The Story of That One Time I Got Arrested, Before I Knew Anything About Anything Part 2

January 4, 2019

[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind, this all happened and was written in the summer before I started law school, so my legal analysis was pretty… nonexistent. Much of this comes from an effort to document what had happened in the days following my arrest. -JD]

NY Penal Law – Ch. 40 of Consolidated Laws

Part 3 – Specific Offenses

Title N – Offenses Against Public Order, Public Sensibilities and the Right to Privacy

Article 240 – Offenses Against Public Order

Section 240.20: Disorderly Conduct

“A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: [emphasis added]

  1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
  2. He makes unreasonable noise; or
  3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
  4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
  5. He destructs [distracts? I can’t read my own handwriting] vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
  7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

Disorderly conduct is a violation.”

NY Penal Code – Article 70 § 70.15 Sentences of Imprisonment for misdemeanors and Violations

“4. Violation. A sentence of imprisonment for a violation shall be a definite sentence. When such a sentence is imposed the term shall be fixed by the court, and shall not exceed fifteen days.”

“Man, I’ll take a vacation.” – Teenager in the lock-up discussing a previous two-week sentence

“Objectivity is one of the first casualties of ‘culture shock.'” – HST

Many of the guys in the hold seemed to know and fear specific city court judges. Hon. Debra Givens was thought universally to be especially harsh on the first day; the 2nd day I actually Keane, whom I had heard doles out heavy bails for everything from possession down to trespassing on the 1st day [of sunrise court], but he dismissed my charges right away, after asking me where I lived.

“Qualified immunity” generally protects police officers from wrongful arrest suits. [After going to law school and taking courses in these suits, it’s wildly more complicated than that, but I was basically right.]

When a charge is dismissed in court, the police report is destroyed. The public defender’s office may still have a copy.

Public Defender only had my charging info, but I got that, documentation from ECHC of my time there, and the police report from B District today, 7/20. B District was out of pamphlets describing the complaint process when I asked.

[At this point in my journal, I wrote a poem about my experience, already published under the title “A Prayer for ECHC,” which you can read here.]

This other kid in the holds with me, one of the few white people in there, was this weird hippy kid with sandals and cargo shorts on, a scruffy Bonnaroo beard, and a wildly talkative nature. I kept thinking he was on his way to an ass-beating, or at least a slap the guards weren’t looking. He was in on a domestic charge, violation of an order of protection. According to him, he was living with his girlfriend while she had a restraining order against him. They had apparently made up and were back together,  but she never rescinded the order. Why a person would want to live with a significant other in a situation where any argument could end with her calling the cops and immediate arrest and jail time for him, I can’t fathom.

I suspect about 85% of what came out of his mouth was bullshit, nervous talking just to talk, to quell the nerves and maybe stave off animosity from the others. If people think you’re a fool, so be it, as long as you aren’t worth the energy to get angry with. But people, as they say, do strange things, especially young men and women in love.

For my part, I did a little verbal defense at times, but mostly tried to look bored by it all. I guess it worked, but the hold-crowd I spent the most time with was mostly drug-charges and drunks. I didn’t spend too much time with the six or so teenagers from “the Towers” who came in the 2nd day, talking about “sleeping niggas” in prison and elsewhere. If you are ever in county lock-up with many strange and some menacing faces, never underestimate the power of humor — especially that which comes from old black men, who know better than you.

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