The Rule of Law

This came to me when I was reading my criminal law book for class. There are some f*@$#% up cases in there, and I tend to be a "prosecutor by heart", so you know they've gotta be bad if I'm pointing fingers at the police! This story is taken from a collection of actual cases. (And now you know how I procrastinate!)

Blair Sandburg pulled the rental car up in front of the small house, his eyebrows rising almost to his hairline when he saw a squad car parked in the driveway. Two police officers stood outside the house, placing a handcuffed man in the rear seat of the patrol car.

Okay, so now is not a good time, Blair thought, as he put the car in reverse and began heading away.

"Stop right there!"

Blair ducked his head, looking at the police officer through the open passenger window of his car. With a sigh, he hit the brakes and threw the car into park.

"Step out of the car, please," the officer said.

Great. Just Great. I do NOT need any trouble. He hadn't done anything even remotely illegal, so he had no idea why the officer wanted him out of the car, but he was not inclined to argue. He knew enough about cops, both from his activist days and his time with Jim,  to know when to shut up and do as he was told.

Slowly, he opened his door and stepped out of the car. "What seems to be the problem officer?"

"Who are you?" The young officer glared at him suspiciously.

"My name's Blair Sandburg."

"You got business here?"

Blair shrugged, careful to keep his hands non threateningly away from his body. "I was going to look up an old friend. He used to live here a couple of years ago."

"What's his name?"

"John Gilbert," Blair replied.

"Put your hands on the hood of the car, Sir," the officer commanded.

Oh man, you have GOT to be kidding. With a tired sigh, Blair placed his hands on the hood of the grey Ford sedan and said, "Look, man, I haven't done anything."

"Just shut up," the officer barked, walking over to Blair and performing a thorough search of his body and clothes.

The officer pulled out Blair's wallet and glanced at his identification. "Cascade, Washington, eh? That's a long way from here. What're you doing here?"

"I'm with a friend on vacation," Blair said. Actually, Jim's here for a police conference and I'm just tagging along... so much for my vacation. "Believe me, the weather in Jacksonville leaves much to be desired and I'd actually prefer to be back home."

"I ain't interested in your preferences, hippie," the officer said. "You don't mind if I search your car, now. Do you?"

Blair shook his head. "Not like you've got probable cause or anything, but go ahead. Be my guest."

The officer tossed the wallet onto the hood of the car and then proceeded to search the car. Again, he came up empty handed. Finally, he walked back to Blair and pointed to the driveway.

"You go stand over there while I finish up," he commanded.

"Hey, listen," Blair protested as he walked over to the driveway. "You've got nothing on me and I'd really like to be going now. You can't hold me here without arresting me."

The cop smiled. "Oh, so we have a little lawyer on our hands, eh?"

Blair bit back the retort that threatened to spill out of his mouth. Boy, these guys are a far cry from the Cascade P.D.

"Look, man, I work with the police in Cascade. I'm an observer."

That earned him a laugh from both officers. "Oh, yeah, and I'm the Pope," the young officer replied.

The dark-skinned officer standing by the squad car looked at Blair and said, "I think we'd better cuff him and put him in the back. He knows Gilbert and we wouldn't want him contacting his little buddy and telling him not to come home."

The younger officer looked at Blair thoughtfully, then nodded. "I think you're right, Eddie," he said.

This is ridiculous! Blair raised his hands and walked back toward his car. "Come on, just call--"

He was silenced by a blow to his ribs from the officer's club. "You resisting arrest, boy?"

Blair gritted his teeth and leaned forward against the car, cradling his throbbing side. "No," he hissed.

The officer smiled, pulling out a pair of handcuffs. "Good. Now, I'm arresting you for vagrancy. You got that?"


The officer grabbed Blair's arms and pinned them painfully behind his back as he cuffed Blair's wrists. Blair winced as the metal dug into his skin, but he remained quiet.

"Mr. Blair Sandburg, you are under arrest for violating the Jacksonville Ordinance, Code 26-57, against vagrancy, specifically for loitering. You have the right to remain silent--"

"I'm not a vagrant! This is bogus. I haven't loitered anywhere," Blair protested.

That earned him another jab in the side with the club. "You were loitering in the driveway."

"You told me to!"

The officer swung the club harder into Blair's side, causing the young man to scream out in pain.

"Shut up," the officer commanded.

Blair clamped his mouth shut and gritted his teeth. Just keep quiet and call Jim when you get to the station. He'll put these guys in their places.

"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law," the officer continued. "You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the court. Do you understand these rights?"

Blair nodded, biting the inside of his cheek to keep quiet.

"Goooood boy," the officer sang, pulling him away from the Ford and toward the squad car.

Blair found himself being pushed into the rear seat of the squad car. The door slammed shut, and, with another sigh, he looked over at the other handcuffed man next to him.

"Hey," Blair said, pushing back the pain in side.

The black man next to him looked to be in his early twenties, with large eyes and cropped hair. "Who are you?"

"Blair Sandburg," he said. "You are?"

"Mike," the kid stated.

"Do you know John," Blair asked, wondering if his old friend had somehow gotten into trouble with the law.

Mike nodded. "Yeah. He's my roommate. They're putting me in here because they don't want me to split and call him. They're gonna arrest him for narcotics when he comes home, but they don't know where his is."

"So they're staking the place out?"

Mike nodded. "Yeah."

Blair sighed, biting his lip thoughtfully. While John had never been the straightest arrow, he'd never been involved with drugs... at least, not that Blair knew, anyway.

Six hours later Blair was still sitting in the squad car, but now the two officers had taken up their seats in the front. Blair's arms felt numb, his side ached, and his bladder was beginning to make itself known.

"Hey, guys, I've gotta go to the bathroom," Blair said.

Eddie looked back over his shoulder at Sandburg. "Hold it," he said.

Blair sighed. "Hey, man, you guys can't keep me here like this. If I go all over your seat, it'll be nobody's fault but your own."

Eddie glanced at his partner. The younger officer looked at Blair in the rearview mirror and smirked. "You piss your pants, kid, that's your problem."

"Look, if you just call Detective Jim Ellison at the Holiday Inn on Lincoln, he'll confirm that I work with the police. You can also call Cascade PD directly and speak with Captain Simon Banks of Major Crimes," Blair offered.

Eddie chuckled. "Listen you little hippie freak. We don't like northerners coming here and getting all high-and-mighty. You ain't no cop, but I'm sure you've had your share of run-ins with them. Drugs? Theft? Why don't we just pull your rap sheet when we get back to the station?"

Blair's eyes blazed angrily. "You do that." He couldn't wait to see their faces when they ran his prints and found out he really did work with the police.

Another four hours passed and the pressure on Blair's bladder was becoming something of an emergency. He bounced uncomfortably in his seat, glancing at Mike next to him who looked equally uncomfortable.

"Come on, guys," Blair said. "We both have to go. You two went inside, you've gotta let us go to the bathroom!"

With an angry sigh, Eddie flung his door open and walked to the rear of the squad car. He opened Mike's side and pulled the kid out of the car.

"Okay," the officer said. "One at a time."

Blair breathed a sigh of relief. Okay, just a few more minutes and then I'll have Relief -- with a capital "R". He watched Eddie lead Mike into the house and then leaned his head back against the seat. Okay, so Jim's wondering where in the hell I am. The cell phone's in the car, and it's not like I could hear it go off from here. He's probably pissed off, either worried sick that I'm laying in a gutter somewhere or devising ways to kill me once I get home. Well, this isn't my fault, Jim. No WAY is this my fault.

He shifted again in his seat, the ache in his ribs unabated. He didn't think anything was broken, but he was pretty sure he sported an impressive selection of bruises on his side. Jim would go ballistic when he got sight of the injuries. Blair allowed himself a small, contemplative smile. He wasn't really into revenge, but he sure couldn't wait to see the shit hit the fan when Jim found out about this. Who needs a lawyer when you've got an ex-covert-ops sentinel for a blessed protector?

A few minutes later Eddie and Mike returned. Eddie placed Mike back into the rear seat and slammed the door shut. He then walked over to Blair's side and opened the door, reaching in to grab Blair's collar as he yanked him out of the seat.

"Hey, take it easy, man," Blair protested as Eddie pushed him toward the house. "I'm cool."

Eddie snorted. "Just shut up, okay? You have the right to remain silent. Use it!"

Blair clamped his jaw shut and made his way into the house, grateful for the chance to relieve his screaming bladder.

Six more hours passed and Blair had fallen asleep in the back of the car. He was woken up by the sound of angry voices, and raised his head, wincing at the stiffness in both his neck and ribs. He looked outside to see the two officers cuffing his old friend. John gazed at Blair through the glass of the car window as the officer pushed him onto the hood of the car and cuffed his hands.

Well, buddy, welcome home, Blair thought.

Eddie walked over to the car, reached in through the open driver's window, and called for backup on the radio. There really wasn't really enough room for John in the back of the cruiser, so Blair figured Eddie was calling for another unit to take John downtown. Blair moaned softly, leaning his head back against the seat. How much longer would he have to wait there? Man, at least these guys were patient. They'd waited sixteen hours for John to come home. Jesus, you think they'd have called for relief, or something.

An hour and a half later, Blair found himself shoved in front of a phone. Geez, at last! They were supposedly in the process of running his prints, and he really was eager to see the look on their faces when his information came back over the computer.

He smiled at the young female officer standing next to him, but she simply glared at him Friendly place, he mused, then picked up the phone and dialed the hotel. Please, please be there, Jim.

"Holiday Inn. How can I help you?"

"Put me through to room 205, please," Blair requested.

"Certainly." The line clicked, then rang.

"Hello? Blair?"

Blair breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh man, thank God!"

"Sandburg! Where the hell are you?"

Blair winced at the exasperated tone in his friend's voice. "You won't believe what happened to me, man," Blair began. "I've been arrested--"


Blair yanked the phone away from his ear, momentarily grateful that he, at least, didn't have ears as sensitive as Jim's. You'd think with sentinel hearing that the guy would shy away from shouting.

Blair took a deep breath and continued. "Listen, Jim. It's totally bogus. I went to go see an old friend and these two cops copped an attitude.... uh... no pun intended. Anyway, I guess they didn't like the way I looked. They trumped up some stupid vagrancy charge and kept me in the police cruiser for SIXTEEN HOURS while they waited for John -- that's my friend -- to show up. Anyway, I'm down at the precinct in holding. Can you please come get me out of here? I told them I was a--"

"Sandburg, slow down," Jim said, his voice calmer. "You sound like you're about to hyperventilate. First things first, are you okay?"

Blair nodded, even though the gesture was lost on Jim. "Yeah, man. I'm okay." He figured Jim didn't need to know about his aching ribs just then. "But I'm really tired and I just want to go home. You know prison just isn't my thing, man. There's this big guy in the holding cell and --"

"Okay, I'm on my way, Chief. Oh, and is there an officer there with you?"

Blair nodded again. "Uh-huh."

"Put him on."

"Her," Blair corrected.

"Fine. Just put her on."

Blair managed a small smile and handed the phone to the young blonde officer. "My partner, Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department would like a word with you," he said. Okay, so he was getting a bit uppity, but, damnit, he'd been sitting in a cruiser for the past sixteen hours and he was in no mood to be polite.

The woman narrowed her eyes, but took the phone. Hesitantly, she placed it to her ear and said, "Hello? Who is this?"

Blair could hear Jim's voice faintly over the line, and his smile broadened.

"Just who he said I am. I'm Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department, Washington. Blair Sandburg is a consultant to the police department. I don't know what the hell kind of a precinct you run around here, and right now, I don't really care. All I DO care about is making sure that you keep Sandburg out of that holding cell. I'm on my way down, and if I find him--"

"Listen, Detective, Mr. Sandburg has been arrested for vagrancy. I realize you're upset, but he's going to have to stay in the holding cell until--"

"Until I contact a lawyer and have your department sued for false imprisonment! What's your name, by the way, officer?" The last word was spoken with unrestrained contempt, and Blair actually winced in sympathy for the young woman.

She straightened and said, "I'm Officer Janet Black."

Blair leaned against the wall, listening to the sweet sound of Jim's tirade blast out of the earpiece. Oh man, Officer Black, I really wouldn't want to be in your shoes. He almost felt bad for the young woman. After all, she wasn't the one who'd arrested him. But she could try to be a bit nicer!

Ten minutes later, Black hung up the phone, her face white, and glared at Sandburg. "That's one hell of an asshole you've got for a partner."

Blair raised his eyebrows, his grin fading. "If your two officers hadn't been so quick to cuff me and haul me off, none of this would be happening."

Blair, to his surprise, found himself being escorted back to the holding cell. Officer Black slid the door open and gestured for him to step inside. He glared at her and walked into the cell.

"Sorry," she said. "It's procedure. Until your papers come through, we've got to keep you in here. You are still under arrest, having a cop for a partner doesn't change that -- especially one that's thousands of miles out of his jurisdiction."

She slammed the door shut and walked away. Great. Just Wonderful, Blair thought, then he felt a hand on his shoulder. Slowly, he turned around and saw a hulking chest in front of his nose. He swallowed, tilting his head back to look into the angry face of a large bald man with eyes as dark as coal.

"You're a cop," the man sneered, grabbing Blair by the shirt collar.

Oh man, oh man, oh man... Blair raised his hands up defensively. "Hey man, no WAY. I'm an anthropologist."

The man chuckled. "I heard what the lady said, pig. So, what are YOU in here for? Get caught taking dirty money? Lemme guess.. you're a narc, right?"

Blair shook his head vehemently. "No, man. I'm not a cop, I swear!"

The large man lifted him off the ground and flung him against the bars. Blair's ribs screamed in protest, and he clenched his jaw against the pain.

"It ain't your lucky day, cop. We don't like your type... gee... can you imagine why?"

Great. The cops here are assholes and everyone hates them... with good reason, I'm beginning to see. Now, if only I can convince--

His thoughts were cut off by a blow to his midsection. The man dropped him to the floor, and Blair curled into a ball, clutching his torso as he gasped for air. Man, that hurts.

Jim blasted through the doors of the police station and stormed up to the front desk, slamming his badge down on the wood counter. The young male clerk looked up in alarm, and Jim notice several officer tense and reach for their guns.

"I'm Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department. You're holding my partner here and I want to see him."

The clerk rose hesitantly from his chair and walk over to the counter. "Who is your partner, Sir?"

The muscles in Jim's necked pulsed tightly. "Blair Sandburg."

Jim's ears picked up the sudden spike of a heartbeat, and he turned around to find the source. He saw a middle-aged black man standing near a vending machine against the far wall, staring at Jim with wide eyes. The detective plastered a menacing smile on his face, grabbed his badge, and walked stiffly over to the officer.

"You know Sandburg?"

The man looked around nervously. "Uh..."

Jim took a step forward. "Let me guess, you're one of the arresting officers?"

"He... he was outside the house of a known drug dealer."

"Loitering?" Jim raised one eyebrow questioningly.

The man nodded quickly. "You sure your partner's not into a little side business?"

Jim clenched his jaw and inhaled a slow deep breath. Assaulting an officer in the precinct would NOT help him or Sandburg. "I'm sure," he said. "Are you sure you're going to have a job tomorrow?"

Jim turned to the young clerk who was staring at him apprehensively. He jabbed a finger in the air at the phone on the man's desk. "Call Simon Banks of the Cascade Police NOW!"

The clerk nodded and scrambled over to the desk. Jim smiled, then cocked his head when a familiar sound tickled his ears.

"Stop, please. I'm not a cop...."

A sharp thud, followed by a ragged gasp.

Jim pushed the man up against the wall. "You put Sandburg back in the holding cell?" His voice carried harshly through the room, and, with a scowl, he released the officer and ran toward the sound of his partner's voice.

"Wait just minute," a voice behind him warned, but he ignored it as he pushed open a set of double doors and entered the holding area. A blonde woman in uniform looked up at him in alarm, jumping out of her seat. "Where's Blair Sandburg!"

She glanced over his shoulders at the group of officers behind him. "Uh... He's in the holding cell."

Jim stormed over to the desk and placed his palms flat on cool wood. "If I'm not led back there right now," he began, his voice low and dangerous, "I will make sure that you and the arresting officers are brought up on charges. I'll also see to it that Sandburg files a lawsuit against this precinct for false imprisonment and battery. Got that?"

A voice sounded behind Jim. "Okay, Detective. I'm Captain Garcia. I've spoken with Simon Banks and we're prepared to extend our fullest courtesies to you and Mr. Sandburg."

Jim turned around slowly and stared at the tall hispanic man behind him. "Good," Ellison said. "Now open up those doors," he said, waving an arm at the barred double doors leading to the holding cell.

Garcia led the way into the holding area, and, once through the door, Ellison bolted into a run toward the sound of Blair's ragged breathing and frantic heartbeat. He skidded to a halt in front of a set of bars, his face growing hot when he saw a large man hunched over the crumpled figure of his partner.

"STOP IT RIGHT THERE!" Jim slammed the bars, then grabbed the keys from the young blonde woman and, after fumbling briefly for the right key, opened the door.

He stormed into the cell, swung a hard right that connected solidly with the bald man's jaw, and grunted in satisfaction when the man crumpled to the ground, dazed. The sentinel then turned his attention to Blair, dropping quickly to his knees. Gently, he pulled Blair's hands away from his torso.

"Chief, can you hear me?"

Blair's eyes were clenched shut, and his forehead was creased in pain. He released a low moan, and lowered his arms back to his injured ribs.

Jim grabbed Blair arms and pushed them away from the injured area. "Easy, partner. Just stay still. Let me take a look." He looked up at Captain Garcia and said, "Get an ambulance here now." His voice must have sounded sufficiently threatening, because the young blonde woman spun on her heels and ran back toward her desk. "Okay," Jim said, turning back to his partner. "Let's take a look here." Gently, he lifted Blair's shirt, grimacing when he saw the ugly bruises and severe swelling. He ran his fingers over the bruises, clenching his jaw when Blair released another pained moan. "I'm sorry, buddy," he said. Damn. Two broken ribs.


Ellison smiled when he noticed Blair squinting up at him. "Hey there, Chief. What is it with you? You got bored with Cascade General and decided you needed a tour of the Jacksonville hospital?"

Blair managed a small smile. "You are SO not funny, Jim." He inhaled a sharp breath and grimaced. "Man, that hurts like hell."

Jim's smile faced, and he placed a reassuring hand on Blair's arm. "I know, Chief. The ambulance is on its way."

"You know, I'm really getting tired of hospitals."

Jim grunted. "You and me both."

"I didn't do anything, Jim. They arrested me for no reason," Blair insisted.

Jim nodded, glancing back up at Captain Garcia with angry eyes. "I know, Sandburg," he said, patting the young man's arm gently. "We'll take care of that later."

"I did get in one good hit, you know," Blair said.

Jim furrowed his brow. "What?"

"Mr. Steroids over there," Blair explained, managing a small, self-satisfied smile. "You should have seen the look on his face, Jim. It was priceless."

Jim cocked his head admonishingly. "Worth two broken ribs?"

Blair chuckled, then hissed with pain. "Man, remind me not to laugh."

"You shouldn't talk, either," Jim suggested.

"No such luck, Jim. You can't shut me up that easy," Blair retorted.

This time Jim chuckled. "I'll make sure the paramedics dope you up pretty good. That ought to do it."

Blair narrowed his gaze, glaring at his partner through a haze of pain. "Don't you even dare. You know how I feel about all those techno-drugs."

Jim sat by Blair's hospital bed, just nodding off to sleep when a soft groan jerked him to awareness.

"Chief?" He leaned foreward, resting his hands on the bed rail.

Blair's eyes fluttered open, and his gaze locked with Jim's. "Hey, big guy," he groaned, his voice low.

Jim smiled. "Sleeping Beauty awakes."

Sandburg grinned. "This is just WAY to deja-vu for me, you know?"

Jim raised his eyebrows innocently. "What is?"

"Me waking up in a hospital bed with you staring at me with that look in your eyes," Sandburg explained.

"What look?"

"That look."

Jim narrowed his gaze in mock-annoyance.

"No. That's an entirely different look," Blair said.

Jim couldn't hold the stern expression any longer and broke into a grin. "I think you need more sedatives, Chief," he chuckled.

Blair scrunched his nose distastefully, then opened his mouth and yawned. "Naaw, man, I think they gave me enough." He let his eyes remain closed for several seconds, wrapping himself in the soothing darkness. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked back at Jim. "So, what about those officers? My friend, John? Mike? What's happening with all that? How long have I been out, anyway."

Jim raised his hands, chuckling. "One at a time, Chief. Okay. Stop to breathe every once in awhile."

Blair grinned sheepishly. "Okay. So spill it."

Jim sighed. "Those two officers are on suspension. Your friend John, it seems, was dealing drugs, but because of the way the officers handled the arrest, all the evidence was ruled inadmissible. Mike was never actually arrested, so I don't know what happened with him."

Blair closed his eyes. "Man, I can't believe John was into drugs."

"How well do you know him, Chief?"

Blair shrugged one shoulder. "I worked with him about four years ago during an environmental prot-- an activity. Anyway, I knew he lived here, and I just thought I'd drop by to see if he was still around. I mean, I didn't have a phone number, or anything. I tried information, but he wasn't listed. So, I--"

"Okay, Chief. I get the picture."

"So what was UP with those cops," Blair asked.

Jim's clenched his jaw, staring at the wall thoughtfully for several seconds. Blair watched Jim silently for nearly a minute, then placed on hand on Jim's elbow.

"Jim," Blair prodded. "You okay? You zoning, man?"

Jim snapped back to awareness and looked down at Sandburg. He shook his head. "No, I wasn't zoning. Just thinking."


Jim sighed. "Those cops. I'm sorry this happened to you."

Blair squeezed Jim's elbow. "Hey man, this isn't even remotely your fault."

Jim nodded. "I know that, but when it's other cops.... well..."

Blair nodded. "I know." He shrugged. "Hey, there are good ones and bad ones everywhere."

Jim smiled, patting Blair's hand. "Yeah. Unfortunately, you always seem to find the bad guys wherever we are."

Blair grimaced. "Yeah, it's a talent. I'm a real bloodhound that way."

"More like a magnet," Jim observed.

"Maybe you guys should start paying me for this special talent. After all, I have a knack of finding the bad guys, don't I?"

Jim did not look amused. "More the other way around."

"Hey, whatever works. Good thing I've got you as a partner, I'd say," Blair observed, smiling softly.

Jim squeezed Blair's hand. "That's the other way around, too," he said.

This story was taken from the 1972 US Supreme Court Case Papachristou v City of Jacksonville and an incident that occurred in San Diego where a police officer held a man for sixteen hours in the back of the squad car while waiting for his roommate to arrive. I mean no disrespect to FL or SD officers, but, as I was reading the case, I just couldn't help but think that it was something that would happen to our trouble-prone anthropologist. <grin>

The Jacksonville ordinance for vagrancy was ruled void-for-vagueness by the US Supreme Court, by the way. The actual ordinance read:

Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewed, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic bevarages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses.

The supreme court stated that the statute was so vague that it would apply to almost anybody: golfers (tend to hang around places that sell alcohol), temporarily unemployed men or men married to rich women (not to mention the totally sexist attitute of the statute), night-strollers (hey, insomniacs take night strolls to try to relax), and people taking aimless strolls (Whitman himself extolled the virtues of such an activity). Anyway, this was in 1972.... but Blair was only about three years old then *grin* so I had to fudge the facts a bit. :-)

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