Another Cop Knock

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The Man and I had worked at the Bridge during Spring Break, then went off on an epic adventure in Arizona. On our second day in Flagstaff, we decided to end the Arizona trip and head back to New Mexico.

Let’s go home, we looked at each other and said.

These are some of the new necklaces I’ve made recently.

We spent a week on the land of a friend who lives ten miles from the nearest town. The Man carved wood spirits, and I made new hemp necklaces, and we took turns cooking delicious food we shared with our friend.

On our first day back at the Bridge, I got us there early. By early, I mean around 4am. I admit it: I’m a bit obsessive about arriving at the vending area early and getting the spot I want.

As we approached the vending area, I noticed something a bit strange. An old SUV I didn’t recognize was parked in the vending area. That wasn’t the strange part. The vehicle could have belonged to a new vendor I didn’t know or it could have been the new vehicle of someone I did know. What was strange about the vehicle was the way it was parked. Instead of being parked parallel to the highway as vendors usually situate themselves, this SUV was parked perpendicular to the road.

As I pulled off the highway and into the vending area, I noticed something even stranger about the way the SUV was parked. Just beyond where vendors park their vehicles, the land drops. I can walk up and down the incline if I concentrate on my movements, but it’s rather steep. The SUV was sitting at a strange angle because the back tires had rolled beyond the drop off of the land.

Because Northern New Mexico is full of drunk drivers, I assumed someone had been driving drunk and had backed up beyond the point of safety. Of course, the driver maybe wasn’t drunk at all and simply hadn’t seen the drop off in the dark.

In any case, I parked my van and crawled back into bed. The SUV didn’t seem to be damaged in any way that indicated a violent crash or injuries, so I wasn’t worried about anyone being hurt. I didn’t want to disturb anyone who was sleeping it off inside the vehicle because I really wasn’t in the mood to deal with a possibly drunk person in the dark.

The Man and the dog were sleeping peacefully, but I was wide awake. Once in bed, I tried to lie still so as not to disturb my companions. I heard at least one other vendor arrive. I heard voices, but couldn’t understand the words being said. I was maybe drifting off when Bam! Bam! BAM! someone knocked on the van.

The dog sprang from the bed, barking fiercely. The Man sat up from a dead sleep, shouting incoherently. I untangled myself from the blankets while trying to calm The Man and the dog, asking them to let me find out what’s going on.

I pulled the curtain aside and saw a young man in a uniform standing outside the van. I popped open the window, and the young man said, I’m with the sheriff’s department. The knock had sounded like a cop knock because it was a cop knock.

The officer asked me if the SUV had been there when I arrived. I said it had. He asked what time I had arrived. I said I’d gotten there right around four o’clock. (It was now 4:30, according to my watch.) He asked if I had seen anyone in the vehicle or walking around, and I said no. The officer then dismissed me, but I don’t think he thanked me for my time or apologized for waking me (and The Man and the dog, whose commotion he must have heard).

I was awake for a while more and heard chains being attached to the SUV to pull it up to level ground. After that, I managed to fall asleep.

It was after 7am and full daylight when I woke up again. The Man was still snoring, but the dog was awake and whining to go out. I dressed quickly, then harnessed and leashed the dog. After he attended to the call of nature, we walked down the line of vendors, saying hello to our friends.

Dee told me four cops had arrived shortly after she did. (She said she hadn’t called them.) They questioned her about the SUV, but she knew nothing. A tow truck arrived and took the SUV away, then the officers left. Sometime after the cops left, a man walked up to Dee and asked her what had happened to his vehicle.

Did he get dropped off? I asked Dee. Or did he crawl out of the sage? She said she didn’t know, hadn’t seen where he’d come from, but she’d told him his vehicle had been towed.

I walked farther down the line of vendors, and Mr. Leather asked me about the morning’s excitement. I told him about the cop knocking on my van and questioning me, and I told him about the stranger asking Dee where his SUV was.

I guess the moral of the story is stay with your vehicle so it doesn’t get towed, I said to Mr. Leather.

Actually, he said, if you’re drunk, it’s better to leave the vehicle so you don’t get charged with DUI.

I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’ve never once driven after drinking alcohol, so I’d never given any thought to what I should do if I got my vehicle stuck somewhere and risked failing a field sobriety test if the police showed up.

I’m not positive the man who belonged to the SUV was indeed drunk, but if he was sleeping it off in the sage that probably saved him from getting charged with a DUI. I hope getting stuck saved him from getting into a worse accident and possibly ending his own or someone else’s life.

 

 

 

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

3 Responses »

  1. I don’t drink at all (icky stuff), so I have no experience with DUIs. But if you’re parked and sleeping off some booze, how could you be arrested for Driving Under the Influence??? Not that I understand cop thinking, mind you, but the D in DUI is for Driving. Parked and sleeping in the back seat seems a bit removed from driving.

    • Up until 2010, a person COULD get a DUI without driving. According to https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/31/3171.asp:

      “New Mexico’s highest court on Tuesday reversed an interpretation of the driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) statute that had discouraged motorists from sleeping off a night of drinking in their automobile. In December 2004, a police officer came upon Mark Sims who was asleep in the driver’s seat of his car, which was legally parked in a commercial parking lot. Although the car keys were on the passenger seat and not in the ignition, a trial court and the court of appeals found him guilty of being in “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

      “Under settled law, defendant had actual physical control if he could exercise direct influence over the vehicle,” a divided court of appeals ruled. “Based on the facts of this case, there was nothing to prevent defendant from awakening, reaching for the keys, and driving from the parking lot.”

      The supreme court explained that this interpretation of “actual physical control” developed as a means of convicting people who had obviously driven their car while drunk but outside the view of a police officer. For example, it is obvious that a man passed out in his car in the middle of an intersection with the engine running got there by driving. The line of thought was extended to make having the potential to drive drunk in the future a crime. Justices decided such interpretations departed from the true purpose of the DUI laws…

      As a result, the supreme court ruled that when an individual is arrested for DUI based on “actual physical control” of the vehicle — as opposed to actually driving the vehicle — the state must prove that the defendant actually intended to drive…

      The high court acknowledged that the new procedure set out in this decision will increase the burden on the prosecution and that police will have to gather evidence with greater care.

      “A fact finder cannot simply assume or speculate that the individual in question might sometime in the future commence driving his or her vehicle,” Chavez wrote. “Instead, the fact finder must assess the totality of the circumstances and find that (1) the defendant was actually, not just potentially, exercising control over the vehicle, and (2) the defendant had the general intent to drive so as to pose a real danger to himself, herself, or the public. In this case, the state failed to prove that defendant used the vehicle other than as a passive occupant. It was pure speculation whether defendant would rouse himself and drive the vehicle. Defendant could not be convicted for what he might have done. The state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant actually exercised physical control over the vehicle with the general intent to drive so as to endanger the public.”

      Because the state could not do so, the charges against Sims were dismissed. ”

      Of course, a cop can arrest anyone at any time. That person may later have charges dropped or go to trial and be found not guilty, but the person has been arrested and spent time in jail. So sure even today, someone in New Mexico could be arrested for DUI, even if that person wasn’t actually driving. even if the conviction doesn’t stick.

  2. Thanks for the info. I seem to learn something new every day! I guess it’s like my Mom’s old friend, whose grandson got drunk in a bar and decided not to drive home, but to walk, instead. A cop gave him a ticket for public intoxication at 2 a.m.

    Many people (law enforcement included) seem to have a real problem thinking things through; they don’t get any farther than the money. Well, at least they changed it in NM. NM is the only real state that has passed a law (Feb, 2017) to “expressly prohibit these municipal forfeiture programs, shutting them down for good.”

    I hope the other states start doing this. But it’s hard to get them to consider the Constitution when all they want is money.

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