If you read my previous blog post, I wrote that I left Dickinson, North Dakota in a hurry on Sunday March 5, towing 6,500 lbs with a two wheel drive 4,000 lb truck when the weather turned bad in Montana. I got stuck in the snow on the interstate and had to call a tow truck. After the roads were plowed, I got started again, but the roads were snowy and icy all the way back to Idaho. I had to drive between 55 mph to 60 mph all the way back to Idaho because of the snow and ice, and the weight of the trailer, worrying most of the way about getting stuck again on the interstate.
What was also troubling me during my drive back to Idaho, was that I had not been back to my home in Idaho for 1-1/2 years. I did not know what condition my home would be in. I had not been able to get off of work long enough to drive to Idaho and back to North Dakota. I had been warned, that by not using my well pump for that long, it was likely corroded and silted up, and was ruined. The well pump sits at the bottom of the well casing, about 120 feet deep. A well drilling derek is required to pull the well pump up by the 120 feet of steel water pipe. This well pump replacement costs $5,000 to $7,000.
As soon as I arrived back at my home in Idaho, I went to the well house to check the water piping, it looked O.K. I turned on the circuit breaker to the well pump and the pump came on. I went inside the house, and I had very little water pressure. I had to crawl around under my house looking for a water leak, there was not any water leak. There was no hot water flow at all, and my hot water heater was not working. I worked on my water lines and hot water heater for the three days that I was home. I had to do yard clean up, and work on many different things in those three days.
The first evening that I was home, I went to see a bar and restaurant manager that I had known for seven years. He had worked at this restaurant for almost twenty years, but he was no longer there. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t there. One of the few remaining employees that I knew, told me that the manager didn’t want to go along with changes at the restaurant, and that also his wife had divorced him.
This manager had been married for about 25 years. He was very proud of his wife, she was a high school teacher and a coach. She had won several state awards as a teacher, and several state awards as a coach. I had never met anyone that was as proud of their wife and daughters as he was. Most people were sick of listening to his bragging about his wife and daughters. His primary focus in the past 25 years of his life was his wife and daughters. I telephoned him, he told me that his wife had divorced him, they had sold their house, and now he was living with his elderly mother. He now has a really shitty, low paying job.
I had had a lot of stress driving back to Idaho, getting stuck on the interstate in the snow and ice, working on so many things at my house that I hadn’t been back to in 1-1/2 years, and finding out bad things had happened to people that I knew back in Idaho. But after three days, I had to return to North Dakota and either find additional work, or continue moving my vehicles and equipment back to Idaho. I did not look forward to driving the 750 miles back to Dickinson, North Dakota.
It was easier driving my Ford truck towing an empty 2,000 lb trailer back to North Dakota. I could go faster with an unloaded trailer, but I still needed to be careful. When I got into Montana, the speed limit on the interstate was 80 mph, but I stayed between 70 mph to 75 mph because that was as fast as I felt was safe towing the empty trailer.
In western Montana, I saw a dark colored vehicle pulled over on the right side of the interstate on the road shoulder. I could not tell what kind of vehicle it was. I could not tell if it was parked and broken down, or if there was someone in it. I did not see any emergency lights or police lights on top of the vehicle. The cars ahead of me changed into the left lane, so I changed into the left lane too.
A few minutes later, it was a big surprise to me when a Montana Highway Patrol car pulled up beside me in the left lane trying to read my license plate. Then he pulled behind me in the right lane and turned on his flashing lights.
I was angry. All the way from Dickinson, North Dakota to Idaho, and now all the way from Idaho back to North Dakota, I had to drive under the speed limit because of the trailer that I was towing. I could not believe that I was getting pulled over by the Highway Patrol when I had been driving 70 mph to 75 mph when the speed limit was 80 mph.
I pulled over onto the road shoulder, turned on my interior lights, rolled down the window, and put both hands on the steering wheel. I waited for the Highway Patrol Officer to walk up to me, and I was surprised when he knocked on my passenger side window. He said that he pulled me over because I had not used my turn signal to change lanes, he can see that I am not wearing my seat belt, and that I was going 3 mph over the speed limit.
Can you imagine what I was thinking…What the fuck is going on? I was deliberately driving 5 mph under the speed limit because I was towing a trailer. I gathered that the Highway Patrol Officer was not interested in me going 3 mph over the speed limit or not using my turn signal like he said, he was looking forward to finding something to make an arrest.
I had been through a lot of stress on the long drive from Dickinson, North Dakota to Idaho, working on all the things that were wrong with my house for three days, and now having to make the long drive right back to North Dakota. I was not happy about being stopped by this Highway Patrol Officer, when I had been driving 5 mph under the speed limit. I was not completely certain about what exactly was going on.
The Montana Highway Patrol Officer asked for my driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Fortunately, I had each of these things, and they were not expired. The Highway Patrol Officer asked me what I was doing, and where I was going. I knew that I was not legally required to explain what I was doing and where I was going, and that he was not asking me to be friendly, he was asking me in order to try to uncover possible illegal activity. I went ahead and tried to explain, but he did not think that my explanation made sense.
I ended up explaining to him three times what I was doing and where I was going. This made the Highway Patrol Officer think that I could not keep my story straight, that it was false, and that I was lying. This stop by the Highway Patrol, was unreal and unbelievable, I was trying to make it back to Dickinson, and the Highway Patrol Officer was convinced that something else was going on.
The Montana Highway Patrol Officer was treating me like a drug fiend/drug dealer/drug trafficker from Idaho. Like I could not tell the same story about what I was doing consistently, because it was all lies, meant to hide the illegal activity that I was involved in. I also began to suspect that the Highway Patrol Officer was telling me that what I was telling him did not make sense, because he was trying to establish probable cause to search my vehicle. I then said to him, are you profiling me as a Meth person from Idaho? The Highway Patrol Officer then asked me to come back to his vehicle with him.
The Montana Highway Patrol Officer entered and searched my driver’s license for warrants, probation, parole, and previous arrests, but eventually found none. He asked me three more times to explain my job, what I did, and where I lived.
Because I have no criminal record, and I was not doing anything wrong or illegal, and because the Highway Patrol Officer kept asking me to explain myself, I then elaborated quite a bit about the work that I did, what Dickinson was like, what Watford City was like, what the economy was like in North Dakota, what the police were like in Watford City, and what the police were like in Dickinson. If any of you readers have looked at my blog, you can imagine that I had a lot to say about these subjects, I have written many blog posts about theses subjects.
Inevitably, I became irritating to the Montana Highway Patrol Officer because I had talked so much, but it was his fault for asking me to explain myself. He had wanted to detect inconsistencies in my story in order to establish probable cause for a vehicle search, not have to sit there and listen to me go on, and on, and on.
I was about ready to ask him if he wanted to search my vehicle. He was so dissatisfied and disappointed that I didn’t have any outstanding warrants, wasn’t violating probation or parole, and didn’t have any previous arrests. I hesitated to ask him if he wanted to search my vehicle, because he was so determined to find evidence of crime, that he might have questioned me about each tool box, each tool bag, each piece of equipment, my emergency money that I have hidden, my rifles, and he might have tried to confiscate everything because it could have been stolen or could have been the proceeds from illegal activity.
The Montana Highway Patrol Officer gave me a citation for not wearing my seat belt, and acted like he was doing me a favor for not giving me a ticket for speeding or not using my turn signal.
I have written several blog posts about the police in Watford City and Dickinson pulling people over in order to find out who they are, ask them what they are doing and where they are going, asking for their local address, running their driver’s license to see if there are warrants, probation, parole, and previous arrests, trying to detect and uncover illegal activity. Yes, this helps deter and detect illegal activity. However, this time, I didn’t like it when it was done to me.
I didn’t like it because I was already tired, stressed out, and had already had a bunch of things go wrong recently, I didn’t want or need any more problems. I almost didn’t have proof of insurance, I got a copy from my insurance agent two days before this traffic stop. This Highway Patrol Officer seemed so determined to find something, not having proof of insurance would have possibly been construed by him as not having insurance, which can result in suspension of your driver’s license.
This Highway Patrol Officer seemed so determined to find something wrong, I wonder if he would have seized my emergency cash and rifles, claiming that they were evidence of illegal activity. No, they can’t keep them if there turns out to be no illegal activity, but are you going to pay an attorney $3,000 in order to have $3,000 worth of property returned to you?
In the United States there are laws that cover the right to travel freely, against unlawful search and seizure of property, innocence until proven guilty in a court of law, not having to give evidence against yourself, having the right to remain silent. In the traffic stop that I described above, I felt that my civil rights were somewhat infringed upon: though I did commit a traffic infraction worthy of a citation, I was prohibited from traveling freely by the repeated questioning which was not related to the traffic citation, I am not required to give evidence against myself, I have the right to remain silent and not answer questions, and there appeared to be presumption that I was guilty of some crime and that I was being required to prove my innocence.
I voluntarily tried to answer the Highway Patrol Officer’s questions and cooperate, but it is unsettling to know that his intentions were to find something in my answers and cooperation to arrest me, take me to jail, lead to my imprisonment, and seizure of my property, though I was doing nothing illegal and merely trying to drive to North Dakota.