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What DUI Feels Like

The Arrest Process – Through the Eyes of a “Lawbreaker”

by Mike Russo

Driving through Monroe at one time or another, we have all seen the Monroe Police Department in action. We have all been guilty of becoming mesmerized by the red, white, and blue lights flashing atop the police cruiser, and slow down to catch a glimpse of the drama unfolding as the patrolman interrogates the occupant about a defective tail light, an obstructed windshield, or failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection. More often than not, the perpetrator escapes with just a written warning. Sometimes it is serious - much more serious.

Unfortunately, one of the more common arrests in Monroe is driving under the influence of alcohol. According to Lieutenant Brian McCauley of the Monroe Police Department, “DUI’s most commonly increase during the holidays and on weekends, but they happen all the time.” Early last week, with help from the Monroe Police Department, I was able to arrange a mock scenario where I would be DUI and subject to the arrest process. Here’s the story; it’s a Friday evening, and I have just had dinner at a restaurant with some friends where I consumed two beers and two glasses of wine over r an hour and a half with my meal. After I made a judgment call and felt OK to drive, I left the restaurant to go home and unwind after a long week. Driving up Elm Street, on my way home, I was flipping the radio to the sports station and momentarily took my eyes off the road, causing me to slightly swerve over the centerline. On my return trip to the proper lane, I touched the line on the opposite side as well. After a quick sigh of relief and a promise to myself to pay more attention, I drifted off into the sounds of the ballgame on the radio, and in a split unclear moment crossed the center line again. This time, a Monroe Police cruiser, who I noticed was directly behind me, quickly turned on the overhead lights and called in my license plate and location to the dispatcher at Police headquarters.

I stopped at the first safe area alongside the road I could find. Officer Kevin McKellick appeared outside my window and asked for my license, registration, and insurance card. I knew that request was coming, but I still fumbled through my wallet to get my license, which was buried under my old college ID, library, and ATM cards. After handing him the license I went diving into my glove box for the registration and insurance information, which were hiding in an envelope inside of a binder that took forever to find. I knew where the binder was; I just couldn’t find it. My mind was racing.

Officer McKellick detected the odor of alcohol on my breath and observed how long it took me to find my information. He then asked me if I had anything to drink, to which I responded, “Yes sir, I had a glass of wine with friends at dinner.” He then asked me to step out of the car. Before I knew it, there was another officer on the scene to assist with the procedure.

Officer McKellick then positioned me at the rear of my vehicle and asked me if I was on any medications or was a diabetic. According to Officer McKellick, “People on medications or diabetics in the midst of having an episode can mimic the traits of being intoxicated.” Additionally, Officer McKellick asked if I had any physical disabilities that would inhibit me from performing the demands of the test. “This eliminates any other reasons, and further establishes probable cause,” he said.

The analysis consisted of four individual tests to determine visual acuity, balance, ability to follow instructions, and memory. Before asking me to perform any of the tests, Officer McKellick demonstrated the procedure to me and asked if I understood. The examination began with the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, in which Officer McKellick took a pen from his pocket and moved it from side to side and up and down asking me to follow it, using only my eyes to determine how much control I had. When someone has been drinking, they lose the ability to control their eye movements. During this assessment, I moved my head to follow the pen and completely failed the test.

The officer then asked me to perform the walk and turn test, which entails standing with my right foot in front of my left, taking ten paces walking heel to toe while counting out loud, turning an,d returning to my starting point in the same fashion. I wobbled and swayed, and lost my balance. That was followed by the one leg-stand test in which I was asked to stand with my feet together, raise on the leg, and count to 30. I made it to 14 before I again lost my balance and put my foot down. For the final test, I had to recite the alphabet from letters D through K, which seems easy enough, but when you are under pressure it is much more difficult. Although I managed to recite the letters of the alphabet without singing the song, Officer McKellick determined that I was DUI. He immediately patted me down, took my wallet and other belongings, handcuffed me, and placed me in the back of the police cruiser to bring me to headquarters to be processed. During the five-minute ride, which seemed like an eternity, I noticed a video camera right next to the rearview mirror facing outward. Officer McKellick informed me that as soon as the overhead lights are turned on, so is the camera. All officers also wear a microphone on their belts to record anything that is said during the interrogation. “This protects the police department and the perpetrators in a court of law,” he said. Additionally, the booking area and jail cells are also equipped with video cameras to record the arrest process.

Upon arriving at police headquarters, another officer was awaiting my arrival, and I was escorted into the booking area. I was asked to stand in front of a white wall as Officer McKellick proceeded to perform another pat pat-downtown, removed the handcuffs, and waved a wand over my body to determine if I was concealing any metallic objects he may not have found at the scene. After being photographed, I was then put into the detention cell for 20 minutes, and was not allowed to use the bathroom. Officer McKellick said that this was because whatever is in my system needs to remain there until I am tested on the Breathalyzer.

While I wait in the detention cell for 20 minutes, the officer fills out an A- 44 form, which documents my personal data, investigation information, field sobriety test results, implied consent, and chemical alcohol test data. Because DUI is considered a misdemeanor, I am not fingerprinted; only criminal offenses are fingerprinted. downtown Meanwhile, the dispatcher is running my license information through national databases looking for outstanding warrants and past criminal history.

Once I am brought to the Intoxylizer, which is a machine that is connected to the State DMV offices in Hartford, I am asked to blow into a tube on a machine that will register my intoxication level. If I had refused to take the Breathalyzer test, my license would automatically have been revoked for 24 hours, with an additional suspension of 6 months. The legal limit in Connecticut is .08. I “blew” a 1.0, putting me over the legal limit. Following the first test, a second is taken 30 minutes later, which is required by law. The second time around, I scored a .09, confirming my intoxication. I was then informed I was charged with DUI and read my rights by Officer McKellick and asked to sign a form stating I understood the charges. I was then allowed to make phone calls to my lawyer and family members.

After the pat-downs, mug shots, paperwork, intoxilyzer tests, and observation period, the sergeant on duty determines the bail. This is calculated through several factors. The sergeant will look at my past criminal record (if any), the type of offense I have committed, and if I was cooperative during the booking process. Since I had no outstanding warrants, no past criminal record, and was on my best behavior, my bail was set at $250.

The Police Department is a cash-only operation. They do not accept checks or credit cards, and with a DUI offense as with several others, a second party needs to be accountable for the perpetrator. In the booking room, there is a list of available bail bondsmen to choose from. I called Aladdin Bail Bonds in Bridgeport. A representative from Aladdin stated that the detainee must have a cosigner for a bail bond. “The cosigner must fill out an application for a contract that borrows the money from an insurance company that pays the bail,” she said. “There are many fees associated with bail in addition to the cost set by the Sergeant,” she added. Additional fees include a 10% charge on the premium and $150 from the State of Connecticut.

While the bond process was being arranged, I waited in the holding cell. According to Lt. McCauley, depending on the day of the week, this could take some time. “If someone is arrested and cannot make bail on a Friday of a holiday weekend, they will be held in custody until the following Tuesday when they are brought to court for arraignment.” In addition to the arrest, there are several consequences beyond the charges brought about by the situation. Other costs to consider for the perpetrator are car towing and storage expenses, and ramifications from their insurance company. Car towing and storage costs are set at and regulated by the State of Connecticut. The Hill ‘N Dale Garage on Main Street is one of four contracted towing services in town. Employee John Barnaby said that for a hookup and tow it costs $77 for the first 5 miles and $4 a mile after that. Additionally, there is a $20 a day storage fee that goes up to $24 after three days. Mr. Barnaby also stated there are unforeseen charges that are dependent on the case.

“Sometimes at the crime scene, the tow truck driver is kept waiting until the investigation is over, which could take hours,” he said. “For the time the truck and the driver are held up, additional charges accumulate.”

Allstate Insurance agent Claude Berardi stressed that consequences for a DUI are pretty severe in the State of Connecticut. “If your license is suspended, your insurance company is more than likely going to going to drop you,” he said. To become reinsured, you would be considered a high risk, and would need what is called an SR 22, which is like an indemnity plan. Mr. Berardi said, “You will pay four to five times the amount for insurance after a DUI.”

Lieutenant McCauley stressed that there are many ways to avoid a DUI. “One of the easiest things to do if you are out with friends is to pick a designated driver,” he said. He also stressed that if people are in a situation where they are unable to drive, call the police station for assistance. He said, “We are not going to arrest you, but help you get to a safe place.” Currently in Monroe there is a Safe Rides program through Masuk High School available for those situations.