It's no secret to anyone that the American courts are backed up, clogged and justice is handed out at the speed of a slug. On a cold morning. Trudging across the concrete.
So when a cop has a chance to give a warning for a very, very minor infraction, it's not only ridiculous he would instead write out a citation (except if he's trying to boost his ticket writing goal for the day... which is a very real thing) but even more ridiculous when he bumps the charge to a faked, trumped up charge... that causes havoc in an innocent person life, gives them a record, makes them hire a lawyer and spend time either in jail or going to court to fight it.
All over a tiny little burned out cigarette butt.
And here is where it starts.
A Tennessee woman is driving her husbands car for the day and didn't realize until too late that it did not have an ashtray.
Heidi Bowers, 33, was running an errand for work on Aug. 24. She drove her husband’s car that day, which doesn’t have an ashtray.
“In a panic moment, my cigarette was running down, and I’m like, ‘There’s no ashtray in this car. What am I doing?’” said Bowers. “I ended up tossing it out the window. I absolutely admit I was wrong. Lo and behold the lights started spinning behind me.”
The wife and mother said she hadn’t been pulled over in years, so she thought what happened next might be new procedure.
“He asked me to step out of the car, which at that point was very weird,” explained Bowers. “He asked me to put my fingerprint on this little scanner he had. Then he asked me to back up and take my picture.
“The whole time I was thinking ‘this is new,’ but I haven’t been pulled over in a while, I’ll go with it.
“Then he said ‘Today you’ve been arrested for littering. Criminal littering.’”
The officer told her to go to the courthouse and report for booking “or you will go to jail,” she said. “And I thought my smile’s gone. What’s going on here?”
When Bowers got home, she researched Tennessee littering laws, which revealed the officer must have made a mistake.
“It’s [TCA] 39-13-503, a minor class C,” said Bowers. “You send in $50 to the county clerk and go on with your life. He wrote me up for a 504, which is criminal misdemeanor littering.”
Tennessee Code Annotated 39-13-504 defines criminal littering as
an amount more than five pounds in weight or 7.5 Cubic feet in volume.
So the officer was wrong - either intentionally or accidentally. Maybe he just felt like being a dick that day, but perhaps his finger slipped or was too fat for the tiny little electronic button the screen and hit wrong the next more serious charge. We don't know.
But common sense should prevail right? Not in this day and age. In the past 10 years we've gone insane as a nation. Common sense is NOT common anymore. And police officers being 'public servants' is long gone. It's just a moniker used on paper... we tend to know them more as state or county level militants. With ego's and bad attitudes.
Bowers got a lawyer who agreed that it was obviously the wrong charge and he would clear it all up.
When the two showed up for booking, that didn’t happen.
“You take your mug shot then go out to the courthouse,” said Bowers. “Meanwhile, I’m literally around people that have really committed crimes, assault, drunk driving, marijuana and I threw a cigarette butt out the window.”
Once in court, the judge wouldn’t budge. Bowers accepted four hours of community service and the charge for criminal littering would stand.
“You go through your life trying to be a good person, always, and this happens,” said Bowers. “You’re getting arrested. It’s crazy.”
For the record; the original source of this story; Channel 4, asked Metro Police about Brewer’s case.
“It is the officer’s discretion to issue that citation. It is then up to the court to determine whether the citation should be amended,” police said in a written statement. “If there was an error on the part of the officer, he’ll be made aware.”
He'll be made aware!? After 2-3 months of her life is bungled up in this mess, hundreds of dollars spent trying to get the charge cleared at least down to what it was SUPPOSED TO BE (a misdemeanor that you send 50 bucks to the courthouse to pay for and it's done and over), missed work, a permanant record, community serve time served... just because an officer messed up on the paperwork and he'll be "made aware" if he ---cough cough--- made a mistake ---cough cough---.
Every officer that wears a uniform, is speaking for all officers, everywhere. And if you want to continue to make people hate law enforcement, have ZERO TRUST IN THEM, distrust the SYSTEM and have FEWER young people want to BE police officers... well, this is the way to do it. Keep it up.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV)