A website reader heeded our call for stories, and sent this one about an incident in which she was involved about six years ago.
It illustrates the stupidity of the cops, the viciousness of the courts, and the willing incompetence of the defense attorney.
This happened in 2001, near Chamberlain, SD. I was driving my friend Sara's car. I had another friend named Devon sitting in the back. I was driving because Sara said she was too drunk to drive and Devon didn’t have a driver license. I ended up driving into a checkpoint (oops).
We handed our beers to Devon in the back seat. I pulled up and an officer explained that it was a sobriety check point and just wanted to make sure we weren't drinking. I smiled and said no we hadn't and he told us to have a good night. Just as I was pulling away, the officer yelled, ”Pull over, I see beers in the back!”
I pulled over. The cop gave me a breathalyzer and made me do a number of sobriety checks, which I passed (I was 20 at the time). The police separated me from my friends and searched the car. In the car they found a roach. They immediately put handcuffs on me and Devon and let Sara (who said she had too much to drink) drive the car home.
When the cops found the roach, it was so funny; they got all jumpy and were like "There's drugs in the car!" and called for backup even though there were already like 10 cops there.
During the sobriety tests after the police found the weed they shined a flashlight in my eyes and told me to follow a pen. After I did that test the police officer said I had obviously been smoking marijuana. I was pretty offended because I had not, so that must mean I look stoned all the time.
I was charged with DUI, underage consumption, seat belt violation, possession of alcohol by a minor, less then 2 ounces of marijuana, and paraphernalia. Sara wasn't charged with anything. Devon was charged with providing alcohol for minors, less than 2 ounces of pot, and paraphernalia.
I was taken to the hospital for a blood test, then taken to jail where I was given a urine test. At that time of my life I did not smoke much pot. The urinalysis came back negative for marijuana and I never did get to find out the results of my blood alcohol content.
I hired this lawyer that everyone joked was buddy-buddy with the state’s attorney. I called my lawyer many times to find out what was going on. Finally, the day he called me back, he said we had court the next day. I met with my lawyer for the first time about 30 minutes before my court appearance. He told me that the state had offered me a plea bargain; plead guilty to a DUI and the rest of the charges would be dropped. Since I never was presented with any of the evidence I decided to take the plea and I wish I wouldn't have now.
The sentence they gave me was pretty harsh for a first offense DUI; one day in jail, lost my drivers license for a year, got a pretty hefty fine, and had to get an alcohol and drug assessment, as well as take classes for driving while intoxicated. It happened that Sara's mom was the drug and alcohol assessment person, and she stood up in court right then and said I wasn't allowed to get my assessment done in Chamberlain. Then the judge ordered me to travel to a town quite a distance away to get everything done.
I just don't feel like I should have taken that plea bargain because I was not driving my own car and did not test positive for marijuana in the first place so it was no bargain. If I had refused a blood alcohol test I would have lost my license for one year, I should not have tried to be cooperative. Ever since then I have stopped drinking and smoke pot only. I've never gotten in trouble since, even though have been stopped by officers. I am 27 years old now.
I also have a friend who was known by cops who got pulled over for speeding and searched one day while she was delivering pizzas for her job. The office found a marijuana seed in her car and arrested her for less than two ounces of marijuana. She retained a lawyer and after many postponements it finally got thrown out.
The worst part of the whole thing is that in the little town I live in, even though most of the charges got dismissed, it still went into the newspaper that I was arrested for those crimes. A lot of people who don't know any better assumed I must be a bad person. I got in a lot of heat at my job, and a lot of people in the community looked at me differently after that.