What Happens When You Get Arrested For DWI

One of the worst nights of my life started on a cold November morning, segued to me unwinding at a concert of local music, and ended with me sleeping in a very cold cell with a steel toilet for a companion. There were plenty of things which took place between the three and more than my fair share of miserable errors of judgments, but what's important is that for an evening I was a guest of the APD for something I did to myself. My name is David, and this is the story of my DWI.

My life really isn't that much different than yours, I'd imagine – save that, hopefully, I've had this experience and you reading about it will help you avoid making the same mistake. A college graduate, an uncle (to be when this incident occurred), and stupid enough to think I was invincible. I drink sociably, fastidiously avoid recreational drugs, and have hopes to further my education while working towards a steady career. That evening, however, I decided to have a little too much fun – that's the vital thing, I feel, it was my choice and that of no one else.

It was a long evening, and while I had had several when it started I had been careful (I thought) to slow down. As I had been tired the whole day, I had been alternating my drinks with not only water but energy drinks, to get my energy back up, you see. What I should have noticed, what I would have noticed if I had not decided to throw caution to the wind and assume I was in control, was that instead of just the sweet, sweet caffeine over ice it was instead a vodka mixed drink. Looking back, I see now that I was obviously in worse shape than I had thought or else I would not have made such a stupid mistake. Feeling exhausted now, I decided to head home.

Now, it's bad enough to drive tired, that's an impairment within itself. And I was exhausted, too tired to 'bother' waiting for a taxi or for a friend to pick me up. There's something to consider carefully if you'd like to avoid sharing a cell with Flushy the Metal Water-Closet: if you're to the point where you're not sure that you can drive for any reason, you Do Not Drive. Hard earned bit of common sense which escaped me at the time. The worse part? I had almost made it home, I could see my house just up the street when the blue and red lights filled my rear view mirror.

I'm going to pause the narrative here to explain why that's 'the worse part'. It's not because I was caught, I was a danger to those around me and deserved to have been pulled over if that was the case. No, it's because if I had made it home I would not have realized exactly how big of an idiot I was being. I would not have learned, and might have made the same mistake in the future, only this time I could have hurt someone. Possibly killed them. It's the worst part because at the time I felt cheated, as if I should have been able to point to my home and tell the officer walking up to my window not to bother, I'll walk from here, fair game.

Worryingly, at the time the officer thought I was high – when asked I informed her that yes, I was on medication (prescribed, one for ADHD and the other for depression). But she also claimed to be able to smell the alcohol on me, and so I was told to walk the line. I refused this because I have a hard time walking straight in the first place and I felt that since I was so tired I'd fail the coordination tests anyway. That's something else to consider: all that walking the line, touching your nose, counting, all of that, is not to see how clever you are. They're on the look out for signs of intoxication.

Upon refusing the tests, I was asked to give either a breath or blood sample. I refused that as well because, as far as I was concerned, if I was pulled over I was going to jail anyway. The blood sample takes time to be tested, after all. And there were those drinks I had in the start of the evening I was worried about. Now comes the fun part.

I was cuffed – not rudely, but tightly. I was a good foot or more taller than the officer doing the testing, and, well, I was being arrested – I could understand the precaution. Hands behind my back, not a pleasant position to be in but I could handle that. I was then informed that, since I had refused the blood test they were going to request a warrant from a judge to take it – which meant I was going to be riding along until they heard back on that. Not that I had much choice: they towed my car and, once again, I was in cuffs. Unfortunately I was almost too large to fit inside the cage they had in the back of the squad car.

Yes, that's right, I said cage. You're being recorded at all times, and during the time you're riding around in the back of the squad car you're doing it in a plexiglass cage which caused me to hunch my shoulders to fit in. I mentioned the cuffs, which were on snugly but not painfully. What I discovered when I leaned back was that doing so would cause the cuffs to tighten a click. It did not take long for me to decide to spend the ride hunched forward, head up against the roof of the car, face almost touching the glass, with a bright light in my face and a camera rolling. They give you a copy to watch later, if you're ever in the mood to destroy your ego. I'm going to keep my copy around to show my kids when they start driving, a time capsule of 'don't do this, trust me'.

I spent an hour and a half in the back of the car, cuffs tightening each time I tried to get comfortable, camera rolling which meant I did not want to fall asleep, and having an existential freak-out in as calm a fashion as I could manage. Finally the officer returned and let me out to stretch my legs. It was then that I finally brought up the fact that I could not really feel my thumbs any more and if the officer would be so kind could she kindly do something about that. My first option was to put on a leather belt with cuffs attached to it, but the belt would not go around me – talk about embarrassing, standing in the precinct parking lot, drunk bus parked a few feet from me, a crying young girl, a fellow passenger in the boat of Dumbest Night Ever, standing near by tearfully explaining to her arresting officer all the various reasons she did not deserve to go to jail.

It is important, I feel, to point out that I was respectful at all times. Shouting, raising your voice, arguing, all of those things are ultimately futile and won't make you any friends. The officer was just doing her job, and the fault was not with her in the first place, it was with me. So, while we sat there talking, trying to figure out what we can do, she said that she trusted me enough to cuff me with my hands in front of me. This was a Good Thing, as it meant the blood returned to my fingers. However, it also meant something else: I had earned some of her trust and, I'm not afraid to admit this bit of selfishness, the camera had recorded that and it would enter her report.

And so we got back in the car and drove towards the hospital where my blood was being drawn. I chatted a bit with the officer – I'm not sure whether she responded because she was interested or because it meant that if I was slurring my words they would be recorded. Still, it meant that the time passed quicker.

One of the more amusing events of the evening, and trust me I was looking for any sort of silver lining at this point, came when I had to relieve myself. I include this part here for the simple reason that it highlights a point: if this ever happens to you, you are a prisoner and have no privacy. They let me use the toilet and even uncuffed one of my hands for it, but an officer stood at the door and watched me. Shy bladders have no place when you're suspected of DWI.

After that it was back in the squad car and down towards the drunk tank. The easy conservation I had been having with the nurses and officers in the hospital, and my arresting officer, had helped me to relax slightly. This was a Bad Thing, yes, but it was not the end of the world. That quickly ended after I was handed over to the jail.

They let my keep my jacket on but confiscated all of my belongings, including my shoes. I was finger printed, photographed, and given a medical examination by a very disinterested nurse – don't try to make friends in jail. And then, under the watchful gaze of the sheriff's office, I sat down on the male half of the segregated area along with the others who were brought in that evening.

Did I mention that someone was screaming constantly in the background? I should mention that. Someone was screaming constantly in the background, locked in a private cell because he was being uncooperative. That, coupled with the occasional barked command from a sheriff and the gentle crying from some of the others in the segregated area, both male and female, would be a constant companion for the rest of the evening. That and the guy sitting behind me with the stitches and bleeding wound from a car accident he had managed to walk away from.

Needless to say, I was no longer relaxed.

They are quick to remind you, in various ways large and small, that you are a prisoner. I imagine that this is done to 'keep the peace' – there were as many prisoners as officers, if not more. When I finally worked up the nerve to bring up the fact that I could not feel my thumb, I had to raise my hand, wait to be noticed, give my name, and be given permission to stand up and approach the edge of the area to explain my problem. It's evidently a common problem when it comes to handcuffs, meriting its own medical term. I do not remember the term, but I do remember the weird feeling that I would carry with me for months.

And then came the choice: who to call. There are phones in the area, and you're allowed to make collect calls out to loved ones. Informing my parents that I was in jail and for what reason made me feel roughly two inches tall. However, when it came time to decide who to call for a lawyer, it was a no brainer: I called Janet right away. Having an attorney means that you can get the bond set up, they'll handle the appearance before the judge, and most importantly you'll get out of there faster. I've known Janet for a while, although I regret that we met up in very different circumstances this time.

Then it was the waiting game. In small groups we were told to stand up, wait, walk to the wall, wait, stand against the wall, wait, and then march on through where were we giving our prison uniforms. While changing in a room which stank of urine, I decided that I might have reached the nadir of my existence. We were given our one blanket and waited some more, sat on some chairs and waited some more, were asked if we had an attorney and waited some more, and finally we were marched into the holding area where the officer in charge of the board buzzed us in, one at a time, into our holding cells.

Someone had, with great care, managed to carve out a tick tack toe pattern in the concrete in mine. That, coupled with Flushy the Wonder Toilet, was my only companion save for my thoughts. The cell was cold, the blanket did little to keep me warm, and the bed was uncomfortable – I ended up folding up part of the mattress to serve as a pillow and slept in a fetal position.

I slept quite a bit, although I'm not sure how long I was actually out. Time kind of loses its meaning. I was woken up once for my meeting with Janet, my life line. Then I marched back to my cell, fell asleep, and was woken up when the door to my cell opened and someone asked me if I wanted lunch. When I answered in the affirmative I got a brown paper bag hurled at me and the door closed. I did not eat the lunch, since I was worried that having attacked me once already it might do it again. Then I went to sleep one last time, only to be buzzed up and told that it was time to go.

It took a rather long time for me to be escorted out of my cell, to the elevator, and then told to wait again. I was given the bag which held my belongings, waited a bit, then changed in another room which smelled like a latrine. I am uncertain why urine is the go-to liquid for rebelling against authority. Then I was stamped on the hand, went through some elevators, out the front door to freedom...

Only not really. I had enough cash on me for a bus ride home, but when I got there I realized that I did not have the keys to my own house: they had been taken along with my car. All I wanted to do was sleep and I was forced to wait until someone came with the key to let me in.

Further adventures came when I went to pick up my car. Since I had refused to consent to the blood test, my license had been confiscated. You need said license to get your car back. Luckily my ride was my father – that was a very quiet, circumspect ride – and it was all sorted out.

Total time spent in jail? Perhaps six or eight hours, I neglected to look in to that. Impact on my future? Unimaginable. But the purpose of this is not to tell you about what happened with my case but to, hopefully, prevent you from going through the same thing yourself. I feel that if I can stop just one person from doing the same foolhardy thing I'll have made a positive impact.

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