I’ve never been arrested, much less been in jail. Come to think of it, other than traffic court, I’ve never been inside a courtroom during a live session. Does that mean I’ve been perfect all my life? No, but then a foul isn’t really a foul unless the referee calls it either.
Actually, in retrospect, I have been in court two times. Both divorces. However, in both cases we separated amicably and either used the same lawyer or no lawyer. But, both cases required appearing before a judge to state that we were satisfied with the terms we had settled upon.
I’ve tried to abide by the laws of the land. After all, if I didn’t, then why should I expect anyone else to. The only exceptions were driving over the speed limit. But, even then, I tried to keep it to seven or fewer miles per hour above the limit on the highway and four or fewer above the limit in town. I figured I would never get a ticket at those speeds and I always felt safe.
The only time I ever had to talk to a policemen when I might be in some kind of trouble was when I was 11 and living in Topeka. I used to swipe a few bucks from my mom’s purse and dole them out to kids in my class. I guess I was trying to buy popularity. Who knows? At 11 in those days, kids were far less mature than 11 today, and I was less than average.
My mom figured out it must be happening. We were so poor that $2 was noticeable. She confronted me with it along with my dad and his belt. I was scared of all three! Apparently, one of the kids ratted me out to his dad and he contacted mine. So, I got punished and never did it again.
Part of my punishment was to get a lecture from a policeman. I don’t remember much about it except that my dad worked at the Topeka Public Library. He majored in history and read constantly. So, it was an ideal place to work even if it didn’t pay much. I remember sitting in a car with a policeman and my dad in the parking lot of the library. I don’t know what he said, only that I’m sure I felt like I just committed murder or something. It was easy to intimidate 11-year olds in those days.
That’s my big run-in with the law.
Of course, I’ve gotten driving tickets - one of which was in Great Bend, Kansas. I was anal even as a senior in high school. So, when I got the ticket, I noticed there were a bunch of discrepancies. I believe there were four. He noted the wrong intersection – off by a block. It was just after midnight and he wrote the previous date on it. He spelled my name wrong. And, one other discrepency which I forget. So, I went to traffic court and told the judge I was contesting it because whoever this person was, it wasn’t me. That wasn’t my name and I wasn’t even in Great Bend on the date shown – much less at that intersection. Anyway, the judge rolled his eyes and said… “Pay the fine… next case.”
I had seven tickets by the time I was 30. None of them were for anything serious, but seven is a fair number. One of them was for rear-ending another car stopped at a light. I was eating pizza and reading the newspaper when it happened, so of course the car in front of me came out of nowhere. How could that be my fault. Just kidding. I vowed never to read the paper and eat pizza at the same time while driving – though I never said anything about one or the other.
As I got older, like most drivers, I sort of forgot where the fire was and slowed down. Interestingly, I’ve been pulled over for some kind of violation eight times in the past 11 years, but only one of the eight was I given a ticket. Four of them were when I worked at the Kansas City Star and would come home about 1AM or later. Cops were always looking for any excuse to pull someone over so they could nail them on a DUI. Once they figured out that I was just a guy coming home from work that didn’t put on his blinker (because there were no cars within a mile), he would send me on my way. I’ve never drank, so that wasn’t an issue with me.
COOL FACTOID: Amazingly, I was never drunk a single time in my life. I thought about getting drunk in early August, 2013, just to see what it was like, but decided I would rather have this cool factoid.
"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."
-- Hunter S. Thompson
The other three times I didn’t get a ticket all happened when I drove to El Paso and back. I got pulled over in Oklahoma on the way down, while in El Paso and then in Kansas on the way back. I was doing something wrong in every case, but they let me off. It must have been the innocent look I gave them.
I got a ticket once in Topeka when I was in my 30’s. I won’t bother with the details, but trust me it was a situation where 90% of the cars that turned where I turned could have been ticketed. It was just a joke and I fully intended to fight it. In fact, I videotaped 71 cars making the turn – 68 of which were “illegal”. But, before I did the research, I paid the ticket and then planned to appeal using my video evidence.
Kansas law says that if you pay a fine, you are essentially admitting guilt and there can be no appeal. So, that became my new battle. I fought that by the argument that I should have been told before I paid the fine that I was abdicating my right to appeal. I likened it to being read your Miranda Rights – that you shouldn’t be required to know what your rights were ahead of time. I lost that case in the District Court, so I appealed to the Kansas Court of Appeals – which is just below the Kansas Supreme Court. I represented myself because I thought I was smart enough to make the argument – and I still do. But, the Court of Appeals basically waved me off and sided with the city. I honestly think if I had an attorney, I could have affected the way that process was handled in the future. But, I had my fun.
I’ve only taken an illegal drug once in my life. It was 11PM on a Sunday night and I was going to drive back from western Kansas to my home in Topeka because I had to go to work the next day at 8AM. The problem was that it was a five-hour drive and I was very worried about falling asleep at the wheel. I don’t even recall knowing about No Doze or any such thing in those days. This was in 1979.
But a person who will remain nameless gave me one or two (don’t remember) “speed” pills. I’m probably not even using the right terminology. I believe they were amphetamines. They worked perfectly! I never noticed anything out of the ordinary, only that I was never even remotely tired at the wheel. I don’t think it is over-exaggerating to say taking speed may have saved my life that night.
I can’t imagine driving drunk or buying and using illegal drugs or committing robbery or anything else where the consequences could mean jail time. Having to look over one’s shoulder seems like it would be a horrible way to live. Even though I was almost always poor before I got married in 1981, I never considered doing anything illegal. Whether that was due to my parents or not, I don’t know.
When you spend your junior high and high school years living out in the country with little way to interact with kids in town after school or on weekends, it greatly reduces the chances of getting into trouble. So, although I hated those years in western Kansas growing up, it’s probably true that my odds of ever doing anything serious against the law were also reduced. And, for that, I’m thankful.