Happy New Year! To start off this year I have a host of new resolutions that I am going to work on. Of course my wife was kind enough to point out that by the time the clock struck 12, I had already broken my “non-smart-ass” resolution three times. As a tip, I recommend keeping your resolutions reasonable. Like being more helpful in a “non-smart-ass” way. Let’s see how I do …

As I sit here writing this article, my kids keep asking me for help with their homework. Luckily, they are still at the age where I can actually answer the questions and know what I am talking about. As the deadline looms to get this article written, and the New Year’s resolution to get things done early gets tossed out the window, I keep thinking how they have it so easy. But of course to my seven-year-old, learning to divide and multiply is the equivalent of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro wearing only a tutu and flip flops and carrying Snuffleupagus on his back. What seems so simple and common sense to me is really a huge confusing mess to him.

This is where writing this article has been most helpful for me. It reminds me that the questions I get asked seem basic and simple, yet someone who may be new to driving, drinking or walking their dog on a leash probably doesn’t know all of the rules. It is important not to mix them! To me, it is common sense not to walk your dog while you’re driving! Oh, and that drinking and driving thing. Also very bad …

I’ve been pulled over twice at night and each time was pulled out of the car and tested for alcohol. Can the police do this even though I had nothing to drink?

The short answer is yes. Long answer: Ahhhhhhhhhhh, yes. Oh, an explanation? Okay; whenever I pull someone over, it is always in the back of my mind: Are alcohol or drugs involved? It may seem paranoid, but drinking, smoking or even snorting while driving is a problem. I may not ask every person I stop if they have been drinking, but I am always looking for the signs. Were they driving poorly? Is there an odor coming from the vehicle? Are they slurring or mumbling their words when I talk to them? Do they fumble trying to get their license out of their purse or wallet? Does that bottle of Jack Daniel’s with a straw in the cup holder really contain alcohol? These are all questions I am asking myself on every stop. Even the smallest detail that makes me wonder and will result in my checking a little bit more, even pulling someone out of the car to conduct an eye test or more. Is it legal? Yes, as long as I don’t detain you longer than is reasonable. If it goes beyond the time to reasonably write a traffic ticket, I will need to show there was a reason, such as possibly driving under the influence.

Do dispatch/cops take calls by priority? My roommate and I called separately for a noise complaint and the cops never showed up.

Everything we do is prioritized. Generally we handle all calls for service based on the priority of hazard to the public. So, a call of a kitten in a tree will get handled after we deal with the dogs fighting call. Now, if Kitten was the name of a girl who passed out in a tree, that would up the priority. If the dogs fighting had knives and guns, they might become the priority. Meanwhile, the complaint about the neighbor’s stereo being too loud is still on hold. We will get to it, it just might be awhile. If you called and it seems like no one is responding, go ahead and call again. Dispatch will let you know that the cops are still getting to it or might be on their way. Keep in mind we might be walking from the other side of Isla Vista and some of us older guys might even be just sauntering. If we get another call about the noise, we might up the pace to a solid moseying.

What are the consequences of getting caught with a fake ID?

If you get caught with a fake ID, it is considered an alcohol violation and can have a hefty penalty. The base fine is about $100 and when you add in the various court fees and penalties it is over $400. You can also lose your license for a year unless you complete one of the alcohol education programs (Zona Seca in Santa Barbara or CASE at UCSB). There goes a few more bucks.

Whatever you do, if you get stopped by the police, DO NOT use your friend’s or brother’s ID to get out of a ticket. If you give the cop their ID and say it is you, not only do you get them in trouble, but you can get nailed for a felony. Let’s just say that will be more than a couple of bucks to take care of.

I have another 50 or so questions to answer from one of the last classes I was privileged to get a chance to speak to. It was definitely one of the highlights of last year and I hope I can get to all of their questions. These are the things that make me most proud of the job I do. If I can help one person by letting them know that walking your dog while driving on the 101 is not recommended, I feel like I’ve done at least a little good in the world.

So for now, stay safe, enjoy 2012, and if you have a question, do not wait until the red light goes on behind you, question me now! Take care.

Sgt. Mark Signa is an officer of the UCSB Police Dept.


Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! Email me anytime at: QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.