer. I was told I would have to wait till tomorrow to call one, as the visitor phones were computer controlled, and the timer had already shut them off for inmates by then (past 8pm). After that I got finger printed and photoed so I could “have time to decide what to do”. When I was brought back in and sat on the bench, watching them joke and laugh about this or that inmate behind his back, stuff their faces with junk food and soda (I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day, having woken up at noon and gone to Jericho, intending to get some thing to eat on the way out of town), I was feeling more and more rage and impotent and depressed with every passing moment. I asked if I could talk to someone, that I needed to talk to someone, and that I was feeling very dark right then. That’s when they put me back in holding, the same room I had fallen in, by myself for an other half hour alone. They came and got me after that, and took everything else, made me strip, cough, crouch, shower and de-lice, given a jumpsuit and put in a room for the night by myself, again without having seen anyone about my head. This is the response when someone says they feel like they need to talk to someone.

I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Before going in, I asked for a pillow, explaining again about my shoulder, and that because of that I always had to sleep on my side, “We don’t have pillows. Use your toilet paper.” I’d imagine I finally fell asleep around 3:am. No pillow, the vinyl mat’s stuffing was flat from years of use, the blanket smelled of strong bleach and was a full foot too short for me, and it was very cold in the room. Even though I was exhausted, I felt like I was, for lack of a better term, losing psychological hit points. That my very psychological justice and fairness artifacts had been damaged and were not functioning. I thought of the neurological disorder some are born that leaves them without the ability to feel pain. They can hold their hand under hot water, see the skin turn red, know that they are receiving damage and appreciate that knowledge, but feel nothing from it. I had many thoughts that need not be detailed, vivid thoughts, that did not trigger any ethical or moral objections from my now injured justice node. Several times I began shaking uncontrollably from the thoughts, and was thankful to have no one else in the cell with me who’s only fault would have been being near me.

When I awoke, I was overwhelmed with nausea and vomited in the toilet.

Breakfast was at 5:am, so that work release inmates could eat and get to their assigned work details. But everyone eats at the same time. I think I slept about three, maybe two and a half hours. After I got my tray and sat it down, I went to take a piss (no matter how much I drank all night, I stayed thirsty), and when I came back, I found my tray and been picked clean of all but two items. Even the soft portions (some kind of porridge, maybe grits or oatmeal) had been scooped out with bare fingers, by the looks of it. I looked around and saw one man with a smug grin licking his fingers, and with two more orange halves than anyone else. I balled up my fists, silently thanking the universe for this opportunity, feeling a surge of adrenaline and euphoria, I was actually feeling good for the first time since everything began yesterday, and it was all because I was about to beat someone to death if no one stopped me.

I tripped half way to him, to a few chuckles. I looked up, and someone helped me up. He said loudly, “Sorry man, my bad” but then whispered as he helped me up, “You go in the hole for fightin, no matter who starts it, sit down” and he gave me half his food. It took me a while to realize what was going on, and only hindsight made it obvious. But the one who tripped me was bald, as were the other four sitting at his table, and all Caucasian. My stolen food was being shared at a table of all African-American. I had been recruited into a gang on my first ten minutes of my first day.

I realized then that our entire system was broken. It isn’t acting in the interest of correction or even justice; it is unapologetically a criminal manufacturing machine.

I was bailed out later that day. And after such a short time, I’m still feeling psychologically injured in ways I can’t fully express. I feel like I want to hurt people, and simultaneously not want anyone to get hurt. But even the most kind, lovable, good natured dog will go for your throat if you merely strike it enough times.

After I went to get my car, I went to drive home, still on a suspended license. In my mind I felt like something very bad would happen if I were pulled over again, but I was also calm and at peace, knowing for a fact that I wouldn’t be seeing the inside of that room again, and when I asked my brain what it meant by that, it only shrugged and smirked at me.

I got gas for my car, and started heading home. The drive back to Ravenloft was two hours, but I didn’t make it even one hour. I fell asleep, having only slept the previous night barely three hours, and went off the road. It was a windy mountain road, and rather steep, though thankfully not very deep, along the side. I went through some bushes and one sign, but the only damage to the car was cosmetic; it was still drivable, but only being front wheel drive and automatic, I couldn’t get it out of the ditch. Cars slowed down as they passed, and I knew it was only a matter of time before one of them had a cell phone, and I was already driving on a suspended license. I put the car in low gear and drove forward to get deeper, away from the road. That did the trick, as every part of my car was now below the horizon of the road, and not visible unless you stood on the rood and looked straight down. I called a nearby wrecker and paid him $100 cash to just drive out and pull me back on the road (and not report anything, especially the sign), which after getting gas, essentially completely broke me.

I’m a pretty good person. I stop when ever I see someone broke down by the road, I always pick up hitch hikers (hell even if they’re going the opposite direction), give them money and food, and my friends can always count on me, whatever they need. I’m honestly feeling in a very “fuck that noise” state of mind now, with absolutely no ethical impulse compelling me to continue doing it. My car is beat to shit, I’ve already given them nearly a thousand dollars, and after having paid off Jericho on monday for the previous bullshit proof of insurance charge, they now believe that I owe them that amount again for a failure to appear, never mind the next license reinstatement fee and the unknown amount Cloverfield will want, and all of it over paperwork. Being incarcerated over paperwork. Paperwork that I actually had, had I been given enough time to find it. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but they’re not getting one more cent out of me.

Would love some feedback. I’m dealing with this somewhat alone.

  • Mike

    Is this Christian justice? Christ will judge them most harshly.

  • Jack

    Holy crap this pisses me off. How can anyone read this and not come away an anarchist?

    The DMV tried to take my friend’s license away for some alleged accident
    they said he was in. What he did was search the net for similar
    situations. He found a case Bell v. Burson where a clergyman was
    involved in an accident when a little girl rode her bike into his car.
    The state tried to take his license away without him being able to offer
    evidence of his lack of fault. Which was essentially what they were
    doing to my friend they wanted his license without any trial or any way
    for him to defend himself. So, he wrote them a really good letter citing
    the case and they left him alone.

    I don’t know if writing any letters would have helped in this situation,
    but in the Bell v. Burson case part of the ruling was that a “licenses
    may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood” which seems to be
    the case in this guy’s situation.