Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Officer Followed me for Like Eight Blocks Before He Stopped me...

Does this sound familiar to my fellow coppers?

An interesting concept has appeared in traffic court recently. Every second or third defendant I go up against tries this tactic.

When the trial gets to the point of the defendant giving his or her statement, they say the usual stuff like "I wasn't going that fast", "The officer didn't show me the radar" or some other such irrelevant schlock. When that fails, they bring up the fact that I didn't stop them until we were eight blocks away from where I said they committed the violation.

Why do people think this matters? Is there some publicly accepted rule that a police officer must stop you within a block of where you committed the violation? Do people really think there is something wrong with me not immediately stopping them?

When I explain that I had to put the radar down, pull into traffic and CATCH UP TO THEM first (four blocks), then I ran their license plate on my computer (another block or two), and THEN I found a SAFE place to stop them without blocking up the whole roadway, they still want to know why it took so long.

I guess I just don't understand why people think this is going to suddenly make them not guilty...


Texas Ghostrider said...

8 BLOCKS, is that out of the kings "X" zone, you know,kinda like the home base rule?

Hey, I lost my rule book too, So I don't know the distance or the home base rules any more......

Front Porch Society said...

People will try anything to get out of a ticket.

5150Wife said...

It does not make them not guilty. But you do raise a valid question.

What is the limit on how long after the violation an officer can issue a citation? Or is there a limit (time or distance) at all?

I ask because this topic came up in my discussion with my hubby in the whole OHP Trooper/EMT debacle. I was shocked to have Hubby tell me that, technically speaking, if an officer sees me commit a violation in the morning, he could wait & issue the citation to me in the afternoon if he/she desired. Of course, laws & protocols are different in every state.

But what say you, Officer Smith? What is the statute of limitation?

TK said...

On the flip side of that, I had an officer CLAIM to have followed me since I turned onto a particular street. I do check my mirrors and NEVER saw him. I got where I was going, pulled into the lot, and then he was behind me with his lights on. The only reason I didn't try to fight the ticket was 1. was my first ticket and I didn't really know I could but also 2. I was going over the speed limit so I figured even if I disagreed with how long he'd been behind me, I still should pay it.
I can see how that "defense" could be manipulated and totally wrong though. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a real radical idea.Follow the posted speed limits. It has saved me fromm tickets.In all of my years of driving I have only had one ticket. Lesson learned.For the record I have been driving for 39 years.

DJMooreTX said...

(I'm sorry, this rant has been building up for awhile now, and you just ran over the tripwire. It's a two-parter because of Blogger's character limit.)

Every once in awhile, you or one of the other cop bloggers I read asks a question like this: Why do drivers say such stupid stuff? Are they all crazy? Are they all on drugs? Do they think we're all stupid or corrupt?

I'm going to give you part of the answer. Mind, I'm not trying to get out of a ticket here, or to excuse recklessness, much less lawlessness. I'm just trying to explain, because you asked.

Have you been driving behind the badge for so long you've forgotten how nerve wracking it is to be followed by a police car?

Do you not remember that all of us have been followed by cops dozens of times in our lives? For you, it's nothing. You're not following anybody. You're just getting to wherever it is you're going, and in traffic, you have to be behind somebody, right? But for us, it's blocks of sweating anxiety. Usually, almost always, you eventually pass us or turn off. Occasionally, the lights and sirens go on, and we piss our pants, cuss, pull over, wonder what we did wrong -- and you drive past us to whatever call you just got.

Whenever these little things happen, we worry that we will do something wrong out of sheer nervousness. We all breath an enormous sigh of relief when you pass us or turn off. I've pulled into parking lots just to make sure you're not following me. (And then there's the times when I've wondered if I should turn in at my actual destination. Will that look suspicious if I really am being followed?) When we get there, we tell our friends and family about it, wonder what the hell it was all about, and hear their stories.

Very, very rarely, you are in fact pulling us over. We shit our pants, and think, No! Really? You actually stopped little ol' me this time? What the hell did I do eight blocks ago?

Get it? We're incredulous because usually when you follow us, you're not following us.
(cont. in "How long has it been", part 2)

DJMooreTX said...

("How long has it been", part 2)

Then there are the truly scary incidents.

I picked up a tail late one night on my way home from work. The squad car stopped alongside me at a light, waited for me to go through on green, then followed me through several turns for a lot more than eight blocks. The officers followed me up onto the freeway, immediately took the next exit, paced me on the service road, came back up behind me at the next access, followed me for two more exits, then got off and didn't come back. No lights, no siren, and absolutely no clue on my part, then or now, what the hell that was about. I have to think they were trying to panic me into making a mistake.)

Ask my Mom about being followed for miles along a dark, lonely country road by a squad car that had picked her up, with no lights or siren, as she left work at the hospital. When she got home and parked in the attached garage, shaking and nearly weeping with fear, she watched as the car PULLED INTO OUR CIRCLE DRIVE, TURNED ITS HEADLIGHTS OFF, AND JUST SAT THERE, for about a quarter hour. Meanwhile, we were all cowering in the basement, convinced we were about to experience a home invasion launched from a hijacked squad car. Dad called the sheriff's department, and was eventually told that a deputy had been concerned (for some reason that we were never told) about a middle-aged nurse driving home alone late at night (as she did every damn work night just fine, thank you). Nothing to worry about, folks. It's for your protection. A few minutes later, the car drove off, the officers inside having not even bothered to knock on the door and apologize or explain personally. That was decades ago, and Mom is still angry and deeply offended by it all. It's one of her regular stories.

(Good thing Dad's a pacifist priest who doesn't believe in the Second Amendment as strongly as he believes in the First, huh?)

The point is, most everybody I know has stories like these, and I run in reasonably law-abiding, working and professional middle class circles. I had a boss tell me his stories once. He's friends with his cop brother-in-law, has gone on ride-alongs, and still worries when he's being followed.

Do you truly not remember what these things are like for the unbadged? Particularly those of us for whom police contact is very out-of-the-ordinary, because we really do try to follow the law as far as we know it?

We haven't been trained. We have no experience. (Although a few of us have heard that if we do act according to the script, that itself brings us under suspicion. No honest citizen should know exactly how to act around cops. God forbid we should actually refuse to incriminate ourselves, or refuse consent to search in lieu of a warrant or probable cause. Um, which side has taken the oath to uphold the Constitution?) We don't know how the stop will turn out. We're furious with ourselves for being heavy-footed, if we even know what's wrong. (I've been stopped about five times in my life, twice without any idea why: once for no tail lights on a work truck, once because the officer transposed month and year on my inspection sticker. That's 40% honest confusion. Should I mention the news story a few years ago about the PD that thought it would be fun to stop good drivers and give them Thanksgiving turkeys?) We're nervous as all bloody hell, most of us, because what we do know is that our lives just got a lot more complex and likely a lot more expensive, and that for the duration of the stop, we are no longer remotely in control.

What we do know is that if we make any mistake at all, or if we just picked a cop having a bad day, we can end up tazed, beaten, and jailed, or even dead. Sure, I'm willing to believe you're perfect, BtB, but how do I know it's you, any more than you know I'm not a heavily armed gangster?

And you wonder why we act so oddly? Why we say crazy stuff? Why we're just a little tense? A bit testy?

Has it been that long?

DJMooreTX said...

Gah. My rant concerns roadside behavior, not stupid court tricks, which was the point of your post.

Still, I think this is how such ideas lodge in the minds of the ticketed, and grows to such an extent that they believe they have a valid defense in court. They're wrong, absolutely, but this is where the idea comes from.

Sabra said...

You know, honestly, when I got off my ass and got my car street legal again (inspection sticker), it no longer bothered me to have the cops following me. It wasn't that long ago that I did have one follow me for a couple of miles. Knowing I was doing nothing wrong, it wasn't nerve-wracking at all.

To get to my daughter to school on time on the bus, we have to leave here before 6am. It's more than a half-mile walk to the bus stop. In the dark. One fine morning we had a deputy sheriff parked at the front of the trailer park whom we walked by, who then paced us the whole way to the bus stop. He'd drive up a little and wait for us to catch up and finally pulled off into a side street, and when we got close he drove off. It was unnerving, but man I was grateful! I'd have thanked him if I'd been able.

It's all in attitude.

David Woycechowsky said...

Why do people think this matters?

They are looking desperately for a way to cast credibility on the ticket. If the law allowed them to do independent tests of your radar or lidar, then they would probably do that instead, and things would make more sense.

David Woycechowsky said...

Correction to previous:

--to cast doubt on the ticket--

Officer "Smith" said...

5150 Wife,

I must stop the person within a reasonable time / distance after I see the violation. This means I can't come back tomorrow and stop the driver for something I saw them do today. I do not, however, have to stop them right away. I can wait a few blocks for a safe place, I can follow them farther if I'm watching for other violations or maybe evidence of DUI, and I can follow them even farther if there's some reason I want a cover unit for the stop.

By no means do I HAVE to stop them NOW.


No, I haven't forgotten what it's like. I have certainly had my share of adrenaline from looking in my mirror to see a cop car behind me. I've only been stopped three times in my life, but I've seen a car behind me way more than that.

The point of my post, as you belatedly noticed, is that once I have completed the stop, the required time has passed, the defendant shows up in court and has tried every other tactic and failed, only THEN do they bring this up.

The vast majority of the time, people don't notice me or my lights behind them until I blip my siren. I haven't actually "followed" the driver for eight blocks, more like three blocks after catching up.

If you could see the roadway around one of my regular duck ponds, you'd understand why I don't stop drivers immediately. I'd rather wait a block or two where there's a shoulder than try to stop them in a traffic lane.

Regardless, I've never lost a case because of this.

TheBronze said...

DJ Moore said - "What we do know is that if we make any mistake at all, or if we just picked a cop having a bad day, we can end up tazed, beaten, and jailed, or even dead."

Are you fugging kidding me?

David Woycechowsky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Officer "Smith" said...

I say again....

Bugger off Woycechowsky.

Front Porch Society said...

Before I got into Law Enforcement (which was NOT that long ago!), it never once bothered me or unnerved me to have a squad car behind me. And so what if the car is gonna follow you all the way home. At least you know you were safely being escorted to your home.

People who cower in fear in their basements because a cop followed them home and people who piss their pants and get all nervous at the sight of a cop behind them with or without lights on HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE AND ARE GUILTY OF SOMETHING. If you were innocent, you would not be acting in this manner.

There are some extremely over-dramatic people in this world when it comes to how they behave around or toward cops. Good grief!! Take a chill pill and relax, will ya?!? If you are as innocent as you claim to be, then fuckin' act like it!!

And, no, we don't go around tazing, beating, and killing everyone we stop either. Geez.....

Officer "Smith" said...

There are many irrational people in this world. Eventually, when there are so many of them they outnumber the normal folks, the irrational ones become the standard for normalcy.

If enough people irrationally fear the police, then it becomes socially accepted to fear the police.

It's just like the irrational fear of guns. So many people have a phobia of guns, it is becoming more and more socially acceptable to fear guns.

It's ridiculous.

Black Ice said...

Officers, if you will indulge me for a moment...

From what I've seen here, Officer Smith and his regular LEO readers/commenters are good folks. You do your jobs fairly and with equal measures of intelligence and compassion. You guys are COPS, and you deserve our respect and thanks.

But there are--and you know it--other people wearing badges, known as PIGS. Those who believe a uniform and badge give them license to abuse and violate innocent people. Those who come off tough when they have their brothers and the majesty of the law to hide behind, but wouldn't dare to have that attitude alone and unarmed. They're scum, and they give every decent cop a bad name. And yes...I have encountered quite a few of them.

When you're homeless, or simply poor, and you don't look like you have the resources to defend yourself legally or the credibility to be believed, you find out the true colors of some LEO's real quick.

FPS, I'm a respectable citizen with a clean record. I have never harmed an innocent person in my entire adult life. And yet, I still fear being maced, beaten or arrested on a bullshit charge by an LEO until he proves himself to be a cop rather than a pig. Yes, this has all happened to me. Whether you wish to believe it or not, it's the truth. And many other law-abiding citizens feel the same way. You can roll your eyes or try to figure out why; that's your call.

Firelady said...

I have to agree 100% that having a cop behind you should mean nothing unless you have something to hide.

The only time I get remotely worried is if a state trooper gets behind me. Those guys are notorious for seeming to hunt for a reason to cite. Either way, if I get scribed, I earned it. I'll pay it, correct the problem if needed (lightbuld or similar), and move on.

TK said...

Black Ice just reminded me of a pin I saw on a former cop customer I had as a teen. He had a pig pin he wore. He took pride in being a "pig". He said it stood (to him) for "Pride Integrity & Guts"...I think that was just his way of turning something intended to be negative into a positive though. Still thought worth sharing.

Officer "Smith" said...

Black Ice,

There are VERY few "pigs", and many, many cops.

It is only because the actions of the "pigs" are plastered across our television screens by the "news" media, and the outstanding actions of the "cops" are ignored, that the belief that all "cops" are "pigs" has proliferated.

Also, the fact that the media blows any simple mistake by a "cop" out of proportion, thereby turning that "cop" into an instant "pig", does not help us at all.

I am sorry for any negative behavior you have experienced at the hands of a "pig", however I have experienced "shitheads" who called themselves "upstanding citizens", who decided it would be in their best interest to refuse to comply with a lawful order, or even to outright resist. And after the resulting baton strike, pepper spray application, or Taser deployment, the same "shithead" is placed on a pedestal as an "upstanding citizen" by the "news" media, thereby casting all of the involved officers as "pigs", regardless of how justified their use of force was in the first place.

As a result of all of this, it has apparently become acceptable to back-talk a police officer, refuse to comply with a lawful order, or even attempt to strike a police officer, because some high dollar defense attorney will be knocking at your door after he sees the story featured at eleven o'clock.

Your statement that you "fear being maced, beaten or arrested on a bullshit charge by an LEO until he proves himself to be a cop rather than a pig", tells me that you may just be the reason for your own fear. Do you treat the officer with the respect you feel you deserve in an effort to bring out the "cop" side? Or do you instantly start in with the accusation that the officer is corrupt, has no reason to stop you, and has nothing better to do?

If your answer is the former, then those officers were likely "pigs". If it's the latter, you were only being treated the way you yourself asked to be treated.

As for being arrested on a bullshit charge, I find that incredibly unlikely based upon my experiences as a police officer. I have had arrestees accuse me of false arrest, just as nearly every other police officer has. It's a tactic used by many internet lawyers in an effort to intimidate the officer into letting them go. It doesn't work with me, however. Because I know that I am arresting the person for something real.

I have never seen a person truly arrested on a "bullshit charge". Perhaps that's unique to Smithville, but I doubt it.

Starchild said...

I have one question which I'm going to ask politely:

What's wrong with asking to see the radar? I know some states require officers to show it on request, but have refused. It doesn't seem that hard, and if anything it would solidify evidence against the speeder.

Officer "Smith" said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking to see the radar.

In fact, if I'm asked I will always show it to you.

In California I'm not required to even if you do ask, but I will anyway.

Black Ice said...

Officer Smith...I assure you that I give courtesy and respect to everyone but the utter lowlives of society, where that is seen as weakness instead of acting like a civilized human being.

I especially show that respect to anyone wearing a badge--even if they do prove themselves to be a pig--since that's a situation where I simply cannot win playing the hostile game.

As it happens, I was arrested for "lurking with intent" (yes, really) and maced while cross-cuffed with two friends in the back of a squad car for doing nothing more than bitching amongst ourselves about the ridiculousness of the whole ordeal. (The charge never went to court. Wonder why? ;> ) This same officer was tossed off the force a year later for drug use, which boosted my faith in the system a bit.

I don't put a lot of stock in the mainstream media's take on things. They lie and sensationalize, and anyone with a brain knows it. I simply go with my own experiences. If I've done wrong--even if it's a law I think is bullshit--and you nail me for it, you're simply doing your job and I can't fault you for that. I had a DPS officer give me a $750 logbook ticket and had no problem at all with him. He was polite, courteous, and a credit to his department and profession. If I meet up with him again, I'll shake his hand (as I did when he ticketed me(!)) and buy him a beverage.

I had a MN State Trooper come out of his cruiser screaming like Gunny Hartman and having such a fit I was seriously thinking I'd get a baton upside the head...for not coming to a complete stop at a deserted intersection on a clear summer day. Anyone with borderline-psychotic anger issues like that does not need to be a cop of any description. (And yes, I still gave him the respect he REALLY didn't deserve. Bet he wouldn't have the balls to get in my face like that without a gun and badge.) He ended up giving me a warning.

It's all about attitude. I got a ticket from a cop, and a warning from a pig. Those of you who do your jobs in a professional manner have my thanks and respect. Those who think they can abuse people while hiding behind the law are scum, and every decent cop should be disgusted with their actions.

My experience has been about 75%-25% cop/pig. Maybe it's just the locale where I've had most of my police contacts. I'm hoping you're right, and that the Twin Cities area of MN simply had an overabundance of badge-toting thugs 20 years ago. But even as a punk rocker and biker, and later truck driver, I still notice a preponderance towards the good in LEO's. Please don't misunderstand me and think I believe that any cop I encounter is a pig until proven otherwise. I don't necessarily think that way.

But I do still have that tiny spark of doubt until we start talking. I wish I didn't, but that's how it is.