Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Innocent and Pulled Over at Age 22

It was an evening in March of 2011, and at the age of 22, all I wanted to do was get home but I was lost. As I drove I was trying to figure out where I was. I approached a toll booth and I was pretty sure that there were not supposed to be any toll booths on the way. There was no place to stop and if I crossed the upcoming bridge I was sure I would end up far farther from home than I already was. It was late at night and the toll booth had no cash lanes open and so no obvious place to go and ask for help.

As I approached the toll booth I slowed down and searched for someone to help. I was thrilled when I saw another human being, an officer who came out of the far right EZ pass booth and waved me to come to the side where there were empty do-not-enter lanes. As I got closer, the officer approached to help me—or so I thought. When I opened my window explaining that I was lost I was met with a curt “license and registration” I told him how I was lost and where I was trying to go. He ignored me and continued treating me like a criminal, waving his flashlight through the windows on all sides of the car asking me to keep my hands on the steering wheel. He spoke roughly and curtly and ignored every word I said.

I asked him why I was getting a ticket and he said “the ticket is already given.” He said that I can tell the judge that I was lost but giving the ticket was his job. The ticket was for supposedly obstructing traffic, but when I slowed down looking for help there were few cars in sight, a far cry from obstructing traffic. He said that deciding whether my situation was deemed ticket-worthy, because I was lost and did not know what to do, was the job of the judge, not him. His job was just to give a ticket when he sees a violation.

He said that I slowed down; apparently, that was evil. And even if I was lost, and even if I was looking for someone like a police officer who might help me, that was not of his concern. Reasons and reality didn’t matter, according to him.

It would seem that if someone’s car broke down, or someone was completely lost and did not know what to do, he would still get a ticket, just as though he did something wrong. When the incident was over, I was still lost and when I asked if the officer could at least give me directions I was given an unclear “go right after the toll” which got me lost even more. On top of trying to get home safely I now had my heart beating faster than it ever had been, compounded by the events that just occurred. I was a law-abiding citizen seeking help and was treated like a criminal. That’s all that was racing through my mind, exponentially increasing the difficulty of navigation and focusing on the road. It took many hours but I was fortunate to have made it home.

Almost five years later:

It was the evening of January 14, 2016, and at the age of 22, all Devorah Stubin wanted to do was get home, but she was lost. Distraught that she was in a foreign place and hoping to just get home safely, trying to find her way, she forgot to put on her headlights. An officer pulled her over. She explained to the officer how she was lost but the officer still gave her a ticket, and gave her directions that ended up leading her the wrong way. The stress level of being lost compounded with the discourteous—I would say wrongful—ticketing of honest law-abiding citizens is a stress I know all too well—one that still affects me to this day, almost five years later.

Who knows what the officer said to her and how she was treated!? We do know that she called her mother after she was stopped and ticketed, and was crying hysterically. For a law-abiding citizen, getting a ticket is extremely stressful. In her time of need the officer increased her agitation because of her already being lost. He should have told her—kindly—that her headlights were not on, and helped her find her way. The last thing someone who is lost needs is to be treated like a criminal and given a ticket, increasing her stress levels and lack of clarity in negotiating her travel.

Police should be helping, not accusing. They should be chasing “real criminals” and helping innocent civilians in their time of need and not treating law-abiding citizens who forgot to turn on their lights and are completely lost, or things of that nature, as criminals. Enough is enough. The police should chase real criminals and help those in need instead of “gotch-yas” of law-abiding citizens.


A person who knows how Devorah felt all too well


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