A friend recently sent me a Red Skelton sketch where he joked about two state patrolmen stopping a very careful driver for a good driver award, only to find out that he was driving so carefully because he was totally inebriated and didn't want to draw attention to himself. That skit reminded me of one of the most memorable DUI arrests I made when I was a state trooper three decades ago, an arrest that I call my hi-tech bust.
One night just east of Boulder on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, Highway 36, I topped the long incline leading out of Boulder and saw the long sweep of congested traffic below me on the long decline flowing towards Broomfield. Since there was no possibility of catching an opposing speeder because of the median wall separating the two sides, I flipped off my radar unit. Half a mile away on the long decline I saw brake lights go off.
Intrigued, I flipped the radar unit back on and the brake lights went on again and stayed on. I flipped the unit off, and the taillights returned to normal.
I increased my speed and weaved through traffic until I caught up with the car whose driver I had observed driving strangely, dragging his brakes whenever my radar unit was on, and I flipped on the unit again. The brake lights came on and stayed on, in conformity with my radar unit's operation.
The driver was hemmed in by the vehicular volume and driving along with the slower flow of traffic. Since his lengthily dragging his brakes indicated erratic driving, I pulled him over.
I asked for his driver's license and registration and asked if he had a radar detector in his vehicle. He confirmed that he did.
Detecting the odor of alcohol on his breath and noting his slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, I asked him to step out into the space between our cars and administered a roadside sobriety exam. He failed them entirely and I arrested him.
As I transported him back to the Boulder jail, he demanded to know why I'd stopped him. I was so proud of my "hi-tech" probable cause stop that I told the 10-55 how it was that i noticed him.
I explained that I had noticed that whenever I energized my radar unit, obviously his radar detector sounded its alarm and he apparently automatically put his foot on his brakes as a reflex action and kept it there until his detector stopped sounding off, at which point he obviously took his foot off his brakes and stopped dragging them. Never try to explain anything that's even slightly complicated to a drunk, because for the rest of the ride to jail he kept screaming that I'd arrested him for having a radar detector and didn't I know that they were legal in Colorado!
I did know that radar detectors were perfectly legal in Colorado and I tried to patiently explain that he was under arrest for DUI, not possession of a radar detector. My attempts at ameliorating his agitation were unsuccessful and I was sorry that I'd broken my usual rule of deflection and answered his question honestly.