Ticket Magnet/Profiling?

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Okay, I got pulled over again leaving Snake Alley Criterium, driving through Illinois to Davenport Iowa. I was on a two lane highway, driving 9 over. I immediately saw the trooper turn around and knew he was coming for me, even though the guy ahead of me just passed me and was going much faster. The weird thing is that he followed me for a couple miles before he turned on his lights.

I got my license and insurance card ready as he came up. He said something like, ” Good afternoon, how you doing today?” I responded, “Bad, really bad. You’re standing at my window.” He looked at my license and card and told me that I seemed like a nice enough guy and he was only going to give me a warning.

I was thinking, “great”. He then kind of stuck his head into the window and asked if there were only 3 people in the van. I said, “Yes, plus a dog”. He repeated, “Only 3?” Then Bill said yes. And Bill went on to explain we were just in a bike race in Burlington, blah, blah, blah.

Then it started. He asked Bill and Nick for their driver’s licenses. I thought that seemed really weird, but wasn’t about to argue with the guy. He told me I needed to come back to his patrol car for some reason I can’t quite remember. I said sure.

In the car, he proceeded to ask me tons of questions. Over and over again. Like, why we were driving from Burlington to Davenport? What were we doing in Burlington? I must of told him at least 5 times we were in a bicycle race and I broke my frame. He asked me the year of the van, which was printed right on the insurance card. During this whole time, he was running our license numbers through the computer. I asked him why and he said he was checking for warrants. I thought that was wrong, but still didn’t want to piss him off. I asked casually if that is normal, running the passenger license numbers and he said he just wanted to take care of any outstanding warrants up front.

Then he started all over. What we were doing in Iowa and why were we driving to the Quad Cities. I wanted to scream, “you need backup because you have NO memory.” Right in the middle of this he says, “And you are absolutely positive that you haven’t had anything to drink today?” I look at him kind of strangely, because he hadn’t asked me anything about drinking. Then he says, before I answer, “Because I smell alcohol on your breath.” I say back to him, “I’m absolutely positive that I have had something to drink today.” He then asks me why I hadn’t said that before. I told him he hadn’t asked. Then, being a little pissed off, I ask him if I should tell him what I had for breakfast too.

He isn’t too amused. He asked me exactly how much I had been drinking. I said less than one beer, over 2 hours earlier, when I was supposed to be winning a bicycle race. He goes on to explain that since I’d admitted to drinking, I needed to to a sobriety test. I think I laughed. I pictured myself outside, walking the line and was thinking what Bill and Nick were going to be thinking. But no, he does a little test with his finger, telling me to follow it with only my eyes, not moving my head. I think I do a perfect test, but no. He asked me if I have a medical condition or an astigmatism that could explain why my eyes would be jittery, exactly like they would if I were drunk. I said no.

So, he told me since I failed the first test, I would have to do a breathalyzer. He goes on to tell me that lots of alcohol is odorless and that I could have been drinking that all day. I laughed again, which didn’t seem to amuse the guy. He had just told me a few minutes earlier that he had smelled alcohol on my breath, the well trained hound he was.

So, he gets out this electronic machine and starts messing with it. I got a little more serious now. I’d always thought that if a cop asked me to do a breathalyzer test, I would demand a blood test. But, since I had zero percent chance of having an issue, I was going along with it. He told me to blow in the straw for three seconds continuously. I told him I wanted to look at the machine before I did it. That pissed him off. I told him I wanted him to reset it to zero and let me watch. He reluctantly did so. I blew in the straw for the 3 seconds and then he says, “exactly what I thought.” I’m thinking, “shit”. I was thinking he thought I was drunk. He showed me the result. 0.000. Boy, his keen sense of smell was much better than the machine.

Anyway, he goes ahead and writes me a warning for a 64 in a 55 and doesn’t seem to be interested in me anymore. I wanted to ask him if he had a glove and wanted to do a body cavity search, but didn’t have the guts. So, I get our licenses back and ask for my insurance card and he tells me he already gave it back to me. I tell him he didn’t and he gives me the, “I did too look.” So, another insurance card in the hands of the authorities. That is 3 in less than a month. I’m not sure what they do with them. Maybe it is some deal they have going, see who can collect the most insurance cards in a month. I don’t know.

Getting back to the van, Bill and Nick said they were getting worried. It was close to 30 minutes. I told them the whole story.

So, after asking around, I guess it is the van. A big Ford van is the ride of choice for drug and illegal alien transporting I guess. But, the weird thing is that it is pretty obvious after they stop me that neither of those things are occurring.

If the officer wouldn’t have stated up front that he was just going to give me a warning, then I wouldn’t have let him do any of the other intrusive, semi-legal things. Like checking Bill and Nick’s licenses and giving me an alcohol-breath test. But, he had the speeding ticket hanging there, so that allowed him to keep going. It is bullshit. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I was a black or Hispanic guy in the same situation. Probably scared to death. I wasn’t the least be nervous or concerned. I am more now, but when it was happening, it seemed more interesting than scary.

I’ve had this van for 2 1/2 years now and only this year am I having trouble. I’m not sure how to fix the problem. I’m pretty sure I would have been pulled over if I was driving 55. Any ideas?

My official warning.

Another shot of the actual consumption of the alcohol.

30 thoughts on “Ticket Magnet/Profiling?

  1. rostafarian

    9 over is good enough bait to get stopped esp. driving the smuggler van. I’ve also found cops tend to be more aggressive with traffic stops at or near the end of a month, trying to make a ticket/stop quota and looking for a big bust.

  2. Jim

    Crap, I thought I had a tough time with a local last month on I-90 but yours is better.
    I was about 5 over the limit but had just been passed by two cars going MUCH faster. I saw the cop in plenty of time, in a usual place for clocking speeders, and didn’t slow down since there really was no reason. I saw him pull into traffic and commented that one of the two cars that passed me was looking at a ticket.
    Standard practice in Ohio is to wait a bit, then run the cop car up to about 100 mph to catch the “perp”. Imagine my surprise when he pulls in behind me! I knew I had done nothing so I wasn’t too concerned. He asks for license and registration. I asked why I was pulled over. He tells me that I don’t have a front plate! My head must have snapped as it turned and, I asked him if that was the best he had?? I told him that he should be more concerned with the two cars that just went past him at about 85 mph. He said he wasn’t running radar to which I replied that it must be a first for this department. They are ALWAYS at this location looking for revenue. Truthfully I was more than a little pissed and as a 60 year old, I didn’t care if he liked it or not.
    Anyway, not so much as a warning because I think he could see how mad I was.
    All I can imagine is that he was looking for a car with a similar description and I just happened to come along. Nothing else made any sense at all.
    Glad yours tuned out okay but it tells me that too many cops don’t have enough real work to do.

  3. Ted Lewandowski

    I would send a letter to the Illinois State Police regarding this stop – that cop would think twice about doing something like this the next time.

    Also, if he were to give you a ticket ask him to see the radar readout after he gives you the citation – a lot of times they clear it making the ticket null and void (unknown to most people). When asking for this request be sure to dial *77 and that gets you to the closest State Police barracks in any state and request that they record the conversation – this is to prevent the cop from charging you with ‘disorderly conduct’ for contempt of cop.

    This really applies to any traffic stop – local or state police.

    Also, always carry a digital camera that has video feature – put it on around your neck and the cop will have no idea it is filming.


  4. Steve

    First of all, get a radar detector so you can smell HIM a mile away. I got a Valentine One on Greg LeMond’s suggestion, and it’s saved me thousands… Have you thought about calling his superiors? What an ass… Rally On…

  5. Hudson Luce

    Steve: get a radar detector. It’s rural Iowa, for god’s sake, they need the money, and every person they put through the system, the more money they get, it’s a profit center. In his conversation with you, the cop was looking for probable cause to arrest you, and he was really trying hard to get at least one person to take in. No question there was PC for the stop, you were going 64 in a 55. With the “smell of alcohol on your breath” he could have done a complete search of your van and passengers, really caused a lot of drama. Next time, eat garlic, chew cinnamon gum, something to get rid of the beer smell. On a traffic stop, if you roll your window down all the way, the cop will stick his head inside as far as he can, to do a sight and smell search, to find PC so he can detain you longer. Roll your window down halfway to defeat this tactic. Don’t answer questions, don’t converse. In this situation, the cops are your enemy, they’re trying to find something to arrest you for, so don’t help them. Seemingly innocuous statements can be incriminating…. and the cops, as I said, are in it for the money. BTW, in Kansas, the State Highway Patrol gets to keep a percentage of all property and cash seized on the roads, the same holds true in other states as well. One set of four counties in Tennessee made 10 million dollars from cash seizures from motorists alone by its law enforcement officers.

  6. Dave

    Maybe some sponsor stickers or magnets on the side of your van might help identify it as a non-smuggler vehicle. Magnets would probably work best so you could use them only when you want to.

  7. Jimbo

    Sorry, can’t resit:
    Given the number of cyclists getting popped for phd’s, maybe telling the 5-o that you’re a cyclist isn’t a good thing. Given it’s Iowa, maybe stick to ‘rodeo’, ‘county fair’, ‘klan meeting’ or whatever else they do for fun there.

  8. WildCat

    Yep. Valentine One radar detectors are THE BEST. I would not buy any other radar detector period. The thing is that they cost hundreds of dollars though. So unless you plan on getting hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets in the next few years you’re wasting your money on that. Also, that helps you none if the van is going to get you pulled anyway. My guess is that the van has no rear windows?? That’s the problem. Large white van with no rear windows = smuggler/molester van. Large white van with rear windows = church youth group van.

  9. WildCat

    I also like the sponsor idea. A couple of those big yellow TREK yield signs couldn’t hurt. Also, try some K-State stickers on the van. Maybe a KSU license plate frame. Or a big Powercat on the back door. You wouldn’t want to apply any Jailhawk swag (no explaination needed on that I think). HA! LMAO!


    Just feeling ornery.

    Happy Friday!

  10. Karen Larson

    My only memory of driving through rural Iowa was in 1976 right after all the speed limits were dropped nationwide. I came up over a hill to find a copper at the bottom waiving everyone to pull over and get in line for their speeding ticket! I was lucky, they only gave me a warning because I was 9 months pregnant.

  11. Mike

    Paint the van white and put some kind of right wing christian Republican/Tea party theme on it like: Righteous rolling bikies for God and Country!! Oh yeah, get a bunch of those sitckers for donating to Police and Trooper associations.

  12. dirty_juheesus

    Hudson’s explanation fits what has been recommended to me in Cali.

    They keep asking you for the same information over and over again to catch a lie. It’s hard to keep a contemporaneous lie straight. When you aren’t lying it’s pretty aggravating.

    I don’t know what advantage going to the patrol car has for the officer. Makes no sense to me. But, I’m not a law evader.

  13. dew

    It’s becasue when you get out of the car it’s considered an abandoned vehicle and they can search if they want. That’s why you always lock the doors when you get out.

  14. Brent Wiruth

    I don’t get it? From the story you told the cop was doing his job and a good one at that. Glad to see him doing his job.

  15. tilford97 Post author

    Brent-I have to disagree with you on this one. I understand being a cop is a difficult job. But, using the premise of speeding to violate a persons rights is bullshit. He had no right to ask for the passenger’s licenses. He had no right to ask me to take a sobriety test. He was fishing. Either write the ticket for 9 over or don’t.

    Maybe he should have “asked” me to unload the bicycles and see if they were registered in the State of Kansas. And then confiscate them if he couldn’t come up with registration. Maybe he should have “asked” me if I would submit to a blood test to “see” if I had any illegal drugs in my system. Like I said, maybe he should have done a body cavity search. What in you estimation is too much?

    In Kansas, it isn’t a moving citation if you’re going 10mph or less over the speed limit. That is why I choose to drive 9 over. I have never been issued a ticket for driving less than 10mph over the speed limit.

    Speeding has nothing to do with what he was doing here. Speeding isn’t a criminal offense, it is civil offense.

    There was no indication of anything other than me driving a van 9 mph over the speed limit to proceed any farther than that. Issue a ticket. Issue a warning. That is as far as he was legally entitled to go. But, he kept “asking” for more. Eventually I would have said no. I’m not sure where that would have been, but he was getting real close.

    30 minutes for a traffic warning. Just Wrong.

  16. Paul

    NEVER give rides to people that give a cop their drivers license when they weren’t even driving. Researching two more licenses will just cost everyone more time. Now, if the cop had asked for their passenger license that would be a different story, however, that would entail the cop was usurping your authority as the van driver. You could have told the cop that they had been well behaving as passengers and not even been passing gas or needing to pee to often or telling you how to drive for that matter. The cop needs to have serious cause to ask the passengers for ID, like, “that guy Bill, he looks like a suspect in a very bad van passenger crime, may I please see his passenger license”.

  17. Ted Lewandowski

    BTW, courts have determined that a police officer cannot demand identification from passengers, thus prolonging the traffic stop, without some reasonable suspicion that the passengers are ‘engaged in criminal activity’, or there is a legitimate safety concern. US v Henderson (1st cir 2006); People v Harris (Illinois 2003).

  18. Scott Dickson

    So was it an Illinois trooper that made the stop? Having lived and raced in both Iowa and Illinois I found life much easier when I heeded the speed limit and cut off my long hair in 1974.

  19. Hudson Luce

    Steve, speeding, at least in Kansas, is a criminal offense: http://kansasstatutes.lesterama.org/Chapter_8/Article_15/8-1560c.html If the posted speed limit is between 55mph and 70mph, anything less than 10mph over the limit is not considered a “moving violation”, however you can still be ticketed and fined. Violation of this statute in Kansas is an infraction and not a misdemeanor; there is no threat of jail time, but the standard of liability is strict liability, so you can’t argue in court that you had no intent to commit the infraction.

    Having said all of that, in Kansas at least, the officer had probable cause (PC) to pull you over and detain you, because he just witnessed you committing a crime. He walks up to your vehicle, you roll down your window, and he sticks his head close to your mouth and “thinks” he smells “alcohol on your breath”. That’s sufficient PC for a Portable Breathalyzer Test (PBT) right there, but if he’s smart, he’ll want more facts on which to incriminate you, so he asks you a question: “Sir, have you had anything to drink today?” and you say yes, and that’s additional PC, even if you say “a single beer”. The next thing the officer will do is to tell you to get out of your car and walk to the back bumper of your car, or over to his vehicle. All of this time, he’s watching as you get out of your car, whether you take an abnormally long time to comply, if when you open your car door, you lean on it to steady yourself, the way you walk to his car, whether or not you stumble or trip, and so on. You get in his car, and he gets in, and he can really get a good whiff of your breath, and it smells like beer, so he does the PBT, and it comes out zero, and he’s a nice guy and he lets you go with a warning. Now, you could have refused the PBT, and he’d be well within his rights to do a Field Sobriety Test, which would be recorded on his vehicle’s video camera as more evidence. Flunk that test, and it’s pretty easy not to pass especially if you’re tired, and he’s got PC to put you under arrest for DUI and take you to the local jail, where they’ll do a real Breathalyzer test – where they would have gotten a reading of something under the legal limit and let you go, maybe with a speeding ticket and maybe just a warning. That’s just the procedure used in DUI cases. Asking for ID from the other passengers is not really OK in Kansas, and there’s no PC to detain them or interrogate them; they could have refused to turn over their IDs and the cop probably wouldn’t do anything else. In Illinois, things could be a lot less free, and from what I’ve heard, are less free. Illinois is a state to avoid if possible. Get a radar detector, and don’t speed unless you want to possibly go through the hassle associated with a traffic stop.

  20. H Luce

    And it looks like the cop did a horizontal nystagmus test on you before he did the PBT, and tried to get you to admit that you had been drinking all day and were drunk… The horizontal nystagmus test is so unreliable at detecting intoxication that it’s inadmissible as evidence in Kansas, he should have had you do a walk and turn and done the one foot balance test before he did the PBT, but he probably figured out by then you weren’t drunk and he’d just end up wasting more time on a non-lucrative prospect

  21. jrem


    One of the issues that always arises in a traffic stop is whether you were placed under arrest, or alternatively, whether you were in “custody”. If you were indeed in custody and a police officer was interrogating you, then he would be legally obliged to give you Miranda warnings. They don’t like to do that and so they state at the outset that they are only giving you a warning. From a legal standpoint, that means that you were at all times, free to go. It may not have seemed at that way, but if the cop found anything in your vehicle or if you admitted to anything (and later challenged the admissibility of the evidence because of the lack of Miranda warnings), the cop would simply fall back on his initial comment that you were always free to go because he decided at the outset to give you a warning.

    The cop was really off-base on this one. Ordinarily, I would suggest a complaint to his supervisors, although those complaints generally go nowhere.

    All the best, Jim

  22. tilford97 Post author

    Jim-I’m pretty positive that I couldn’t have left that situation. For one, the officer had all three of our licenses, plus my insurance card, which he still has. Secondly, I don’t think I could have left that situation. I’m virtually positive he would not of seen it like I was “free to go”. I would have gotten a failure to pull over thing or fleeing or disobeying an officer ticket. Something much more problematic than just taking the guys shit.

    But, it doesn’t seem right in retrospect. And it seems to happening much more often. Like I stated in my post, I can’t imagine being a black or Hispanic male in that same situation. It would be frightening.

    Thanks for the information, though.

  23. jrem


    the next time this happens (hopefully there will never be a next time), simply ask the police officer politely “am I free to go?”. If he responds in the negative, then he will be acknowledging, legally, that you are in custody.

    All sorts of legal consequences flow from that determination.

    Again, I think you and your friends handled things well. It is simply a bummer that you had to go through this.

    On a different note, my brother and I rode the “epic trail”at Rock Lake, located just east of Cable, Wisconsin yesterday. This trail, along with a trail on the Keweenaw Peninsula, is the only IMBA- designated epic trail in the Midwest. Jim

  24. bob

    I have a friend who is a cop, they get crap all day and it can make even a good guy seem like a jerk. This guy was maybe not as bad as u think, just bad at hi job. You are trained to ask the same questions over & over and play dumb. It is aggravating but that is what cops are taught to do. Then they also are taught to misrepresent your answers to catch u in a lie. It’s all tedious and stupid but that is their job, to act like they are idiots.Seriously.
    And in some states you have to be able to clearly identify yourself to a police officer.Thus the asking of drivers licenses of those in the van.
    And lets play devils advocate, the dept gets in trouble for profiling. So they can now point to your blog and say they dont profile racially. “Here is an instance of us pulling over a white guy in a van, and asking white passengers for id’s
    It’s not racial we act this way all the time”
    You said it yourself steve, you thought they pulled you over because the van matching a smugglers profile, then when it was obvious it wasn’t… So only people of color are illegal. You stereotype yourself just as much as the cop stereotypes. By and large the cop thought he might have had something, the rest was a fishing expedition and then a dance to prove they dont profile. If u want to avoid these things dont speed at all. I have driven a 1996 ford econoline 236 thousand miles all across the country and have yet to be pulled over, so my rights are never violated.


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