Archive for the ‘Politics/Government/”The System”’ Category

Asheville DWI Letter

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I submitted this letter to both the Asheville Citizen-Times and Mountain Xpress newspapers. I have received no replies or indication that they intend to publish it or even investigate the matter. I understand that at approximately 2700 words it is too long for any “Letters” section, but I believe it needs to be published so what better forum than…




Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a very dangerous activity. I know this because I’ve seen the videos and statistics produced to dissuade young drivers from engaging in such reckless behavior, I count among my friends those who have suffered the trauma of horrific accidents, and I have personally experienced an unforgettable ten seconds of terror: I was run over by a presumably (it was a hit-and-run) drunk driver in a pick-up truck going approximately sixty miles an hour while riding my motorbike early on the morning of January 29, 2011.

My crash occurred in Dallas, where I was born and raised. I remember when I was in high school seeing a letter my parents received from the head of school, co-authored by the chief of the Dallas Police Department, labeling underage drinking in north Texas “an epidemic” and echoing the ubiquitous warnings of the dangers of driving while under the influence. You can faithfully count me among the proponents of finding a way to get this problem under control.

While thus far I have submitted nothing controversial, I am about to say something that I know many people will not like or agree with. I was convicted on May 14 of driving while impaired in Buncombe County, tests revealed my blood alcohol content was at the legal limit of 0.08, and I don’t think I did anything wrong (in a moral sense – obviously I was in violation of the law). My only regrets stem from the consequences that I have had to and will continue to endure, and I do not apologize to the community for putting others at risk.

That’s the problem with ameliorating this societal issue: it is an extremely slippery slope. If you drink at all, you probably have had a couple of drinks at dinner and driven home. Depending on your weight, gender, how often you drink, and other factors, you may have been either completely unaffected or guilty of driving while impaired. And although setting an arbitrary blood alcohol content as the point at which drivers should be arrested may accurately apply the appropriate consequences to a wide swath of the population, it also puts some people in the “guilty” category who are not at an increased risk of hurting others.

I will leave names out of this, despite my temptation to do otherwise, in order to demonstrate that this is not intended as a petty attempt at revenge. I am writing this letter because in my limited exposure to Asheville, I see a populace that is politically active and willing to stand up for itself. The circumstances of my case, which I initially presumed to be anomalous, appear to be shockingly routine in light of my discussion with others while going through the process of handling my case.

While in town visiting and dog sitting for my parents for a few days, I had consumed a couple of drinks on a Friday night when I drove to the Shell station (attached to the 51 Grill on Merrimon Avenue) to get a snack before retiring for the night. It was a simple errand, and I had not been out partying or anything of the sort. However, apparently I was at an intersection that feeds in and out of downtown where many drivers my age may often be doing just that. Given that this gas station was very well-lit and I was not in the habit of turning headlights on at night because my vehicle back in Dallas performed this task automatically, I pulled out of the gas station without my headlights on. A law enforcement cruiser lit me up almost immediately.

All of the field sobriety tests administered to me by the officers were fatally flawed. I told the lead officer I had contact lenses in which easily irritate my eyes, yet she had me perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus eye test without providing me a way to remove them. At the “sixteen-one thousand” point of a test in which one must stand on one foot for thirty seconds while counting out loud, which would be difficult for many people regardless of whether or not they had been drinking, the officer asked me to adjust my arms and thus I put my other foot down. I failed this test because “I failed to follow instructions.” Not to mention the reality that many people are understandably uncomfortable while being interrogated by multiple police officers in pitch black darkness, it was forty degrees outside, and I was performing the tests on an uphill stretch of concrete which was wet from the recent rain. For such a short drive, I was wearing my father’s slippers that didn’t even cover the heels of my feet.

The lead officer then asked me if I would take a breath test. Given the fact that I was in a strange city in which I knew nobody and had an urgent responsibility to take care of (which I will detail shortly), at this point I became nervous, because I realized for the first time that they were actually considering the possibility of arresting me. I told the officer politely that, even though I know I am not impaired, I have always been told that lawyers recommend refusing the test because the machines are imperfect. She could not have been more friendly and convincing as she told me that in North Carolina refusal of the test constitutes an automatic six-month license suspension, but “Honestly, I’d advise you to just take it since you seem like you’ll do fine.” Despite the fact that I don’t live here and would be largely unaffected by a license suspension in North Carolina, I agreed that there was really no reason not to take the test since it seemed obvious I would pass. After breathing into the machine, she asked me to turn around and she put me in handcuffs. The officers didn’t allow me to retrieve the keys in the ignition and my wallet from the truck as they called a tow service and we drove away.

When I mentioned I had an urgent responsibility to take care of, I was referring to my parents’ ailing dog. They had asked me if I could come housesit while they had to be out of town, because the dog had recently contracted diabetes, lost half its body weight, and needed medicine at regular intervals. I calmly but purposefully explained this to the officer driving me to the police station and asked if they could stop by my parents’ house on the way so I could at least give the dog its scheduled insulin injection. I was refused even though it was less than five minutes away.

As we walk into the station they are being quite civil and explain that they need me to take a “real breathalyzer,” because the initial one can’t provide reliable measures but can only advise them to take me in. I once again suggest that maybe I shouldn’t take it, and she responds, “Look, you’re being very cooperative. I’ll talk to the magistrate and you’ll probably be out of here in no more than an hour and a half.” Still nervous, mainly because the dog’s fate is in my hands, I blow into the machine as heartily as I can in an emotional attempt to demonstrate my control of all bodily functions. This registers exactly a 0.08 (the legal limit), and I express surprise that I’m that close to being over the limit combined with relief that I can finally start getting out of there and back to the dog.

At that moment, any façade of civility was suddenly sucked out of the room and an environment of hostility swooped in in its stead. I have never encountered such rudeness in my life. They scoff at me and say that I am being charged with driving while impaired. I ask if we can redo the tests and am refused. I am never offered a blood test. As I try to ask what can be done about the dog, they laugh at me, and this continues as a form of entertainment for the officers and guards for the duration of my processing. It’s clear at this point that they were not being forthright with me and simply tricking me into taking the breath test. I give up fighting for myself and ask if an officer can at least accompany me to the house, which is nearby, to give the dog its medicine and then do with me whatever is deemed necessary. This is apparently hilarious. When I get a chance to speak with the magistrate and once again explain the situation calmly, she tells me I can use the phone in just a minute once the guard tells me I can.  He never does. When I try to ask her if she’ll remind him to let me, the other male magistrate jumps out of his seat and yells and curses at me to sit down. Finally, after much more than a minute, I ask the guard if I can use the phone, and he says, “Yeah, go ahead obviously” even though it was far from obvious.  None of the bail bondsmen listed in the phonebook would service any bail less than $500 (mine had been set at $300), and as mentioned previously the officers didn’t allow me to retrieve anything from the car such as my wallet or keys.

The arresting female officer has completely abandoned her friendly posture now that I’ve taken the test and when I ask a simple question that has not been answered at all, she cuts me off and says “Just stop talking, you’re giving me a headache.  I’ve already explained that twice.” Much later, as I’ve reached my father on the phone in the middle of the night in an attempt to alert him about not being able to give the dog his medicine, a guard starts yelling at me that I need to follow him. When I try to explain that this is life or death for the dog (and he has overheard me explain this the whole time to various people), he gets right in my face and snarls, “Fuck your dog.”  Shortly thereafter I try to plead with another guard who simply retorts “just shut the fuck up about your fucking dog” before leading me into a jail cell.


I was not able to attend my scheduled trial in February 2011 for the same reason I was able to come out to Asheville to housesit for the dog in the first place: I had quit my job in Dallas and agreed to teach abroad in China for one year. After returning to the U.S., I promptly contacted an attorney, turned myself in to the jail (a warrant had been issued for me due to my failure to appear in court), and awaited my new court date on May 14, 2012. In the interim, my attorney contacted the arresting officer in an attempt to review her notes, which apparently has long been common practice in Buncombe County, so that we could review our options in advance of the trial. The officer returned my attorney’s voicemail and said that her sergeant instructed her not to release the notes of this case in advance of the trial day…

As the notes were handed over in court, my attorney and I were surprised to read that the officers at the scene felt I displayed subjective qualities of impairment such as “slurred speech.” However, the real shocker was the allegation that the officer asked for my state registration card and I proceeded to hand over “the same insurance card four times [in a row] even though officer [number two] saw the registration card on the top of his paperwork.” This is difficult to even respond to, because what actually happened was I explained to the officers as I handed him the insurance card (one time) that the truck belongs to my parents and I don’t know where they keep everything, but I know they have made sure I am on all of the necessary paperwork.

Since there is no video of this exchange, just close your eyes and try to picture someone handing over the same card four times in a row. That person would have to be quite intoxicated or mentally handicapped. It’s not even a reasonable exaggeration for a large male with experience drinking who registers on the legal limit.

My attorney tried to calm my outrage while providing me sound legal advice. He informed me that in Buncombe County, as long as the officers’ notes show reasonable cause for them to administer a breathalyzer test, then the judge will consider the test admissible. And if the test shows a 0.08 or higher in Buncombe County, then a conviction is automatic. If that reasonable cause was going to come down to the officers’ word vs. mine, he said, then it simply wasn’t worth the extra money in attorney’s fees and court costs as well as the additional punishment to be meted out as a result of pleading not guilty and going through with a full trial. Without much in the way of financial resources, I made the difficult choice to plead guilty.

What we have lost touch with in this country is the ability to make judgment calls. I learned during my alcohol and drug education traffic school, which I recently completed as part of my punishment, that depending on a person’s tolerance a BAC higher than 0.08 may be needed before any impairment occurs. Yet the consequences I will face as a result of this unfortunate evening are the same as someone who may have been swerving or falling asleep at the wheel or worse, and they will continue unabated in the form of having to respond to questions about my criminal history on job applications, raised insurance rates, etc. My license has now been suspended in North Carolina for one year, and if I am pulled over at any time in the next three years with a BAC of 0.04 or higher, I will face consequences of increased severity. I guess being convicted triggers a physiological change that causes one to become impaired twice as easily.

In my eyes, the consequences I put others at risk for that night are no different than those posed by me any time I drive a car. For what it’s worth, and I recognize that I every time I get behind the wheel I must continue to be vigilant as no one ever expects an accident to occur, my criminal/traffic record prior to this incident was completely clean except for a few speeding tickets, and the only car accident I have ever been in occurred when I was 17 (I rear-ended someone after my brakes skidded while it was raining).

This is certainly not simply an Asheville problem, but I believe the Asheville populace may be one of the most ready to hear the message. As I look back over this incident I see a young male who looks like he could be in college driving away from an area where many young people drink and drive. I see officers ready to pounce as soon as I pull out of the gas station without headlights on. I see manipulation to get “proof” of impairment. Looking at this from an economic perspective, more police officers are needed to conduct all of the arrests, people get paid to conduct alcohol assessments and teach alcohol classes, and yet more people are needed to oversee those serving jail time and performing community service. Some may gain, but others definitely lose.

Although I am acutely aware of the dangers posed by drinking and driving, and I hope we can foster a society in which people understand more clearly the risks inherent in this behavior and choose not to engage in it, “To protect and serve” no longer seems to be the overarching goal.




Patrick Love



P.S. I have the quotes in this letter because I wrote down a multiple-page account of every minute detail that I could muster as soon as I was released the following morning. For those who are interested, the dog survived but went completely blind.

New Year’s House Cleaning

Sunday, January 10th, 2010


Having trouble accepting that this is now the present as it still sounds futuristic to me.

But alas, it’s the present, and here are but a few of the issues we’re grappling with:

– Does this make you feel safer?:

If that’s not enough, the TSA has purportedly ordered 300 of the naked-body scanners that they’ve been testing out and will be rolling them out in ariports for everyday use in the near future.

Everywhere you look, technology is being instituted to an absurd degree, ostensibly to keep us safer. It reminds me of this article that appeared on on March 26, 2007:

Toyota Says Sweat Detector Stops Drunk Drivers
By Joe Benton

January 3, 2007
Soon to be the world’s number one carmaker, Japanese auto giant Toyota plans to develop a system that it says will prevent a vehicle from starting after detecting that the driver is drunk.

The Toyota system analyzes sweat on the palms of the driver’s hands to assess blood alcohol content and does not allow the vehicle to be started if the reading is above programmed safety limits.

The system can detect abnormal steering and whether the driver’s pupils are out of focus as well as the sweat sensors in the steering wheel to determine the level of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream.

If any of these symptoms are detected the car will not turn on or will slow to a stop.

The automaker said the system could be available as soon as 2009.

Toyota joins Volvo in developing computerized systems to prevent drunk driving. The Volvo system requires the driver to blow into a tube to detect alcohol in the breath.

Toyota rival Nissan Motor is also working on measures to prevent drunk driving.

The research announcements follow a record of drunken driving in Japan which included 14,000 intoxicated driving accidents in 2005 that killed 707 people, according to the National Police Agency.

Japan is considering increasing the penalty for driving under the influence to up to a maximum five years in prison from the current three years and doubling the fine to $8,500.

I’m sure you’ve already seen the recent Lexus ads that promote the vehicles’ steering-assist capabilities in case the driver veers too close to another automobile. You know how sometimes a warning light on your car’s dashboard will be triggered, and then when you take it in for service the mechanic tells you that it’s just a faulty sensor and that you should just ignore it? Well that is exactly why I don’t want my car deciding out of the blue to steer for me, because I can’t just ignore that if it is making a “faulty” decision! Do the people who are in charge of these “innovations” ever consider at what point enough is enough?

vftw– Everybody’s cheating on each other, as Tiger Woods headlined the biggest scandal of 2009.  Maybe people should take a page from Masha Kirilenko’s philosophy on relationships.  Remove the controlling, “you can’t” element from male-female interactions, and it figures that people will be less likely to be treacherous towards those they are involved with.

– New year means it’s time for a new year’s resolution: no more twitter.  Sorry tweeps, but attempting to follow others (here’s looking at you Mark Cuban) brought with it too much clutter.

Polish Hammered

Monday, July 13th, 2009

After getting over the initial shock and disappointment resulting from the “loss” of Marcin Gortat, I started wondering about why Magic GM Otis Smith would make such a move after previously stating that those were “rich numbers” for a backup to his best player. Did he spend the week trying to find a potential trade partner so he wouldn’t lose “The Polish Hammer” for nothing?

So who would be trying to get Gortat? I immediately thought of the Rockets, who had gone so far in the previous two weeks as to set up a gmail account for their fans to show their desire for the Polish big man to sign with Houston.

And then I realized that something I had always wondered about MAY have just been proven true at the expense of my hometown squadron: do certain GMs really operate in alliances with other GMs, and sometimes sabotage other GMs, in the NBA’s game of warfare?

This is just speculation, of course, but take a look at a couple of big trades (I feel like they’ve made some other swaps as well but this information proved tougher than expected to google) Houston and Orlando have orchestrated in recent years:

  • 2009: Rox trade Rafer Alston to the Magic in a three-way trade also involving the Grizzlies. This occurs after the contending Magic lose their all-star PG Jameer Nelson for the season.
  • 2004: Rox trade Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Kevin Cato for 2-time NBA leading scorer Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, and Reece Gaines.

I notice while researching their trade history that the Rockets also are quite fond of dealing with the Grizzlies, shipping Bonzi Wells there in 2008 in a three-way deal that netted them Bobby Jackson, sending them a washed-up Steve Francis for draft picks later that year, and pulling off the Rudy Gay-Shane Battier exchange in 2006.

Not that there is anything wrong with these conceivable GM relationships, but I just think it’s worth pointing out as I now believe the Rockets, who are desperate for a center after losing Yao for the season and were clearly bummed out that the big man chose to sign the Mavs’ offer sheet instead of Houston’s, may have convinced Smith that they will follow-through on a desirable trade come December 15 when Gortat is eligible to be traded.

Donnie Nelson knows talent, but maybe he should spend more time aligning his GM relationships.

Regardless, the updated depth chart does not look bad at all:

C: Hollins; Damp; Dirk; Humphries
PF: Dirk; Marion; Humphries; Nivins
SF: Marion; J-Ho; Singleton; Ross
SG: J-Ho; JET; Barea; Beaubois
PG: Kidd; Barea; Beaubois; JET

Lastly, one more big move may still be coming from the Triangle of Trust, but how about this potential not-so-big move that would add some create-his-own-shot ability at the 2-guard – Marquis Daniels, who by the way has improved his 3-point shot since we saw him last …

Flip the Script

Monday, June 15th, 2009

So I got to thinking tonight about how the proliferation of communications technology is making life suck often times for those who have achieved any measure of fame due to their success. Imagine if someone – we’ll say head coach Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks for example – did something as innocent as getting down on bended knee to propose to his girlfriend in the middle of dinner at an upscale restaurant. (I know, Rick’s married. For some reason that’s just who came to mind.) While this is a beautiful event, some of the other diners who witnessed it would undoubtedly post this “news” on Twitter via their iPhones and such (or who knows, someone might even capture it on video with his/her mobile device and post it to Youtube.). Then it would probably hit SportsCenter and whatever else. Do we really want to live in a world like that where no one can do anything without it being talked about for all to see?

But then I reconsidered, swinging a wild 180 from the sanctified subject of wedding proposals to one far more serious. I figured, with all this newfound ability for people to communicate with any and every one else in the world instantaneously, many of the broken, corrupted power structures littered in this world can finally be dissolved. Regardless of your political affiliations, it is a widely held belief at this point that government bodies in the U.S. and elsewhere are comprised of affluent, well-connected people who often scratch each other’s backs in lieu of doing what’s best for the people and the world at large.

Governments were initially formed because some matters just had to be decided for the village and it was impractical to go door to door to poll everyone’s opinion each time. Nowadays, however, everybody can throw in their two cents from their computer. In a city (Dallas) where the public school system is a mangled mess, why are we having city hall and whoever else allocate the city’s budget behind closed doors? The tax money is coming from all working citizens is it not? I don’t even want to get in to the bombardment of bailouts we’ve recently taken on in this country. Let everyone vote to decide these things.

The potential applications for a paradigm shift like this are boundless. Police work is a mess just about everywhere in the world as far as I have been able to ascertain. We already judge people in the “court of public opinion” based on the news we consume, so why should we not use the answers we generate from the friendly debates we have amongst ourselves? If someone tweets (or whatever the medium) an opinion that is based on incomplete or incorrect knowledge of the case, others will surely be quick to point that out. You can’t argue with the truth.

Instead of having inane rules like mandatory minimum sentences that are inflexible to the circumstances of a case, people should be allowed to weigh their opinions against others and meet in the middle as to what punishment people deserve. After all, this is the way things were done before communities got too big to gather everyone around the village tree for a debate.

Its time to flush out the clogged bureaucracies.