I'm editing this post of Kimberly's and Reposting it as my own as part of the preparations to forward this whole mess to the ACLU and so folks who aren't on Kimberly's friends list can read of my adventures. I'll be prefixing her stuff as hers and mine as mine and we'll see how it goes.
All of the events in this post took place in Cambridge on 2/13/02 between about 11am and 3pm.
JB: So, I'm driving down Broadway, starting at the split at the Harvard underpass. A couple of blocks after the Firehouse I start being followed by a cop car. After the stoplight at Cambridge Rindge And Latin School, I continue driving until the officer flashes his lights and siren. I pull over at the corner of Broadway and Hancock streets. It's about 11:05am.
The officer comes up to the car, fails to tell me his name or why he stopped me. As he's looking in my window, he can now see my expired inspection sticker (exp. 11/01 - yes, I know. I was, in fact, going to deal with it that day, as soon as I had gotten my Cambridge parking permit - which I was going to do in about 10 minutes from when I was stopped. He asks for my license and registration. I give him my still valid Virginia drivers license and dig out, after about a minute of looking, my MA registration. He asks how long I've lived in Ma and if there's a good reason that I haven't yet gotten a MA Drivers License. I honestly answer - not really - and he tells me I have to have get a MA license within (30 days?) of setting up residence in the state. He also asks if my driving privileges are suspended in any state, to the best of my knowledge. I say not as far as I know - as my privs HAVE been suspended in the past without my being notified, I felt that answering that one conservatively was warranted. He says Thank you, and I'll be back in a minute.
A couple of minutes later, another cop car pulls up on Hancock St and parks at the corner. This seems reasonable enough - if there's a traffic stop, staying around to provide support if needed seems quite normal.
20 minutes later, the 2nd officer gets out of her car and goes to talk to the 1st officer. She sticks her head in his passenger window. They chat. The pass the screen of his computer back and forth a couple of times, pointing at things and talking. She goes back to her car and pulls it around in front of mine, lights on, blocking my 'escape'. She gets out of the car and asks me to get out of mine. The 1st officer comes up, tells me that I need to have a valid MA license and that they're going to arrest me. I don't know if I'm supposed to get the causality there, but it's not at all obvious that that's the reason for the arrest.
It's about 11:40 at this point.
He handcuffs me and asks me if I have any weapons in my pockets, or any sharp objects, or any drugs. I say no, other than the leatherman on my belt. They take my cell and my pager off my belt, count my cash. I say that, if the car's going to be impounded, could they grab my courier bag, with my work laptop in it and they say yeah, that won't be a problem. As they're finishing up with this, the 1st officer asks the 2nd if the wagon's on the way, she says yes, and lo, up comes a paddy wagon. Did you know those things aren't heated in back? I had no idea. If it were any colder back there, I would have been in really bad shape by the time I arrived at the station...but I'd have to guess that that was long ago determined to be legal. I more wonder about the fact that they did NOT fasten my seat belt.
I'm driven to the Central Sq. police station, let out, lead into the station and the handcuffs are shifted from behind my back to my left wrist being fastened to the booking desk after I empty my pockets on to said desk and remove my belt.
A deputy comes in and reads me my rights. I acknowledge them and he leaves, leaving me alone with the desk officer.
My information is taken - name, wife's name, parent's names, address, phone numbers, employer, probably a couple of other things. My stuff is inventoried, I'm fingerprinted and photographed. She tells me that the Leatherman and computer bag will not go over to the courthouse, that they'll stay at the station and I'll have to come back to get them. Then I'm given the chance to make my phone call. I call Kimberly. Luckily, she's awake. :)
I tell her I've been arrested and that I'll be being taken over to the court house over on Thorndike St. shortly - as soon as the original officer has finished his paperwork.
She says she'll be there, I tell her not to panic, that I'm ok. We hang up.
The desk officer takes me to the cells to wait while the arresting officer finishes up his paperwork. She tells me I'll have to either take off my shoes or remove my shoe laces and suggests that, as I'll only be there a little while that it'll be easier to just take off my shoes. I do so, and ask if she has any magazines or newspapers to read. She says she'll check, and leaves. I look around the cell.
It's just about as bleak as you'd expect it'd be. About 8'x5.5', stainless steel bench and a one-piece stainless steel sink/toilet. The bars have been covered by sheets of lucite and along with all the expected graffiti is one I never expected - something in Welsh! ('Cymraeg Am ') Only in Cambridge. :)
A few minutes later she brings me a copy of the Boston Herald - my gods is that paper right-biased.
About 15 min. later, I think, she comes back, lets me out, I put on my shoes again, she re-cuffs me and leads me to a bench where, about 45s later, the arresting officer comes and takes me to another (the same? who knows.) paddy wagon. Again, no seat belt. He gets in the drivers seat and we go over to the courthouse.
I had no idea there was a 20 story building over there, let alone one where 17-20 are the local jail.
As I am just beginning to wake up, I get a phone call from my husband. He tells me he's been arrested. I vaguely look at the clock and then I actually *pinch* myself to be sure that I am awake and this is actually happening. It takes me a few extra seconds to manage to say "Um, for what? Where are you? Are you ok?" He tells me that he's ok but has no clear idea what he has been arrested for - he believes it is for having an expired inspection sticker on the car and not having a MA license (now, don't get me started on how stupid it is that he hasn't yet converted his VA license to an MA license - we've lived in MA for over 3 years and Ted & I nag him about this weekly). He tells me that he's going to be arraigned and that I should meet him at the courthouse. We say our I love yous and I tell him I'll head right over there now.
I drop corwin at work, and continue on to the courthouse. I find it,park and head in .. to find that there is NO central info desk and NO clear indication of what happens on which floors, etc. I spend nearly 40 minutes looking for him and all I find are nearly 20 other people trying to find their loved ones and having no luck either. Finally, three of us are commiserating/bitching in the elevator and a nice clerk court asks for the names of the people we're trying to find, takes us to her desk and tells us where they can be found. Turns out that all courts are in recess for lunch, so I now have an hour to kill before I can see him and find out what is going on ... though the clerk tells me that his case is puzzling - he has no record, and driving with an out-of-state license (after you've been a MA resident) is only a citation offense, same with having an expired inspection sticker. She's truly puzzled as to why he was arrested. She asked if he has any criminal record (no) and says that they are going to have her check that before the case comes up. I thank her for her help, and go off to find some lunch. Can't really eat and kill time reading the paper.
I'm brought up to the 13th floor, where I'm lead to one of 2 holding cells. I'm told that court has just recessed for lunch until 2pm, but that at least that means I get fed.
In the holding cell I'm put in leg-irons and patted down again, after another round of 'anything in your pockets'. ("No. It's all been inventoried, except for this pack of tissues.") I'm left in the cell with 2 other guys. We exchange not a word. I listen to the guards and court officers discussing the impending layoffs in the MA courts departments, who's likely to lose their jobs, what the union can do for them and the like.
The cell is similar to the Central Sq. cells - again, about 8'x6', this time a built-in concrete bench, and a different model of one-piece toilet/sink.
A person from...not the probation dept. I don't think, but something like that...who also, I think, is the person who gives Kimberly the directions for what court room I'll be in and when...takes some information - including asking where I work and what I make - though she leaves it as "probably more than I do, eh?" - which all-in-all leaves me thinking that the interview was a 'will you be out on the street and being a menace-to-society if we happen to let you go' sort of thing more than anything. She has me sign the form that she's filled out with the answers I've given her - without actually showing me the 1st side of the double-sided form. I probably could have looked, but you know, you try not to make waves...
After a while the other 2 in the cell are lead away and I'm alone. After a while the guard who mentioned lunch to me asks if I've gotten food yet. I say no and he goes and gets a pseudo-crab salad sandwich and a half-pint of milk. I'm left alone again.
After a while, it seems that it's after 2pm and that court is back in session. About 10 minutes later, someone comes, calls my name. I say 'hi'. He says 'it's time to go to the court room', opens the cell and re-cuffs me - this time in front, at least. I shuffle into the courtroom.
At 2p. I head to the appointed courtroom and take a seat. The DA comes in and is commenting to a different court clerk that JB's SSN and birthdate don't match the records he's got ... I offer help and tell him that we have discovered more than one person with JB's name and a birth-date very close living in our neighborhood. The nice clerk from the elevator comes in and tells the DA that JB has no criminal or traffic records in MA, VA, or NY (all states that he has lived in his life). The DA openly says that he can't figure out why they would have arrested him then as these things are not arrestable offenses and they would have known that he didn't have a record of any sort when they ran his license the first time. After about 30 minutes, JB's case is called and he is brought in in *handcuffs* and *legirons* ... I am a bit freaked by this. The judge looks at the case and says "what is going on - these aren't arrestable offenses, why is he in manacles?" and no one has an answer ... the judge looks things over a bit more and says "these things are matters for the RMV - they are citation offenses, not criminal" and talks with the DA. They tell JB that the fine for these things is $100 and he should pay that and then be sure to get his MA license as soon as possible and the case will be dismissed. There is a bit more discussion/confusion over why he was arrested. The handcuffs and leg irons are removed, and we pay the fine and we leave the courthouse, heading back over to the police station to get his property and find out where our car has been impounded.
Well, he says 'the fine for this is usually $200, but we usually dismiss it for half. Can you pay $100?' - as I know I have $96 in my wallet (it's been inventoried twice now) and I figure Kimberly has a bit more above that, I say 'yes'. He says 'Ok. Cool. Do so, and get your license, eh? Dismissed.'
As for removing the leg-irons...after the judge is done, a deputy comes over and removes the handcuffs and signals that I can leave. I say 'no, not yet' and point at my feet. He seems genuinely surprised that I'm in irons, pulls out a key and takes them off. I get my property, pay the same woman who's been so helpful to Kimberly, get a receipt, and head off, back to the Central Sq. station to get the property that's still there.
In the care I FINALLY have a chance to look at the citation as written up at the traffic stop.
The officer's name is not on it. Just his ID number (501) and some initials and another '501'.
The charges: C90, Sec 20: Civil: Expired Insp. Sticker and C90, Sec 10 (corrected, 2/20/02, JB. Officer Bikofsky has bad handwriting), Criminal, Operating a M/V Unlicensed.
In the car, JB tells me what happened. He was driving to work, not speeding or breaking any traffic laws. A cop followed him for 3 blocks, put on the lights and pulled him over, asked for license and registration. Didn't tell him why he was stopped. Noted the expired inspection sticker and asked him about the out-of-state license (seeing as how the car has multiple Cambridge parking stickers on it) and JB said he answered honestly and politely. Cop goes away for nearly 30 minutes, during which another cop car pulls up and parks in front of JB's car, so as to prevent him from driving away. After a bit longer, the cop says "we're going to arrest you" and still hasn't told him what the charge is/why he is being arrested. They read him his rights, cuff him, call a paddy wagon, and take him to the station where they photograph and fingerprint him, take his stuff and put him in a cell. After a bit, he gets to make a phone call and is told that he'll be arraigned at the courthouse. He calls me (see above) and then is put in leg-irons and taken to the courthouse, where he is put in another holding cell and given a sandwich and some milk. Time passes (90 minutes maybe) before he comes into the courtroom and stuff happens (see above).
So, here's the thing ... a judge, a DA, and three cops tell us that these are NOT arrestable offenses. The DA asked me if he had a record, an attitude, any ties to Arab groups or organizations, etc. Now, JB wears a leather jacket, has long dark hair and a beard ... so who knows if he trips some cop's hippie/terrorist/whatever bit ... but given that nearly everyone was stunned that he didn't just get a ticket, we're a bit confused .... and a bit annoyed ... none of it adds up. The cop who pulled him over couldn't have *known* that he didn't have an MA license, nor could the cop have seen the expired inspection sticker from behind the car, so we still don't know what prompted the cop to pull him over ... I have no problem with him getting tickets for those things - it's nutty that he hasn't dealt with those things by now. But when all these cops and others seem to think he never should have been arrested and the DA asked if he "looks arab" you have to start to wonder ... WHAT THE FUCK???
At the Police Station, I get my property and go up to Records where Kimberly's being told that we can ask for the report but that we won't get it. No one has a good explanation why but says that I'll get a letter explaining it. We go back downstairs and I ask where my car's been impounded to. While they're telling me, we talk to a couple of officers about what happened. What they said is that is IS an arrestable offence - no matter what the judge says (interesting dichotomy that, eh?) - but that they never actually arrest you unless you're a real asshole to the arresting officer. I like to think that that was not how I behaved. I still have no idea what caused the initial stop, what triggered the arrest, why it took 35m to decide to arrest me, or anything.
"I had to pay $100 and clean up the garbage." has become my signature to this whole thing...it's pretty much as incomprehensible as it stands.
We were denied a copy of the police/arrest report. They told us it can only be obtained with a subpoena. The question is ... do we just say "well, you should have dealt with the sticker and the license sooner and it sucks that we had to pay a fine, have him be 5 hours late to work, and now have to pay to get the car out from the impound lot" or do we call the ACLU, as one court clerk suggested we consider? As the judge says ... none of this adds up to a reasonable reaction on the part of the police. Do we let it slide in this time of heightened worried? I suppose if you're a worried law enforcement professional, you could look at JB and see the similarities (long hair, long beard is all I can think of) to some of the WANTED photos but how could you tell that from behind his car? And is it legal to arrest someone without telling them *why* you're arresting them? A valid out-of-state license is legal to drive on ...
As the perfect coda to this whole thing: Saturday, Joanne and I went to the Watertown RMV to get my MA license. I almost couldn't. Why? 1st I had to go to the special issues desk where they went through about 15 items attached to my name and had to mark them as cleared manually. Then, when that was done, I had was told that, unless I had my Social Security Card ("Not for Identification"), they wouldn't be able to give me my license, as they couldn't get confirmation of my SSN from the SSA's computers. "Yes, I know. It's not listed on the website that you need proof of your ssn. I know that the card says it's not for Identification. But without the card I can't do the override, because the computer just isn't letting me do things normally.' Oy. Oy oy oy.
Luckily I had my card with me - not that it proves a damned thing. The signature was done by my father, in his own inimitable handwriting 34 years ago, when I was an infant. But that's what they wanted.
I think that part pisses me off more than all the rest of it. Well, ok. Not really.