We all have those moments where we need to take a look at where we are and reevaluate how we got there.  Sometimes it’s just simply making a wrong turn and ending up a few blocks from where you were trying to go.  Other times it’s a series of decisions that takes you to places you should be avoiding: scary places filled with treacherous people who seemed to have just stepped out of Quentin Tarantino’s nightmares, a strange mixture of stenches that rip through your nostrils and sear your brain, dingy rooms with flickering fluorescent lighting straight out of a “Saw” movie and noises that can only be described as the mumblings of the living dead.  As you try to suppress your gag reflex, you look around and wonder what did you do to end up trapped in the abyss known as Denny’s.

[media-credit id=20122 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Working as a cop in Isla Vista, I often see the end results of some bad decisions.  Sometimes it’s someone who drinks too much and ends up arrested for public intoxication.  Way too frequently it’s people who drink to the extent they end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.  Either way, they are in for a rough morning.  But at least they didn’t subject themselves to a Grand Slam or a Grand Slamwich.  Slamwich? Really?  If I ever find myself somewhere that has a “Grand Slamwich,” I will definitely need to get some serious help.

Why did I get arrested for being drunk when my friend, who drank way more than I did, was let go?

The truth is that there were probably a lot of people around that were drunker than you or your friend.  On a Friday or Saturday night, it may be hard to believe, but we see hundreds of people walking around who are intoxicated. There are the really obvious ones we contact who can barely walk and are easily tripped by the errant leaf on the ground, and those who just want to catch a quick nap on the top of a dumpster.  However, there are also those who are not “falling down drunk,” but instead the alcohol has them acting in a manner that shows that they are a hazard to themselves or others.

As an example, two guys walking down the street are about equally intoxicated.  One of them is just walking quietly, minding his own business on his way home.  However, the second guy decides he wants to yell at people he passes and make rude comments toward any girl he sees.  As a police officer, I have to look at the two guys and make a decision.  Do they have the ability to get home safely or are they likely to end up falling several times into the fist of some girl’s angry boyfriend? On Del Playa, the odds are the second guy won’t make it home without getting hurt.  The quiet guy?  Even though he is intoxicated, he is showing the ability to control himself and get home okay.  Hopefully, he won’t end up at Denny’s ordering the Moons Over My Hammy sandwich.  I would forever have to carry the guilt of knowing I could have saved him.

I got a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.  Yet I see the cops driving around all the time not wearing one.  Can I give them a ticket?

As tempting and satisfying as it might be to give a cop a ticket, unfortunately when you see me riding around without a seatbelt, I’m not breaking the law.  When the legislature wrote and passed the seatbelt law, they also wrote in a provision that exempts law enforcement from wearing seatbelts when they are working.  It is up to each police or sheriff’s department to make a policy on when the officers must wear their seatbelt.  Now before you go thinking this is just so we can cruise around town blasting the radio with the top down and looking cool, there are two reasons for this.  One, my chief won’t give me a convertible cop car.  And two, part of our job involves reacting quickly and jumping out of the patrol car when we see fights or someone needs help.  The next time you see a cop, take a look at all of the equipment we have around our waists.  Now imagine wearing a seatbelt and trying to get out of the car quickly with that gear.  The belt often gets tangled up in the gear and prevents us from getting out of the car.  For the officers, seatbelts can potentially be more of a hazard than a help while patrolling.  So most police departments give the officer the discretion as to when they wear the belt.  Cruising Del Playa with the radio going, pretending I have a top to put down looking for trouble?  No seat belt.  Driving down the freeway with my head out the window pretending it’s a convertible?  Seat belt.

I got a speeding ticket and the court date is when I am going to be out of town.  Can I move the court date to later and if so, how?

You actually have several options to take care of the ticket.  If you don’t want to fight the ticket and it’s not a mandatory appearance for certain alcohol violations, you can go online to the Santa Barbara Superior Court Web site, www.sbcourts.org. On the Web site, go to the traffic citation area and you can enter the citation number located on the upper right corner and access the information about your ticket.  You can enter a guilty plea and pay the fine via credit card or even request a 30-day delay.  The 30-day extension is automatically granted, giving you the extra time you need.

As we get closer to Halloween, the weekends in Isla Vista get pretty crazy.  If you choose to do the DP crawl, or even the Sabado slide, do it safely.  Go with friends and stick together.  If you drink, drink in moderation.  Don’t let your night end up with you or your friends with the police or in an ambulance.  Or even worse, waking up with a half-eaten Slamwich in your pocket.  If you do end up in trouble or have questions about what happened, don’t hesitate to contact me and Question Authority!  Until next time, take care and have a safe week.