The late model Ford ran up on the sidewalk and clipped a parking meter in the early morning hours of a June day in 1987. There was no damage to the meter but I heard the sound of the front fender scraping against he metal pole. The car wavered down the street, across the center line twice in a block, and made a wide swing on to the bridge crossing the Tennessee River.
It took me a moment to react because the car had just pulled away from the Knox County jail. Who would be stupid enough to drive drunk in front of the jail with police cars in and out every few minutes? I hit my blue lights and followed the car across the bridge towards South Knoxville.
He reached the other side of the bridge, a couple of blocks away, and turned right, seemingly unaware of my blue lights. I bumped the siren button and sound echoed off the downtown buildings. Still no reaction. I turned the siren to yelp but the car went through a red-light and turned left, running over the curb again.
I called the dispatcher to report my position and pulled alongside the Ford. The driver was focused straight ahead with the tunnel vision of an intoxicated person. I threw the beam of my spotlight into his face and finally he turned and noticed the flashing blue lights and maybe even heard the siren.
The car stopped jerkily, stopping with the passenger side wheels on the sidewalk, narrowly missing a fire hydrant. I could see that the driver was clumsily rolling down the window as I approached, His radio was booming so loudly that I understood why he had not heard the siren.
Cautiously approaching, I shined my flashlight into the car and saw three things immediately: He was extremely intoxicated, there were crutches on the seat beside him and I recognized him. He was a bail bondsman I had known for years, at least well enough to speak as we passed.
Five minutes later, I had him sitting in my cruiser for a breath alcohol test. I had found out that his leg was in a cast, accounting for the crutches, and I had a bottle of heavyweight painkillers in my hand. After he blew well below the statutory level of .10 percent and I ascertained that he
had no prior convictions for drunk driving, I knew that the painkillers were the primary cause of his condition.
Make no mistake, he was intoxicated and in Tennessee the actual charge at the time was "driving under the influence" and it didn't matter what he had ingested to become under the influence. In fact, a blood alcohol level of .10 percent was not needed for a conviction. All I had to prove was that he was under the influence of any kind of intoxicant and too impaired to drive. I had that on the videotape that had activated when I turned on my blue lights.
Nonetheless, I always believed in tempering justice with mercy. It was sheer stupidity to drink and take painkillers but he had been called to make a bond and most likely had not intended to do drive in an intoxicated condition. I told the dispatcher to call the bonding company for which he worked so someone could pick him up and take him home. Apparently, however, he misunderstood what I had said.
No sooner had I spoken than he leaned forward and said: "Before you do something stupid. I had better tell you that my uncle is Judge Blank-blank and he's also my attorney."
It just so happened that I knew Judge Blank-blank very well. Most cops in the county did. He was notoriously antipolice and all of us suspected that he was also crooked, though nobody ever proved it. In addition, I was permanently banned from his courtroom for expressing that very opinion to Judge Blank-blank's face.
"Well, that does make a difference," I said. "Your uncle and your attorney are both lowlifes." I picked up the microphone and canceled the bail bondsman's ride home. I knew there was a possibility that my case would never get on the docket because I had been a cop a long time and understood political realities.
And I was right. That case vanished into the bowels of the judicial system and I never received a subpoena on it. Later I found out that one of Judge Blank-blank's friend had heard it in chambers and dismissed it.
No problem, though. I got to snap the bracelets on the man who had threatened me and take him to jail. There are some people who won't let you do them a favor.
David Hunter is a retired detective and the author of several books. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org