Police State in Full Force

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This week while working, I was driving my regular routing schedule around the Las Vegas area in Nevada. I moved to Las Vegas three months ago to pursue a job in the healthcare industry. Nothing out of the ordinary seemed to be going on this day, other than the hundred and ten degree summer heat throughout the Las Vegas area.

I came to a stop light and knew that I had to take my regular U-Turn at the stop light to turn around and go back to a Dr.'s office on the other side of the street. When the light turned green, I pulled a U-Turn and began driving about three tenths of a mile to where I needed to turn into the Dr.'s office. And that's when suddenly I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a police officer on a motorcycle with his lights on. I abruptly pulled over thinking that maybe U Turns weren't allowed at that stop light, or that I unexpectedly somehow got a little pedal heavy and was speeding down the road.

While on the side of the street, I got out my wallet to find my drivers license. I am driving a black Dodge Avenger rental car still as my company still hasn't fully moved me to Las Vegas. I roll down my window and a wait for the officer to approach. Inside of my car, I have my iPhone in a cup holder to my right, my briefcase on the passenger seat with a laptop on top of the briefcase. There are also papers scattered throughout my car with free samples of pens and magnets in the back seat.

The officer was probably in his mid-thirties, white male, with a buzz haircut. It looked as though he was previously riding a horse before he got on his motorcycle as he was wearing a hat and knee high boots like all officers that you see on horses. When he made it to my window he said that he needed my license and registration. I handed the officer my license and the registration that was located inside of the glove compartment inside of the rental car. He walked away and went back to his motorcycle for a minute.

When he came back, he said that he was citing me for a violation of looking at my cell phone. I paused for a second and said, "What, looking at my cell phone?" I knew that it was illegal to talk and text on your phone in the state of Nevada as my work place predecessor warned me that he had received a ticket for texting and driving. Also, I am from Indiana and my state just passed a law banning texting and driving.

The officer began to explain to me that texting, talking, touching, and even looking at your cell phone are all violations in the state of Nevada. I told him that I was from Indiana and had no idea that looking at your cell phone was a criminal offense. The officer responded with "it's your job to learn the laws of the state you reside in." So I followed up with, "I don't understand, how could you even know if I was looking at my cell phone or not. He proceeded with, "I saw you looking down." I said, "So if I look down, it's due to a cell phone, look at all of the stuff in my car, you can't conclude that." The officer insisted that he saw me look at my cell phone and that he was citing me and that I needed to sign his mobile digital signature device so that he could print me the ticket.

I took his mobile digital signature device and kept probing. I asked, "What if I keep my iPhone in the cup holder, keep the lock off, and let the GPS run?" The officer responded it that would be a violation as well, even if I'm not touching my phone." This is because if you are using a GPS, it must be mounted on your dashboard, or it is a fineable offense. I asked about my laptop, and he said that if I touch that in the car, he could fine me for that as well. I was dumbfounded at the things that I suddenly realized turned me into a violator just by touching an everyday item.

This is when the officer handed me the ticket and I began to read it. The exact violation that I received as stated on my ticket is:

"Driver looking down at phone being held w/ right hand near his lap, while moving forward at approx. 45MPH."

Once again, how is it physically possible for a police officer to be behind my car, at least 20 feet away, yet be able to see my lap?

The officer told me to call the number at the bottom of the ticket because he didn't know how much the fine amount was. I said good day, rolled up my window, and pulled into the parking lot immediately to the right of me. While in the parking lot, I tried to dial the number which leads to the Clark County Municipal Courts. Of course, I stayed on hold for 15 minutes and an agent never once connected with me at the other end of the phone.

While on the phone, I watched three other cars get pulled over for presumably the same offense. The officer was just camping out around the corner and appeared to just be pulling over a new car as soon as he finished with the last one. I gave up trying to call the Clark County Municipal Courts, so I decided to drive there.

As I pulled out of the parking lot and looked to my right, down the street on the other side of the road, there was a police officer over there on a motorcycle and he was pulling over cars as well. I have to assume it was for the exact same cell phone offense. I had no idea that there were so many alleged violators that drove down that road every day.

When I made it to the Clark County Municipal Court, I thought it was quite interesting trying to find somewhere to park there. As in Las Vegas, essentially every single mega hotel has free parking. However, at the Clark County Municipal Court, parking at the parking garage was $5 for the first hour, with $5 for every additional hour, up to $20 in a day. I thought that was rather expensive so I drove right past it. I tried to find some street parking and eventually did. Luckily, for street parking, it's $1 for an hour's worth of parking just one block from the parking garage. I parked my car and went into the County building.

While inside I was immediately barked at to take off my shoes and remove everything from my pockets as if I was at the airport getting ready for a TSA screener. Luckily here, you're only required to go through a metal detector and not the full x-ray. When I picked up my items out of my cubby to put my belt and shoes back on, I was yelled at because the end of the conveyor belt where the items come out isn't the "dressing" area. I was told to walk 100 feet down the hall to a bench. While there, I got situated and made my way to the ticket violation suite.

I entered the suite and showed my ticket to the lady at the front desk. She gave me the dreaded piece of paper with a number on it correlating to where you are in the queue. I had number 145, and they had only called number 120. Shockingly, it only took 10 minutes for my number to be called. I went up to the window and showed the lady my ticket. She looked at the ticket and said that it will cost me $123 to pay the fine. I said, "Wow, that's outrageous!" She told me that the ticket wasn't entered into the system yet, so that even if I wanted to pay, I wasn't able to. She informed me that it takes about 3 weeks for a ticket to make it into the system for you to be able to pay the fine. I asked about protesting the ticket and she showed me where the court date was listed on the ticket and instructed me to show up on that date. I thanked the lady, and made my way out of the Las Vegas Municipal Court.

I intend to return in September to protest my fine and see what unfathomable reasoning the officer might give for as to how he could see anything in my lap.

Trent Nall [send him mail] Is a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and now works in healthcare in Las Vegas, NV.

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