DMI Blog

Ezekiel Edwards

When you walk the dog, remember the leash

If you ever get a summons for walking a dog without its leash, make sure you go to court. The same goes for having an open container of alcohol in public, playing your music unreasonably loud, or being in the park at night. If you do not go to court, perhaps because you forgot, or maybe because you could not get out of work, or you did not have the money to pay the anticipated fine, or maybe you considered the summons unreasonable and refused to go out of defiance, this is what could happen:

You are walking to your friend's house after work, entering his building. A police officer stops you and asks you where you are going. You tell the officer your friend lives there. He does not believe you. He thinks you might be trespassing, perhaps on the premises to buy drugs. He searches you (unconstitutionally). He finds nothing. He enters your name into his computer and sees that there is a warrant. Turns out, you were supposed to go to court the week before for walking a dog with no leash. You explain that you could not get off work on the court date, the dog was your girlfriend's, and she has the dog's leash at home. The officer handcuffs you, and takes you to court. You are placed in a cell. It is Thursday night.

You don't see a judge that night. Friday morning rolls around, you're still sitting in a cell. Some of the people in the cell (there are between twenty and thirty at any time) are there for a similar reason --- one failed to appear in court after receiving a summons for riding a bicycle on the street, another for drinking a beer on his front stoop. Others in the cell have been accused of crimes; a bunch for possessing or selling narcotics, a few for assault, one for rape, another for attempted murder. So you wait. The smell is terrible, made only worse by people using the open toilet right next to you. Roaches crawl up the wall while tiny bugs hover over the open garbage can. The bologna sandwiches for lunch come and go. They come and go again for dinner. Friday passes, you still have not seen a judge. You missed work, and you're worried you might lose your job. Now it's Saturday. This is the day you and your ex-wife have agreed you get the kids. You borrow some change, make a call, tell her you cannot see the kids today, something came up at work. Now it will be another week until you see them again, making it two weeks in between visits. You get your fifth round of bologna sandwiches Saturday evening. Lawyers come by occasionally, call out a name, but not yours. You're starting to wonder if the judge actually exists.

It's Sunday morning. Still in jail. Maybe the officer was lying, maybe you're suspected of having committed a double homicide? Obviously, you're not going grocery shopping for your infirm mother today. But if you don't, who will? Sunday evening, and the miraculous happens: a lawyer appears, and this time she calls out your name! You are led out of the cell, where you've been for seventy-two hours, exhausted, you haven't showered or brushed your teeth. Before you know it, you're standing in court, clothes disheveled, next to a lawyer who finds your case far less interesting than the robbery she just handled. The judge peers at you over his glasses, then at a piece of paper in front of him. "Walking an unleashed dog... does your client still own the dog?" "Your Honor, it wasn't his dog." "Well, he was walking it!" "Your Honor, the dog belonged to my client's girlfriend, and my client informs me that the dog recently died." "Maybe he didn't take the dog to the vet, either," the judge grumbles. "Does your client have $25 on him?" The lawyer looks at you doubtfully. You shake your head, whispering that you've been in jail for three days. "Can he pay it tomorrow?" the judge asks impatiently. You don't even know if you have a job anymore. "Judge, my client has been incarcerated since Thursday, would you consider time served?" "Since Thursday? Fine. Sir, I could sentence you to up to 10 days in jail for this, but instead I'm giving you a break and sentencing you to time served, you're free to go, and from now on, remember the leash! Step out, next case."

You shuffle through the courtroom doors, out onto the street, into the chilly Sunday evening. As you wait for the bus, thinking about your job, your kids, and your mother, you realize you have not taken your diabetes medication since Thursday morning. You hope the bus comes soon.

Ezekiel Edwards: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:45 AM, Jan 25, 2006 in Criminal Justice
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