Police

Drunk Sheriff: 'I'm a Constitutional Fucking Officer. You Can't Take Me to Fucking Jail'

Spoiler alert: It didn't work.

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A drunk Michigan sheriff tried to avoid being arrested for driving under the influence last month by claiming he's a "constitutional fucking officer."

Body camera footage of the November 16 incident shows Kalkaska County Sheriff's Deputy Ashley VanSloten knocking on Midland County Sheriff Scott Stephenson's car door. "Sir?" she says several times, only for Stephenson to say something unintelligible in response. "You need to wake up and talk to me," VanSloten says while snapping her fingers.

"What are you doing? You're on the side of the road slumped over. What's going on today?" she says. Eventually, VanSloten asks if Stepehenson has consumed alcohol. "Yeah," he responds, though he notes that he's not currently driving. "How did you get here is the question," VanSloten responds.

At one point, Stephenson asks: "Do you know who I am?" VanSloten claims she doesn't. "I'm fucking Midland County sheriff," Stephenson says, showing VanSloten a commemorative badge. "I'm fucking good. I had a fucking bad day."

Later, Stephenson is shown standing outside his car. By that point, he and VanSloten have been joined by Garfield Township Police Chief Nelson "Jerry" Cannon, who used to be the sheriff of Kalkaska County. VanSloten and Cannon both ask Peterson how many drinks he's consumed in the past four hours, to which Peterson responds that he's drunk four beers. Stephenson performs several field sobriety tests, then takes a breathalyzer test. The footage shows that he had a blood alcohol content level of 0.233 percent, almost three times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent.

After he takes the breathalyzer, Stephenson begs both cops to let him off. "Jesus Christ, I'm fucking praying," he says. "Try to fucking help me out man. I can't go to fucking jail for fucking drunk driving. Are you fucking kidding?"

According to WJRT and MLive.com, Stephenson can also be heard saying: "Jesus Christ, I'm a sheriff…. I'm a constitutional fucking officer. You can't take me to fucking jail. I'm a goddamn sheriff." That part appears to have been taken out of the video published by MLive.

His pleas didn't work. Stephenson was arrested anyway. MLive reports:

Stephenson on Dec. 13 appeared in Kalkaska County District Court for arraignment and ended up pleading guilty to one count of operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired. In exchange, the prosecution dismissed a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Stephenson was not charged under the super drunk statute, which comes with maximum potential penalty of 180 days in jail, as opposed to the 93-day maximum of standard operating while intoxicated.

The sheriff was also fined $1,030 and placed on probation for a period of one year. Stephenson did apologize, explaining that he was drinking at a deer hunting camp before leaving to find cellphone reception. He claims he started to feel drunk while driving and pulled over. Stephenson says he won't resign as a result of the incident. However, as WJRT notes, he had already decided against seeking reelection in 2020.

It's a good thing that Stephenson was punished for his infraction. It's troubling that he tried to use his position as sheriff to get out of trouble. He's not the only elected official to do this. In July, Reason's Zuri Davis wrote about an Arizona state representative who tried to avoid a speeding ticket by citing legislative immunity. He did not appear to receive a ticket, though after the incident attracted controversy, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed an executive order clarifying that lawmakers are not exempt from the repercussions of speeding.

In Stephenson's case there was an early indicator that he was in the wrong. Generally speaking, you're probably the bad guy if you're trying to get out of legal trouble by asking, "do you know who I am?"

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51 responses to “Drunk Sheriff: 'I'm a Constitutional Fucking Officer. You Can't Take Me to Fucking Jail'

  1. Never talk to the cops!

  2. I am NEVER first.

    This place has gone to hell when I, a lowly prokaryotic life form, is allowed to be first.

    1. What sort of prokaryote are you, exactly? I bet you are some kind of archaea.

      1. I do not associate with archaea. Multi-colonyism is a suckers endeavor.

    2. Is ETimmy stuck in the interwell?

  3. Stephenson says he won’t resign as a result of the incident. However, as WJRT notes, he had already decided against seeking reelection in 2020.

    Does the DUI preclude him from being a Sheriff?

    1. It wouldn’t preclude him from being a senator.

      The DWI was dropped by the prosecutor in exchange for a lesser plea (visibly impaired). Probably not enough to stop a sheriff.

    2. Realistically – murder wouldn’t preclude him from holding that office. You don’t even have to be an LEO to be a sheriff, as long as you can convince enough people to vote you in and keep you there.

  4. I have no doubt that this sheriff has said ‘fuck the constitution’ on many occasions.

    1. Constitution is also the name of his favorite stripper at the local joint.

  5. “I’m a constitutional fucking officer.”
    The accurate translation is “I’m a constitution fucking officer.”.
    What he probably meant was “I’m a fucking constitutional officer.”
    Either way, fuck him.

    All in all, no dogs were killed.

  6. Was he unaware he was being recorded, or did he think the recordings would magically disappear?

    Maybe they don’t keep the recordings if they don’t make an arrest, which is the outcome he seemed to think he could get.

    What was the basis for his belief that he could get special treatment? Dutch courage, or the fact that most of his deputies aren’t as strict as this one?

    1. Maybe he didn’t realize that he wasn’t in his own jurisdiction.

      1. I missed that part initially.

    2. What was the basis for his belief that he could get special treatment? Dutch courage, or the fact that most of his deputies aren’t as strict as this one?

      A little column A, a little column B?

      Even a cop who wouldn’t normally try the “I’m a cop, so I get to break the law!” excuse might try it while drunk.

      Still, I’m going with “not shocked he tried it, a bit shocked it didn’t work”, here.

  7. Which constitution? Because the US constitution makes no mention of sheriffs.

    1. Art. 10(4) of the Michigan Constitution:

      “The sheriff shall hold no other office, and shall be incapable of holding the office of sheriff longer than four in any period of six years. He may be required by law to renew his security from time to time, and in default of giving such security, his office shall be deemed vacant. The county shall never be responsible for his acts.”

      https://bit.ly/2UWDTfM

      I’m just spitballing here, but maybe the security he offers could be forfeit if he does something like this guy did.

      1. “The Sheriff is an elected Constitutional officer with broad authority and responsibility. To be successful, a Sheriff must have a thorough knowledge of criminal law and procedure, civil law and procedure, constitutional and statutory provisions relating to the care and custody of inmates, civil rights, business administration and police management. It is an administrative position with complex fiscal responsibility. It requires skill and knowledge in employee and labor relations and personnel administration. Sheriffs face extreme difficulty in reconciling ever-increasing demands for service with shrinking resources.”

        https://www.co.midland.mi.us/sheriff.aspx

        1. Oops, outdated provision, here we go:

          “The sheriff may be required by law to renew his security periodically and in default of giving such security, his office shall be vacant. The county shall never be responsible for his acts, except that the board of supervisors may protect him against claims by prisoners for unintentional injuries received while in his custody. He shall not hold any other office except in civil defense.”

          https://bit.ly/2GsL1gq

  8. How is this a DUI? He was not driving. He was sitting in a parked car.

    1. Like the deputy said, how did he get there? Did someone drive him there and then run away?

      The odds are he drove himself there, while under the influence of whatever made him pull over and try to get some sleep.

      1. What if he drove there and then drank some alcohol while being pulled over?

      2. So, reasonable doubt, right?

        This guy’s mistake was talking to a cop. How he got there is none of her business. It is legal to sit in a parked car, even while intoxicated.

        1. He should have remained shilent, I mean silent.

          1. I could be wrong, but the fact that he tried to pull rank might be considered evidence of consciousness of guilt – it’s like trying to run away.

            1. Also, where are the charges of public intoxication, obstructing an officer, and the rest of the stuff a civilian would have to face?

              1. Hmm, it’s a good thing for him Michigan recently got rid of its law against using profanity in front of women.

                https://bit.ly/2Bsn7Mr

    2. Most states tag you with DUI if you have constructive control of a vehicle while under the influence. A gal I know was sitting in the backseat of her car trying to sleep off a binder and she was charged with and convicted of DUI.

      Drug laws are similar. That weed may not be yours, but it was in your house and you knew about it, so you are in constructive possession of an illegal substance.

      1. File under ‘disproportionate’ laws?

      2. I knew a guy who largely did exactly this. The only difference was when asked how he got there he said he couldn’t remember. He also somehow managed to have the sense to hide the car keys well enough so that neither he nor the cops could find them. Ultimately they took him at his word and he was allowed to have the car towed to his place. It was another full day before he remembered where he had hid the keys. It was some years ago and I wouldn’t recommend trying to repeat the feat.

      3. You’re okay if you ditch the keys first. If you’re in the car drunk and have your keys on you, you’re judged to be in control of the vehicle.

    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Driving_under_the_influence

      “…The criminal offense may not involve actual driving of the vehicle, but rather may broadly include being physically in control of a car while intoxicated even if the person charged is not driving. For example, a person found in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated and holding the keys, even while parked, may be charged with DUI, because he or she is in control of the vehicle. In construing the terms DUI, DWI, OWI and OVI, some states therefore make it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence or driving while intoxicated while others indicate that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle. There is a split of authority across the country regarding this issue. Some states permit enforcement of DUI/DWI and OWI/OVI statutes based on “operation and control” of a vehicle, while others require actual “driving”. “The distinction between these two terms is material, for it is generally held that the word ‘drive,’ as used in statutes of this kind, usually denotes movement of the vehicle in some direction, whereas the word ‘operate’ has a broader meaning so as to include not only the motion of the vehicle, but also acts which engage the machinery of the vehicle that, alone or in sequence, will set in motion the motive power of the vehicle.”…”

      1. Let me guess which states are which……

      2. Sitting in a car is neither driving, nor controlling (engage the machinery of the vehicle) the car.

        The guy is a blow hard and a jerk, but if I were on a jury hearing this case, he would be acquitted.

        1. I hate, hate, hate this abomination. DUI laws are about public safety. Arresting someone for being responsible and not driving while intoxicated is the opposite of being about public safety.

          Many years ago I went to a bachelor party out of town. The guy hosting us got hammered and slipped away to take a cab home. So we had nowhere to go on a cold winter night – it was well below freezing. We took a cab back to his place but he was nowhere to be found.

          So we hopped into our rental car and spent the night starting the car periodically to stave off death from hypothermia. Under this interpretation of the law we could have been arrested for DUI (and convicted!)

          Anyone involved in the legal system who thinks this is a just application of the law should be spayed or neutered. They are too evil to be allowed to procreate.

  9. So, what happen to the Peterson guy?…

  10. “It’s troubling that he tried to use his position as sheriff to get out of trouble”

    I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Self preservation is an instinct. Humans have been using whatever the hell they can come up with to get out of trouble since the beginning of time. If they had given him “professional courtesy” and let him go, then THAT would have been troubling.

    Also, am I the only one that got a little bit of a Fargo vibe from this, particularly when the cop initially shows up and is talking to him?

  11. Of all people, you would think that a Sheriff should know that you don’t have to blow or do stupid human tricks on the side of the road.

    Not that they didn’t already have good PC for his arrest considering all his admissions to drinking.

    1. Well, being drunk he probably wasn’t thinking too clearly. Obviously he’d have been better off if he didn’t answer any questions and let him haul him in to the station and then called. a lawyer. But if he’d had the presence of mind to do that he probably would have had the presence of mind not to be passed out drunk on the side of the road.

  12. >>>It’s troubling that he tried to use his position as sheriff to get out of trouble.

    been practice since invention of hierarchy

  13. Ajit Pai is on the case. He is working to get cell coverage to all rural deer hunting drinking camps. Problem solved.
    https://www.c-span.org/video/?455767-1

  14. He claims he started to feel drunk while driving and pulled over.

    See, he’s actually a HERO!

    1. Actually, that’s exactly what we should want someone to do.

      You hop in the car and start driving and go “whoa, I’m a little buzzed! I thought I was fine, but I’m not…”

      What are you supposed to do at that point?

      Pull over and sleep it off? That would be the safe course of action. Except we’ll arrest you for that one.

      Or should you suck it up and drive yourself home, buzz or no buzz? I mean, that’s dangerous. Might even get someone killed. But if you make it home in one piece, you escape getting arrested for DUI.

      Every bit of incentive there is backwards.

      1. Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I suppose my focus is “what treatment would Joe Average Good Ol’ Boy have received if he’d been out huntin’ and drinkin’ and realized while driving home that he was actually drunk and then pulled over to sleep it off?”

        Assume Joe Good Ol’ Boy is a “civilian” with no political influence.

        They’d say that he was driving drunk at one point, and his stopping might be a point in mitigation, but didn’t make him less guilty. If he was belligerent and swore at the cops I bet they’d pile on some other charges too.

        1. Yes, given that they’d do it to Joe Average, it’s good they did it to an Only One, too.

          But they shouldn’t do it to anyone.

          Hell, given the way alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream from the stomach, it’s not even impossible that he was telling the truth. He might have been below the limit when he started his trip, and ended up over it as the alcohol went into his bloodstream while he sat there, not moving.

  15. “Do you know who I am?”

    Sheriffs be like celebrities now?

    According to some comments in the linked youtube video, he got away with it? Or at least, didn’t get the same punishment an average person would get.

    Once people perceive there are laws for different classes, it’s a matter of time before it simply loses its legitimacy.

    1. People already have such accurate perception, and legitimacy is already lost.

      Even Welch is somewhat sympathetic to this view. When Welch reviewed Taibbi’s book for the WSJ in 2014, his review was only moderately negative, which for Welch is something like a love letter.

      The Vast Divide Between Too-Big-to-Jail and Too-Poor-to-Fight-Back

      Matt Welch – Book Review: ‘The Divide’ by Matt Taibbi

  16. “I’m a constitutional fucking officer. You can’t take me to fucking jail.”

    Yes, sir. That’s why we are taking you to the fucking jail. So you can fuck the constitution safely.

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  18. Why did he expect it to work? Because it has worked for others.

    Last year in Grand Rapids, MI, at about 2 AM an assistant DA drove the wrong way on a run way street and hit a parked car, injuring a man who was getting his coat out of the car. The first officer on the scene called the Lieutenant in command of the watch and started telling him about this, describing the ADA as “hammered”. The WC told him to hang up and call back on a non-recorded line. Soon after, the Lieutenant sent a Corporal to the scene, and the Corporal drove the ADA home. There was no breathalyzer or blood draw to provide evidence of intoxication, and apparently the ADA only completed part of the field sobriety test.

    The Lieutenant was fired and the other two officers suspended for a few weeks, but with no proof of drunkenness, the ADA eventually pled to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving causing injury and was sentenced to ONE NIGHT in jail.

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