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Brian Wierima takes part in a mock booking process for a DWI and blows into the Data-Master, which is operated by Becker County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Shane Richard. DL NEWSPAPERS/Pippi Mayfield

A tough blow: Booked for DWI

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In 2012, there were 246 DWI arrests in Becker County.

The vast majority of DWI’s can be avoided and you can wisely choose to stay off the dark road of being considered a threat to society.

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For most who are charged with a DWI, it’s a shameful, embarrassing and expensive journey. These are people who are not used to being called a criminal and treated as such.

The system you enter after making the decision to drive drunk is stern and cold. The people who have to process violators for DWI are thorough and professional.

The process is cut-and-dry. Trying to trick it does no good, because it has stood the test of thousands of challenges over the years.

You are no different than anyone else. You are not wiser than the system. You are a statistic and more than likely, you will be feeling the consequences of going through the grinder that you caused yourself.

I blew a .21 through the portable breathalyzer, performed by Detroit Lakes Police Department’s Gary Kuhn, during my mock pullover in the first installment of this series.

The amount of alcohol I “consumed” in a short amount of time contributed to the high reading – one I will regret as this series progresses.

They are self-imposed consequences, and mine are getting worse by the minute.

Next up is my journey through the mock booking process, one that usually drains the remaining hope of those on their way to a DWI. 

I find myself looking through Detroit Lakes Police Department officer Gary Kuhn’s protective glass from the back seat.

I see the very familiar path he is taking to the Becker County Jail. A stab of regret emanates from my stomach and down my legs as I realize I should be taking some of this route home now.

I shouldn’t be sitting here with my hands shackled behind my back and legs bunched up in the back of a police cruiser on a Wednesday night.

A small gurgle in my stomach leads to a burp of Jägermeister. The taste is terrible, but the regret and the reminder of why I am in this position is worse.

Officer Kuhn pulls up to the sidewalk to the Becker County Courthouse.

He gets out and opens the back door and kindly helps me out of the car and leads me to a door where Becker County Deputy Cody Bouchie awaits.

There isn’t any emotion on the faces of either Officer Kuhn or Deputy Bouchie. It’s simply their job.

Deputy Bouchie takes over and directs me to an elevator. I am still in handcuffs.

At this point in the process, Deputy Bouchie – who also has arrested numerous drivers for DWI over his career – has seen every kind of reaction by the arrested person.

“I usually have them from hating you to loving you,” Bouchie said. “Some are calling you every name in the book, while some are just happy that you got them off the road with no one getting hurt.

“But I also have others still trying to negotiate some way of getting out of it.”

During the elevator ride, my stomach is queasy, while I start to smell my own breath and the strong odor of alcohol.

But since I am human, I am still rationalizing the reasons that I will not be charged with a DWI.

Thoughts that I will still pass the official breathalyzer still linger, but I also will be hoping on the sympathy of the Correctional Officers.

“Maybe they will feel sorry for me and let me off with a warning?” I tell myself, without much confidence.

The elevator door opens and Deputy Bouchie leads me out into a very neutral and dull room. The walls are mostly bare and it has a definite institutionalized feeling to it.

I am directed to take my shoes off by Correctional Officer Josie Johnson, as I sit in a chair and bend over to untie my shoes.

The lightheadedness isn’t from the booze, but from the anxiety that is tearing through my body.

Correctional Officer Vivian Anderson sits down, pulls out some paper and asks me my demographics. She asks if I want a lawyer present. I have to think twice about that one.

In my rationalizing state, if I get a lawyer, I am admitting to myself that I am guilty.

“No, I am fine.”

Officer Johnson then asks me to stand as another male officer comes over and pats me down thoroughly for weapons or drugs.

“We do a thorough pat down to look for those drugs and potential weapons people try to hide on their body,” Johnson said. “By now, people are starting to realize where they are at, and sometimes they get combative. That usually depends on how drunk they are.”

Correctional Officer Johnson has to ask me my shoe size twice, because I didn’t hear her the first time due to the blood rushing in my head. She then removes my shoes and hands me a pair of bright orange plastic sandals.

It’s just another downward dip in my self-esteem and the self-realization of where I’m headed.

As I sit, Correctional Officer Anderson reads my Implied Consent Advisory.

“Brian, you are being detained by the Becker County Law Enforcement Center. I have a list of questions I will ask.”

I have a hard time focusing on the questions, as crazy thoughts of how I came to be sitting in this seat crash through the process of answering them.

Anderson continues: “If you choose not to answer or provide false information, you may not receive proper medical treatment and delay your release from this facility.

“Will you answer my questions?”

I take the route of being fully cooperative, with the thought starting to creep in that it may help me in the near future.

“Yes.”

The familiar words as Anderson reads my rights are surreal and start another bout of lightheadedness. My stomach does another flip.

It’s dawning on me for the first time that I will not be getting out of this.

I sign where I am directed and Deputy Bouchie starts to read my Notice and Order of Revocation.

The sheet I sign is a temporary license for seven days and directs me how to request for administrative review and how to gain a petition for judicial review.

“Just so you can get your affairs in order,” Bouchie said of the seven-day reprieve. 

The next words out of Deputy Bouchie’s mouth almost make my knees lock in place. They’re the words I had been hoping not to hear since Officer Kuhn’s lights invaded my car just over an hour ago.

“Brian, I believe you have been driving a motor vehicle in violation of Minnesota’s DWI laws and you are being placed under arrested.

“Do you wish to contact an attorney? Yes or No?”

“No.”

“Will you take a breath test, Yes or No?”

There are two ways a person can go when asked if they want to submit to a blood alcohol content test: Yes or no.

Refusing to take the test will result in an extra charge, along with the DWI charge. First, your license will be revoked for no less than a year automatically.

You will also face DWI charges, and you don’t need a breathalyzer test to be found guilty: The testimony of the arresting officers is enough.

“Most people say yes,” Deputy Bouchie said. “Otherwise you would be charged with a DWI and a second-degree refusal. It would be two different charges, not just one.”

“Yes,” I reply.

Deputy Bouchie presses his radio button, a squawk, followed by, “We have a ‘yes’ for a test.”

“Ok, I’ll be up in a minute.”

Deputy Bouchie has called in Becker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Shane Richard, who is certified to run the “Data-Master,” the new official breathalyzer in Minnesota.

The five-minute wait for Sgt. Richard is excruciating. But there is an idle thought in the back of my anxiety-soaked mind that time is on my side, since my blood alcohol content might be going down with every second.

Not true.

In fact, my BAC is increasing as the alcohol I consumed before I decided to jump in my car is just being digested.

“If you had your last drink about 15-20 minutes before you were stopped, more than likely your BAC is still increasing,” Deputy Bouchie said. “But if it’s been two or three hours since your last one, typically it will be going down.

“We’re not going to try and get you and rush the process. It is what it is, we are not going to try and stick you. But you will need to take the test within two hours after being pulled over.”

I sit next to the big, black Data-Master machine.

Sgt. Richard arrives and explains what I am to do next.

He asks me to stand and puts a sterile mouthpiece on a tube.

“We will need two samples from you, Brian,” Richard said. “Blow hard into this tube.”

Rationalization is running rampant in my spinning mind now as I blow into the tube.

“I can beat this,” I think one more time.

By this point in time, almost all those who blow into the tube I am holding will fail the test.

“I have had one person pass in five years,” Deputy Bouchie notes. “And that was under extreme circumstances.”

I sit down as Richard explains that I will provide my second sample in three to four minutes.

“The best sample for your BAC is from deep breath from your lungs,” Richard said. “The test needs so many liters of air and after resting three to four minutes for your second test, it provides the most accurate reading.”

I deeply inhale as I blow the second sample, plenty of air and most of my hope goes down into the tube and into the contraptions of the waiting Data-Master.

“You’ve provided two breath samples and completed the test,” Richard tells me. “Your reading is .21. Do you have any questions, Brian?”

My vision turns foggy at the words and the weight of the situation forces my head down, I can’t look anyone in the eye now.

“No, no questions,” is all I can muster.

Richard shows me the results printed out on a sheet of paper, while explaining all the numbers and diagnostics.

Hollow words, as I contemplate my growing and festering situation.

The Data-Master is very reliable and very few who challenge it in court win.

“This thing is idiot-proof,” Richard said. “You can’t screw it up.”

But what is a more crucial fact is my .21, which is now an “aggravating factor.” Which means I will be charged with a third-degree DWI because I blew over a .20.

“If someone’s test is over .20, we automatically will hold them longer in jail, because you will have to be held for court the next morning,” Deputy Bouchie said. “Now if you blew under .20, we could release you when you are sober or blow a 0.00.”

That’s when I start realizing those damned shots of Jag potentially put me over .20 and a lot of extra baggage that my already exhausted shoulders will have to carry.

Little actions, resulting in huge consequences.

I ask the famous question about getting my phone call.

At this point, I am being charged with a third-degree DWI and a phone call is not in my immediate future.

“A phone call is a privilege, if the person is being belligerent and difficult, they will be escorted to a holding cell,” Richard said.

If they are cooperative, they will be given more than one phone call if necessary.

“That’s if you need to get your affairs in order, such as arranging things for your kids, work, or need something done at this instant,” Richard said. “But your phone calls to call friends or your wife just saying you have been arrested for DWI comes after we book you in.”

A call to a lawyer or someone with a number for a lawyer is also allowed.

The booking process continues with Correctional Officer Johnson escorting me down the hall and to the room where fingerprints are taken.

Gone is the ink. Instead, a scanner connected to a computer is used for fingerprints, and mine will be automatically included in the criminal file.

All jewelry is taken off me, except for the wedding ring (although I have no jewelry on me).

“Left hand please,” Johnson states.

She goes through the process of scanning all fingers and palm prints on both hands.

Officer Johnson escorts me back down the short hallway, opens up a cupboard door and takes out orange prison garb and instructs me to go to the restroom and exchange my clothes for these.

I go to the bathroom and slowly strip down, with the reality of the situation hitting me smack dab in the nose now.

I thank God for no mirror in the room, since it would be pretty degrading to see myself as I slip on the orange pajama-like top and bottoms. I slip the sandals on and head back out.

The mug shot is next, and I simply stand straight against the wall.

“Please look straight ahead,” Officer Anderson states. 

My buzz from the booze is kicking in, but the headache is the most prevalent feeling.

Officer Anderson asks if I need to make a call to someone to notify them I will be held for the remainder of the night, and until after my court hearing Thursday morning.

I let them notify my wife by phone, since I am feeling pretty cowardly about breaking the news to her at this moment.

With a third-degree DWI, inmates will be held until a court hearing the next morning, starting around 7-8 a.m. That is, if they can blow a 0.00.

According to official studies, with a blood alcohol content of .21 percent, it will take approximately 13-14 hours for me to blow a 0.00. That puts me right on the cusp of being held another day and having to go to my court hearing Friday morning instead of Thursday.

If I had blown under a .20, and I blow a 0.00 later in the morning, my release time would have been 7 a.m.

Officer Johnson escorts me to my holding cell for the evening. The heavy door is open as I walk into the small, cement room.

It has a metal toilet, with a drinking fountain just above the commode.

A thin mattress lies like an uninviting rug on a concrete slab.

That’s it. Nothing else besides a camera in the upper corner of the room and the thick door with a little opening for viewing.

Just over two hours ago I was enjoying the company of friends, now I am alone in small cell.

The rapid progression of my oncoming hangover is already rushing in my head like a freight train with its brights on.

The only sound I now hear is regret and it’s getting pretty loud now.     

I am thinking of what I would be doing now at home, and the time beforehand of a worry-free Thursday.

But not tonight.

The clang of the closing prison door reminds me that it’s going to be a restless night.

In the third and final installment, I am released to the court’s custody in criminals’ clothing, while the windfall of my binge drinking starts to sink in, affecting not just me, but many people around me, especially my bank account.

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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