Friday, April 17, 2009

Implied consent: a one-act drama

Somewhere in Texas at a Department of Public Safety driver's license office...

CLERK: Next.

APPLICANT: I'm here to get a driver's license.

CLERK: Let me see the paperwork.

APPLICANT: Here you go (handing application to the clerk).

CLERK: Now I need you to stand perfectly still while I wave this pen in front of your face. Just a second while I turn on the camera.

APPLICANT: (looks puzzled)

CLERK: Hold that head perfectly still. Here we go (waving a pen back and forth in front of applicant's face). Okay, that was good. Now I need for you to stand on one leg with your arms at your side. Whatever you do, don't put your foot down.

APPLICANT: (looks very puzzled while she struggles to keep from falling over). Can I ask you what this is all about?

CLERK: You can ask, but I can't answer that question just yet. Now I need for you to walk heel-to-toe up and back along that black line with your arms at your side. Take nine steps each way, please.

APPLICANT: You've got to be kidding.

CLERK: Do I look like I'm kidding (glaring at applicant in that way only a civil servant can)? Walk up and back along that line. Now!

APPLICANT: (with resignation) Fine. Here I go.

After the applicant finishes walking along the line she walks back up to the counter.

CLERK: Now you need to pay the fee and sign this form and then you'll be a legally licensed driver in Texas.

APPLICANT: (looking at a blank piece of paper with a signature blank) There's nothing on this paper. What am I signing?

CLERK: Do you want your license or not? You need to pay the fee and sign that piece of paper. We haven't got all day.

APPLICANT: (looking down at her watch stops herself from commenting) Here's your money. Do you have a pen?

CLERK: (looking incredibly put upon) Here.

The applicant signs the blank paper and hands it back, along with the pen, to the clerk.

APPLICANT: What was that paper all about? Was that just for my signature on my license?

CLERK: No. That paper was a waiver of your constitutional rights to remain silent and or speak to an attorney. You also waived your protection from self-incrimination and unreasonable search and seizure. Finally, and most importantly, you are now guilty until proven innocent. Have a good day. Next!

APPLICANT: (looking very disturbed) Wait just a minute. What are you talking about? What do you mean I waived my constitutional rights and protections?

CLERK: Well, anytime a police officer gets it into his head that you might be driving while intoxicated - you know, smells alcohol on your breath, for instance, you agree to blow into the state's breath test machine - but don't ask anyone how it works. If you ignore your obligation to provide evidence against yourself then we'll take your license away from you for 6 months and make you beg a judge to let you drive your car. Oh, and if the officer decides to arrest you and you, if you didn't blow into the machine, that's an indication that you were driving while intoxicated. Here's your license. Next!

APPLICANT: (looking down at her license in complete disbelief) What the...?

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