how i was almost arrested for honking my horn

On Saturday I was invited to attend an Izea focus group in Orlando. I have two choices in driving there – the interstate, which takes me out of my way, or the back roads, past farms and forests, and through small towns that are barely a blip on my radar. That is, until Saturday, when I was (wrongfully) accused of road rage by a small town cop, threatened with cuffs and the back of his squad car, and a trip to the station!

As I leave my house, there’s one long stretch of road is only a single lane in each direction, with curves making it practically impossible to pass any slow poke holding things up. For 20 minutes or so, I drove behind 4 or 5 other cars that were all being delayed by a red Geo metro going 10 miles under the speed limit. As we entered the small town of Mascotte, FL, the road opened up, and became 2 lanes in each direction separated by a low concrete median. The slow going Geo Metro went into the right hand lane, and wanting to avoid him, I stayed in the left. The speed limit was 45 and I was doing it, along with the cars around me. Finally happy to be moving at the speed limit, I cranked up my Sirius radio and sang along.

Suddenly, traffic came to a quick stop. A few car lengths ahead of me was a pickup truck, attempting to make a left turn into the lanes going the opposite direction. There wasn’t a turn lane – only a median, and this truck was position so that half of the body of the vehicle stuck out into the left lane (the one I was in) completely blocking the flow of traffic.

I did what most of us probably would have done – I beeped my horn. Actually, I beeped it more than once, as the driver of the truck seemed completely unaware of the hazard he was causing. Kind of a “hey, blocking the flow of traffic here buddy” thing. The truck finally turned and I started to move again with traffic, going maybe 150 yards before realizing there was a City of Mascotte police car behind me, lights flashing, siren off. I carefully merged over into the right lane, and then pulled into the empty parking lot of a real estate office.

Two cops exited the vehicle – a female, who never spoke to me or even came to my side of the vehicle, and her male counterpart. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew we had trouble. He barked at me, “What is your PROBLEM?!?!” and I was almost so flabbergasted I didn’t know what to say. Problem? I didn’t have one! He’s got to be referring to the horn beeping, right? So I started to explain how I was trying to avoid the Geo Metro and stayed in the left and the truck was blocking everyone….

“YOU’VE GOT ROAD RAGE!!”

Huh? Wait a minute…I was calm, polite, and reserved. What’s this road rage he’s talking about? Good thing I was thinking this and not saying it, because he kept going…barking at me and berating me…

“That truck was making a LEGAL LEFT TURN and he is WITHIN HIS RIGHTS TO DO SO! What’s your PROBLEM that you needed to beep the horn like that at THAT TRUCK? You could have gone around him!”

Seriously? Did this cop not see the ass end of this truck blocking a whole lane of traffic? That seems to be reasonably unsafe. And me changing lanes suddenly to go around him? Yeah, like that wouldn’t have gotten me pulled over!

“ROAD RAGE IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE! I could have you in the back of my car in cuffs right now, do you UNDERSTAND?”

Whoa, I understand that one of us has some rage, but it’s not me! Officer AngerIssues returns to his cruiser, presumably to look up some kind of offense he can ticket me on. His female counterpart writes up the ticket, and as I watch her through my rear view mirror, I can see her grinning! Lovely. There’s nothing like a smiling cop to make you think you’re helping to fulfill a ticket quota.

Male cop comes back up after 5 minutes to my window. Female cop goes to the passenger side of my vehicle…I guess to prevent my escape? Because you know, I’m a dangerous criminal. He again tells me how he COULD be arresting me, but he’s “only” going to ticket me for “improper use of horn”. He again mentions the road rage and then stops talking…I realize he’s waiting for me to reply in the affirmative, I guess to admit I was wrong? Not going to happen, so I simply say “O.K.” and sign my ticket.

Here’s the best part of the story though…

If you’ve ever received a ticket in the state of Florida, you know that you have the right to contest your ticket in court. How do you know this? Because the officer or sheriff or deputy who tickets you tells you, “You can contest this in court, if you wish to do so the court information is on the ticket…blah blah.”

Officer AngerIssues didn’t say anything remotely resembling the statement above. His words (and I’m paraphrasing here – the whole event was pretty traumatic for me) were:

If you consider fighting this ticket, I’ll be there with the three other cops who were out here this morning.

I took my ticket, put my window back up, and slowly drove away. I was seething inside. Pull me over for something bogus – fine. But how dare this cop try to intimidate me into not going to court to stand up for myself?

Obviously, I couldn’t stand up for myself or even speak up during the traffic stop, for fear that this cop would react badly, but little does he know…but attempting to intimidate me into not appearing in court…he made me want to go all the more. I plan to go and tell the judge exactly what he said – NO ONE should be intimidated like this!

I researched the Florida statutes this morning, and found out that the officer had NO basis at all for the road rage charge he claims he could have given me. The road rage statute is called “Aggressive careless driving” here in Florida:

316.1923 Aggressive careless driving.–”Aggressive careless driving” means committing two or more of the following acts simultaneously or in succession:

(1) Exceeding the posted speed as defined in s. 322.27(3)(d)5.b.

(2) Unsafely or improperly changing lanes as defined in s. 316.085.

(3) Following another vehicle too closely as defined in s. 316.0895(1).

(4) Failing to yield the right-of-way as defined in s. 316.079, s. 316.0815, or s. 316.123.

(5) Improperly passing as defined in s. 316.083, s. 316.084, or s. 316.085.

(6) Violating traffic control and signal devices as defined in ss. 316.074 and 316.075.

I didn’t do ANY of those things, and certainly not two at a time. Why did this cop think he could threaten to arrest me and charge me with criminal charges when I absolutely did not deserve those charges? It’s just a scare tactic! It’s so I would happily accept my $76.50 ticket and thank my lucky stars that the “nice cop” didn’t arrest me. Get this though – on my ticket, he checked the box for “aggressive driving”, even though I didn’t commit that crime. How can you be driving aggressively when you’re sitting still?

And let’s talk about that $76.50 ticket for “improper horn use”:

316.271 Horns and warning devices.–

(3) The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation, give audible warning with his or her horn, but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.

(8) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.

Gee, I blew my horn to ensure SAFE operation. It was a warning to the guy blocking traffic…sounds like attempting to be safe to me! Yeah, I probably blew it one too many times, but there’s nothing in the statute saying how many horn blows is too many.

What was this cop’s problem? Did his wife just leave him? Child support increased? Having a bad day in general? Whatever the issue, it seems like he took it out on me…did I look easy to pick on? Sure, a skinny white lady in a big SUV is an easy target…she’ll cry when you give her the ticket and you can let out all of your anger on her.

Did I blow the horn one too many times? Possibly, but did that “offense” warrant the treatment received? Absolutely not. I’ve been having all sorts of anxiety issues about this since Saturday, and I even had a nightmare about the cop. I’m fearful about going to court and having 3 offices of the law back each other up with the version of this story that isn’t the truth. If I need to pay for my ticket and court fees in the end, so be it, but I want it to be known to the court how this cop threatened and intimidated me. No one should be treated like I was treated, especially not for blowing the horn!

26 Responses to “how i was almost arrested for honking my horn”

  1. Andrwe says:

    Ugh. That totally and completely sucks. I can’t stand when things like this happen, and then true jerks of the highway who do exhibit road rage, who do tail you right up to your bumper at 65 miph, get away with it. Good for you for standing your ground and going to court to fight this one! I hope it works out for you. And chances are the officer either won’t even show up, or he’ll have long forgotten you specifically, since he most likely does this to everybody.

  2. Dawn D says:

    Man! I am so sorry you had to deal with that! I would have been intimidated too! Make sure you tell the judge! I’ll go with you if you want ! :-)

  3. D says:

    I love the story and am on your side.

    I don’t know about Florida, but in Illinois and surrounding states – a judge will not let you win. He will say something to the effect that the officer sited you based on his judgement at the time and he has no choice but to follow that assessment.

    Garbage – what it means is “we are a good old boy, drop the soap and bend over, club and we will do what we want”.

  4. Colleen says:

    I don’t expect to win. I know the cops will stick together. I simply want to point out that this cop tried to keep me from going to court via threats and intimidation, and no one should stand for that.

    After court, I’ll write a letter to the mayor of the city with a complaint.

  5. tim says:

    The police in Mascotte and Groveland are notorious for ticketing out-of-towners. I’ve spent 20 years going 5 miles under and being completely paranoid for the 786 times or so I’ve gone through there.

    Don’t bother writing letters, the town wants them to find a reason to ticket you. Go to court, as long as it’s not in Mascotte. If it’s in Mascotte, pay the ticket and let it go, you won’t stand a chance.

  6. Joy Smith says:

    Okay, excuse my choice of words, but this is all Bullshit. You won’t win? My ass!

    Let me tell you a story. My cousin who’s had a bad past history with the law, decided to get his act striaght and live a decent life. One day, his neighbors called the police because they wanted to get even with my cousin for complaining about their dog who had tried to attack his step-son and tore up his screen door.

    When a local cop showed up at his house, my cousin who was summoned in his boxer from the bedroom by his step-son, was confused as to why a cop was at his house. And because he’s hard of hearing, he stepped closely to the cop, to ask what was going on. Without warning, he was met with an answer of pepper spray and handcuffed and arrested, without his rights even being read. The city who also knew about his past, tried to get him on bogus charges.

    The cop said that he arrested him for drunk driving. Umm yeah. Drunk driving in boxer shorts in his bed at home, huh? So to end this lovely story, my cousin decided to take the city to court for a false arrest. He WON.

    Now my cousin has a bad past. And I mean very bad past. Anyone and everyone who knows him in this small town, knows that. The city knows that as well. Yet, HE WON. All on his own. No evil mobsters helping him out (joke people, joke.). Just him and well, his wife. He WON. In the State of Kansas.

    So that cop. Well come to find out, he was a rookie and they ended up having to suspend him. All charges against my cousin were dropped.

    So DOn’t say some sort of Bullshit like, You can’t win. Because that’s Bullshit all on it’s own.

    What this cop did to Colleen was uncalled for. Maybe he was a rookie, maybe he wasn’t. Anyway you look at it, he was truly an asshole and treated her with disrespect. And I am willing to bet that the friends I do have that are cops, will agree with me 100%. It’s assholes like him and the rookie my cousin had suspended, who give good cops a bad rep.

    No matter what happens, they need to know your story, Colleen. That cop and his partner need to know that bullying is wrong. Being in a police uniform does not grant someone the power to do whatever they damn well please. Rookie or no rookie. Good Luck!

  7. Kent B says:

    Find a trafffic ticket attorney in your area and hire them to fight this. There are lots of them, and their fees are usually around $100 or less per ticket. They win frequently here in Florida.

    You don’t even have to show up if you don’t want to. The attorney will show up and fight it for you. If the cop fails to show up (which is often the case) or doesn’t have his paperwork in order the attorney will get your ticket dropped. If the cop shows up with all his paperwork in order there’s still a chance you’ll win. And, even if your attorney doesn’t win he’ll make that slimeball go to court and defend himself.

  8. Mrs Hannigan says:

    No doubt- what a jerk. I sure hope you take that to court. You should probably just spend the $76 filing a counter suit of harrassment against the officer and give him a taste of his own medicine. You clearly weren’t breaking any laws. He probably gets away with that kind of crap all day long. It reminds me of the youtube video on dooce’s website with the little skater boys. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM? Argh, better you than me- I’d have cried and whined about it, you rock.

  9. Bre says:

    Okay,
    So you have looked up the law and understand it…so why are you feeling intimidated by this I have a badge and I’m gonn’a use it yahoo…you do know that there is more than one way to do things…like a written report stating harassment to the chief of police with a copy to the mayor and all of the city counsel members with a copy going to your state attorney general’s office as well. I think you need to go to court too with an attorney remember incident until proven guilty and “they” have to prove that all of those cops were there. I’m sure that there is also a record of some sort in the officer’s daily log. Pick up your gun’s honey or roll over and die.
    Momzilla

  10. veustanata says:

    Well, logically you sould argue that as the policeman gave you a ticket for “aggressive driving” but claimed you were improperly using the horn, he has cited you for an offense that as defined by the State of Florida does not exist. After all, the only mention of a horn is followed by the phrase “nonmoving violation” and therefore, the court needs to throw out your ticket on the basis that the officer’s arguments do not match his written documentation of the situation. However, I would not countersue because if you’re going to have trouble fighting the ticket, imagine the trouble you’ll have getting money out of a policeman’s pocket.

  11. Tammie says:

    Do all of us a favor and fight this with every fiber of your being. These jerks get their thrills by pushing easy marks around, and I’m sure this cop has a reputation both on the force and with the courts. He does it, quite simply, because he can.

    And the countersuit thing isn’t a bad idea, either. Go for the cohones!

  12. Jennifer says:

    Let us know what happens! Sorry you had to go through bullshit like that!

  13. Mr. Fabulous says:

    You left out the best part, my awesome healing hug when you finally got to the office!

  14. Spice says:

    Holy crap Colleen, what he did was so uncalled for. I’m so sorry. Where was the 3rd cop this whole time or were there 4 total? Can Jim go with you to court? Did they have the whole thing on video (you know how sometimes they tape these things?) I would have been intimidated as hell!

  15. Kim says:

    I wonder if his wife is a waitress who’s waited on you in the past? LOL

    Go get ‘em, tiger!

  16. Chris says:

    I was nailed in Mascotte too about a year ago for speeding in the exact same place, came around the slow truck and got nailed doing 5 miles over. Any towns on state roads you have to be so careful at, the limit drops so quickly. If you take a lawyer colleen you may win. But it will cost you.

  17. hellohahanarf says:

    that cop must have a little penis and need the power trip that his badge offers. i sure do hate that you have to deal with this.

    please fight the bullshit ticket. personally i would not hire a lawyer, but i sure as hell would go to court and fight. that cop used scare tactics to try to get you not to fight it and this was simply a part of his tactics. stay strong.

    all the best to you.

  18. David says:

    Wow!! Please keep us posted on what happens in court … that is totally uncalled for! I’m almost tempted to attend your court session with popcorn and beer and bring a cheering section for you!! There’s a reason cops are called pigs … maybe he had a stale donut that morning, or wanted to try and impress his female counterpart with his manly man attitude! Good luck!! When is the court date? Also, just to show you the type of govenment workers Mascotte has, their mayor was arrested for sex charges in November ’07.

  19. Tomk says:

    Same thing happened to a friend of mine. Had to pay a $50 fine. Ouch.

  20. Shirley says:

    That ticket is ridiulous! Take it to court and I bet you beat it! I had a similar situation and took it to court. The officer did not show up and the ticket was dismissed. Also, beware of the speed ticket trap between Waldo and Starke, Florida. Also, another good reason to beat this ticket is for your vehicle insurance rates to keep them down.

  21. Tina says:

    Sorry you had to go through that. Nobody deserves to be intimidated by power mongrels. Fight it with everything you got, Colleen!

  22. meritt says:

    Ooo my heart is beating fast and my blood is boiling for you. I’ve posted sooo many ‘cop’ stories on my blog in the past 2 years (since we moved to Mayberry). I have never in my life HATED cops the way I hate them now. Living where we do I’ve lost all respect for them… and why is this especially sad? Because I’m the DAUGHTER of a cop AND a sheriffs deputy!

    I hope you fight the ticket… but I found here that it’s not worth it. We were going to fight one – and found out that you take off work, go to the court house on the date of your ticket and waste the whole day only to say “I’m going to fight this ticket” and then you HAVE to get a lawyer and you have to get a second date to actually come back to contest it. That first date was just to tell them you are going to contest it. Then after you pay a lawyer and come back on a second date you try to contest it. Doing so in our county is apparently a waste of time and money. It’s cheaper to pay the stupid thing. No justice here…

    So? Everyone ends up paying for the bogus tickets. You know… I wouldn’t mind the bogus tickets so much if they weren’t a$$holes when they do it.

    I’m still so angry FOR you!!!!! LOL.

  23. meritt says:

    It’s me again…

    Just thought of something. Maybe your judge isn’t in the back pocket of your cops, but this *might* help.

    Locally we just had a case thrown out where a cop was a complete uh… ‘jerk’ (just like yours) and when they arrested a prominant citizen here his wrist watch (the biggest brand name in wrist watches) and another personal item ‘disappeared’ between the time he was arrested for DUI and let go….

    He tried to take them to court – and part of his complaint was the way he was treated by the cop that was a jerk and was rude… and his case was THROWN OUT. Why? Because he didn’t bring in a cop to show ‘what a cop was supposed to be like’ to compare it to!!!!!!!

    So – heads up. If you think your judicial system might be as screwed up as ours, you better find a cop to portray how a traffic stop *should* go so you have the comparison you need. (Or maybe you won’t need it… maybe that’s just our county for ya.) *rolling my eyes*

  24. dazed45 says:

    Had a similar incident yesterday in Gainesville, FL. State Trooper was “chatting” with a lady in the opposite lane (who just previously flicked her lit cigarette out the window), light turned green and they continued their friendly banter while impeding the flow of traffic behind them. Not wanting to sit through 2 sets of lights, or worse, get rear ended by some inattentive driver – lights green-cars not moving, I honked the horn……

    Lady eventually pulls away from light and trooper turns on his noise maker and points me over to the adjacent gas station and procedes to ask me “if I am in really that big of a hurry?” and that “horns are for safety, blahblahblah…” He really didn’t have anything to say other than to repeat hiimself.

    For a brief moment I thought I would answer his question truthfully by telling him that I was indeed not in “that big of a hurry” but was concerned for my safety as the light was green yet they had both lanes blocked with incoming traffic rapidly approching on a very busy highway.Perhaps if his lady friend had an emergency why didn’t they pull over into one of the many business parking lots lining the highway?

    I bit my tongue not wanting to escalate things by apologizing for not seeing him there and that I was just honking to wake up the nice lady so I could proceed through the light.

    He scolded me one more time and once again reminded me that “horns are for safety” and drove off. I followed him out and was curious that he didn’t ask for my license and registration only to notice in my blind spot another trooper who must have been running my plate as he stayed in my blind spot until I turned.

    Anywho, sorry to highjack your thread with my drivel but I hope you do go
    to Court to fight this. You were clearly wronged and that cop needs to go back to being a night watchman at a landfill.

  25. Jenny says:

    Cops are ass’s. That basically explains everything. LOL

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