Public Intoxication, or so I’m told

One night, I was heading home from work. In Austin I would bike everywhere, as owning a car, paying for gas and worrying about parking was never worth it. I left the office around 9PM, I had a large bag of condom packs, and I was biking downtown to go by the two gay bars and refill their condom bins.  I left the bars around 9:45PM however, at that time my blood sugar started to drop.

I awoke in almost total darkness, on the side of the street surrounded by a group of thugs. I started swinging at them, as they loomed closer and tried to grab me and force me down. I punched one hard in the face giving him a black eye, and he slammed my head face first into the cold hard concrete…and then it happened.

I “awoke,” what had happened to me was that I experienced a low blood sugar attack(Picture Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias), I was actually passed out on the street and the thugs were actually the Austin Police Department. The police officers thought I was a drunk who had wandered off from 6th street (The local street with many bars and clubs) and passed out. They bound my wrist with zip ties and threw me into the back of a paddy wagon.

When I arrived at the station, the officers threw me into a “Drunk Tank.” As I sat there, my conscious started to come back to me and I figured out what had happened. I had a diabetic attack, passed out, when the cops came near me I was in my diabetic dreamlike state and didn’t realize what was happening. Back in the drunk tank, three officers came in and asked if I was ready to leave, I told them I’m a Type 1 Diabetic and that I need to see a nurse and get something to eat.  All three of the forceful and threatening officers seemed to cower and all rushed away as to not be at the scene of the crime.

The nurse , a woman with little empathy for those she had to deal with, came in about 5 minutes later wheeling an old cart into the drunk tank, she got out a blood monitor and tested my blood sugar.  As the result flashed on her screen, suddenly care and compassion came into her eyes and she addressed me as a person. She told me she was going to get me a snack and help me get better. She called an officer over and told them to remove my binds and to have me escorted to her office. The relief of having those damn zip ties taken off my wrist was a feeling of freedom I have never felt before. In her office she gave me the option between a tuna or ham and cheese sandwich. I opted for tuna, as they always seem to put too much mayonnaise on any other sandwich.

She gave me an apple juice box and explained to me that my blood sugar was 37.  A typical blood sugar should be between 70 and 120. She told me that I was dangerously low and should have been taken to the hospital. I told her what I thought had happened, and she told me that unfortunately, there was nothing she could do that would get me out of there. She said that I must wait the 8 hours, over night, then see the judge in the morning. She also told me that when I do have my trial date, that she will be happy to provide proof of my blood sugar levels, and write a statement that would confirm it was a diabetic attack and not public intoxication.

Once my blood sugar got back to a stable level, the nurse let me go sit out with the rest of the people who were arrested that night who had to sit and wait. The room was large, and painted yellowish white, partly because of the fluorescent lights above. There were two large sections of pews, the left hand side was for the women, the right hand side was for the men. There were 3 pay phones in the front of the pews, that anyone could use to call their attorney or for bonds.  Only 1 of the three phones however was in working order. One had the phone ripped off the cord, the other hung off the receiver with no sound.

As I sat there more and more people were brought in after a heavy night of drinking. Some were called out every 20-30 minutes, these were the people who would be locked up in a cell for the night. As I sat there, a young Hispanic man sat down next to me, he was wearing a wrist band from one of the gay bars and he started chatting with me. I asked him what had happened and he told me that his friend was arrested for drunk driving and he was arrested for public intoxication, as he was sitting in the front seat. I was hoping the hours would pass by fast, I was supposed to go to my father’s house the following day.

Finally, around 6am, the only payphone that worked was available to use. I called my father and told him what had happened. He was livid, he tried calling the police, city hall, anyone and everyone he could think of who could right this injustice. Sadly nothing could be done. I was sent to the judge at 8AM, where my trial date was given to me and I was released back into the streets of downtown Austin a little after 10AM.

Oh God where is my bike, was my first thought. After all that had happened I could not think of where I locked up my bike. Finally after walking up and down Congress street, I located my bike in front of my favorite coffee shop. I then went home, took a long hot shower and fell asleep in my bed.

When I did finally get to my father’s house later that day, I explained in detail everything that had happened. I told him that I had the documents from the nurse saying that I had low blood sugar. My father however, was worried about me being under age and drunk. I told him that I was 21, and that I have proof I wasn’t drunk. He felt reassured when I reminded him that I was of age.

My Court Date:

The day had arrived for my court appearance, and my father drove me downtown. I told him that I could get there myself, but as I was wearing a spectacular 3 piece grey suit, I allowed him to take me.  When I got to the courthouse, the judge said that only those seeing the judge or their lawyers were allowed in, so my father had to sit in the small waiting room outside of the court.

I waited in the court for my name to be called, I sat there for 20 minutes, while the judge called 3 public intoxication cases and 2 drunk driving cases all of which the police officers for the arrest did not show and all of the cases were thrown out. I was appalled, this is how “The Austin Police Department works?” I thought to myself.

Finally, my name was called. I was assuming my officer would not be there, but I was wrong. A good-looking muscular Hispanic officer approached the judge and said he was present. I stood up and walked over to the small desk where I would represent myself. The judge read out the charges and asked me how I pleaded, I said with confidence “Not Guilty, your honor.” He then asked if I had a defense attorney, and I informed him that I would be representing myself. He told me that would be fine, but I was allowed to refer to myself as “me” or “I.”  That bummed me out because I wanted to call myself, the accused or the victim, but I got over it.

The Officer was allowed to take the stand and give his account of what happened. He described me as a drunk passed out on the street and when the officer tried to awake me I got violent, and he then produced photos of his black eye that I gave him. The officer finished just as soon as he began, and I was allowed to cross question him…

This is when it got good:

I asked the officer if he saw any evidence that I had been drinking, such as beer cans, bottles, stamps or wrist bands on my hand. He said “no.” I asked him if my breath smelt of alcohol, he said “no.” I then asked him if he had checked me for any medical bracelet, ID card or any other form of notification that I might have a medical condition…The officer was dumbfounded. He said, “I think my partner did, he was…” I interrupted him here, “Officer, is your partner here to verify any of this? He said “No.” I then repeated my question to him reminding him that unless he has proof of anything else, I simply needed a yes or no. Defeated and curious, he said “no.”

I finished my questioning and the prosecutor then asked the judge if it would be alright for the officer to leave because he needed to get back to work. I stood up here and said no it is not alright, this officer wasted more than 8 hours of my time that night and at least an hour today, he will stay until we are finished. The judge looked at my with anger, but as he had no right to allow him to leave, he told the officer to sit down.

Now it was my turn to tell my side of the story. I went on to inform the Judge, the Prosecutor and the Officer that I was a type 1 diabetic.  That what had happened that night was a medical emergency and instead of the officer doing his job and helping to serve and protect the people, he was hoping to get another drunk to add to his numbers. I had a letter from the nurse in the jail with the record of my incredibly low blood sugar, and her stating that I couldn’t have been drunk as I was coherent once I had the snack and juice. I also had a letter from my endocrinologist stating that if I had been drinking my blood sugar would have been high, not low. As well as a letter from my employer stating what an upstanding citizen I am and how much I live to help contribute to make society a better place.

The Officer sank down in to his seat, the judge and the prosecutor looked at one another dumbfounded. The judge said to the prosecutor, “do you have any questions?” The prosecutor was stumbling to find a line of questioning for me, and the treasure of a question he asked me was “Do you think diabetics should be allowed to drive cars?”

I looked at him, with victory in my eyes and said “That is the most stupid question I have ever heard, it has nothing to do with this case and if you think I’m going to waste the rest of my day playing games with you, you are wrong. Now ask me a question that is pertaining to this case, or I am walking out that door.”

He sank in to his seat as well beside the defeated officer.

The judge, looking defeated too, turned to me and went on to lecture me. “If you are going to be leaving your house you should check your blood sugar more often and pay better attention to your health.”

I stood up, looked up and down this piece of shit, and stated “Are you a medical professional of any sort, Judge? How much training and time have you logged with Type 1 Diabetics? I’m guessing none, as you are working as a judge for the city, not even dealing with important cases, mostly drunks.

The judge looked at me with anger, as he knew I was right, and that I just humiliated him in front of the other 15-20 drunks there waiting for him to rule on their cases.

I went on, “I want a public apology from you, the officer and the prosecutor, as all three of you have proven you are unable to do your jobs properly. The Prosecutor and officer wouldn’t have been blind sided by this had they looked in to my record at the jail. And as for you Judge, you are not allowed to give medical advice except when telling people its illegal to drive while drunk. Now, if I do not get 3 separate apologies from you all, by the end of the day, I will take the three of you and the city of Austin to court. I have witnesses in this room, whom I’m sure will all be more than happy to verify what has just happened here.

I grabbed my attaché case, and walked out of the room. My heart was pounding so hard and so fast. I was hiding a huge smile underneath my scowl as I walked out, I didn’t want them to see how proud I was I just owned them all. I told my dad “Lets’ go,” as I walked out and he looked at my funny. When we got to the car, I recounted the entire situation and was beaming from ear to ear.

That was the day I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.

 

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