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Prosecution or Persecution?

My Civil Action

By Chris ZPublished 3 months ago 5 min read
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"I was doing 60 in a 45 when the cherries and berries on a trooper’s cruiser bloomed."

2AM, November 8, 1999. The night was as black as the road was barren. I was doing 60 in a 45 when the cherries and berries on a trooper’s cruiser bloomed.

I stopped at the first bastion of civilization I found. An irate Cro-Magnon, shrink-wrapped in law enforcement earthtones, stormed up to my window. He accused me of taking too long to stop, implying that I’d entertained evasion. I flatly explained that slowing, signaling, and changing lanes congruent to said signal, was the antithesis of evasion.

What followed went way beyond "license and registration." Every statement was a thinly-veiled accusation. My full cooperation failed to mellow his harsh. He played the hits, opening with, "I’m detecting an odor of alcoholic impurities on your breath.” I confessed to consuming one cocktail, a frozen piña colada, 3+ hours earlier. Baseless suspicion became baseless conviction when he saw my wristband, a wristband issued to all 21+ Have a Nice Day Café patrons.

He ordered me out of my vehicle. He ran my license. I was indifferent, having no warrants, and knowing that my tag, title, license, insurance, and registration were kosher. It soon became clear that taking his time was his way of sticking it to me. Last week, I literally received a traffic citation in less time than Smokey Bear took just to run my license that night. Passively biding time, I leaned against my car. Trooper Croy rushed me, furious that I’d leaned after being told to stand! He postured aggressively, breaching my personal space with his hulking frame. I recoiled, at which time he accused me of being too drunk to maintain my balance. He later wrote that I’d been "swaying back and forth" in his arrest report. Croy then ran me through the field sobriety test’s gamut of ballet steps and Pilates poses. Absent elaboration, he informed me I’d failed.

Manacled, I was confined to the cruiser's rear compartment. From my new vantage point, I noticed its dash cam tightly trained on my car sans panorama; Trooper Croy had conducted the FST just out of frame. In stark contrast to his conduct and demeanor up to that point, Croy sought permission from the Circle K cashier to stow my car in his parking lot.

I arrived at a DUI testing center, where I was softcore hogtied with a waist chain. I consented to a breathalyzer. I fellated the austere contraption’s phallus. A high-pitched whistle vouched for my participation. Officer Croy and the breathalyzer technician spoke in hushed tones. Minutes later, I was ordered to repeat the chore. Again, the black box catcalled. Again, whispers were exchanged. I was then compelled to submit to a urinalyses exam. Cuffed to my arrestor, I filled a specimen cup. From there, I was placed inside a broom closet-sized cell. Eavesdropping from inside said cell, I overheard the technician, with some snap in his voice, tell Croy, "He blew twice, the machine beeped both times, I'm not gonna make him take it again." Loathe to escalate the already-surreal situation, I kept what I’d just learned to myself.

We returned to Croy's cruiser, where he begrudgingly divulged the results of both my breath tests: .000. Croy confirmed that I had indeed been drug tested under the premise that, if not drunk, I must have been high.

I entered the cold, concrete depths of Orlando’s 33rd Street Correctional Facility. I was frisked, fingerprinted and photographed. My possessions were bagged, my shoelaces confiscated. I shared a large cell with twenty other detainees. Concrete benches full, I slept on concrete flooring. At 10 AM, the iron door lolled open. My best friend had posted my bond.

In sudden, dire need of income I applied for a job parking cars at a local theme park. Since prospective hires were subject to background checks, I came clean about my arrest. The park would not hire me until my case had been resolved. Luckily, an attorney from UCF’s Student Legal Services took my case pro bono. Paying a lawyer out of pocket, on top of the hundreds I’d shelled out for bail, would have derailed my college career.

When they arrived weeks later, the results of my piss test mirrored those of my breath test. The state promptly stamped my case Nollo Prosequi (Latin for "will not prosecute").

The Clerk of County Courts assured me that my bond would be returned in about three weeks. Four weeks passed. The State Attorney's office hadn’t sent the Clerk of Courts the documents authorizing remittance of my bail. Another four weeks passed. At last, a kind-hearted paper-pusher at the Clerk’s office took pity on me, and took it upon herself to remedy the bureaucratic clusterfuck.

I’ve often wondered why Officer Croy seemed to have had it out for me from the onset that night. My working theory, that he harbored the disdain for "college boys" typical of toxically masculine Bible Belt types, is pure conjecture on my part. After all, the sole kind gesture he made that night he made entirely on his own volition. He could have had my car towed, the norm for DUI arrests. Towing fee aside, a state statute stipulates that DUI tows must remain impounded no less than five days. At $100 a day, well, you can multiply. What’s more, he described me as “polite and cooperative” in his arrest report. Still, I felt deserving of restitution for a night spent in stir, a 2-month hold on my bail, and for having my face, fingerprints, and family name added to the FBI's database. To that end, I retained a civil litigant.

EPILOGUE

I spent much of 2000 on hold, at the courthouse, filling out reems’ worth of paperwork, etc. I was also dismissed from a job teaching traffic school when a background check unearthed the record of my arrest, despite said arrest’s final disposition favoring me. Should, God forbid, you ever find yourself in the shoes I wore that night, good luck explaining to middle management stuffed shirts that Nollo Prosequi, the dead-language words stamped on your court documents, constitutes a victory more definitive than a “not guilty” verdict.

An expungement is a process whereby one’s arrest record is concealed from entities other than, say, state and federal investigative agencies. US citizens are afforded one per lifetime, provided the crime in question was a trifling one. I was forced to waste mine purging the record of an arrest so meritless the DA didn’t bother pursuing it.

As I saw it, twelve grand was payback backpay enough for all I’d endured. However, my counsel made clear that 12G was simply a starting bid, likely to meet with a counteroffer of 6. Just when the tide seemed to be turning in my favor, my lawyer phoned to inform me that he'd soon be moving to a county some two hundred miles away. My civil action was remanded to square one. Over the next few months I submitted my case to a half dozen civil attorneys in and around Orlando. None found it profitable enough to pursue.

racial profilingjuryinvestigationinnocenceincarcerationguiltycapital punishment
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About the Creator

Chris Z

My opinion column garnered more reader responses than any other contributor in the paper's 40-year run. As a stand-up comic, I performed in 16 countries & 26 states. I've written 2 one-man shows, umpteen poems, songs, essays & chronologies.

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