The Daily Camera reported earlier this month that there were problems with the case against Boulder City Councilman Richard Polk, and that he plea bargained to reckless driving, a misdemeanor. The problems according to the prosecutor, David Cheval, were that the stop may not have been legal in the first place, and the results of the roadside test Polk was given, plus a urine test, showed that Polk was not impaired by marijuana. The question I have from this is was Polk impaired by alcohol? When the incident was first reported, the Camera said that he admitted to having had “a glass of wine” before getting in his car. The prosecutor suggested prescription drugs Polk was taking may have been to blame, though this hasn’t been confirmed. It doesn’t sound like they’re going to bother analyzing further what was in his system.
The reason Cheval said the stop may have been illegal is that Polk’s driving was not affecting any other cars on the road at the time. He also conflated “straddling traffic lanes” (a term used in the police report) to “swerving once” over the center line. He didn’t think he had a case that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt, so he didn’t pursue a DUI case.
What’s been undisclosed is what the deal is with the marijuana that was found in the car. Last I checked, marijuana possession is still illegal in Colorado, unless the person possessing it has medical authorization for it. It sounds like this matter isn’t even being pursued. Is marijuana possession of any amount legal in Boulder? The Camera has been a bit confused about the amount. When they first reported it they said there were “a couple bags” of it. This time they said it was in “a baggie” (note the singular).
The picture the prosecutor is painting is of an overzealous police officer, or perhaps one trying to fill his quota of tickets. Polk just happened to fall in his net and it turned into a bigger problem than he anticipated. The plea to reckless driving sounds like a compromise, like I imagine many plea bargains are. The prosecutor hasn’t established that the stop was in fact illegal. He “questioned” it. That seems to be as far as that’s gotten. I think that’s uncalled for. If he’s going to question the stop, he should question just about every traffic stop. A lot of them are for minor infractions like this. They occur even when no other traffic is around. It’s not uncommon. Anyway, Cheval left that in murky waters, and he and Polk agreed to the reckless driving charge.
The prosecutor has not pursued a complete investigation, and is willing to leave some loose ends. Maybe the Camera is trying to respect Polk’s privacy, but it appears to me the elephant in the room that’s being ignored is the marijuana possession. What they’ve established at least is Polk wasn’t driving while impaired by it.
I don’t know what really happened. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what was going through Polk’s head as he went driving that night. If we know all of the facts here, I don’t blame the police officer for doing any of what he did. It sounded pretty routine to me. In years past I’ve seen police stop people for minor infractions on the level of what Polk did. It’s not fair, because the law is enforced so inconsistently, but it’s nothing new. Maybe all Polk was doing was trying to find a house on the other side of the street he was driving on. I know when I’ve driven down Pine it’s hard for me to see the signs on cross streets at night. I’ve swerved a few times so I can shine my lights on the signs so I can see them. I’ve done so carefully, of course, so as to not endanger other traffic. Would that rise to the level of a reckless driving charge, though? I would think all that would call for is a ticket; not the points, the fine of a few hundred dollars, and the community service. What’s up with that? It seems to me Cheval is going out of his way not to charge Polk with drug posession. He’s found a charge that on its face is overkill, but seems to fit the severity and combination of violations (the violation of traffic rules, and drug possession), but with a different label on it. Is Polk getting special treatment? I wonder.
Meanwhile Polk went through “drug education” and is seeing a counselor regularly. Something tells me this isn’t enough. I’m not talking about any sort of punishment. He was found with marijuana in the car with him and a warm pipe. Does that say “drug addict” to you?
The City Council is investigating whether what Polk has been charged with rises to the level of a “crime or felony”, which is the wording of the section of the City Charter that deals with ousting a City Council member. Given what Polk actually did, I wouldn’t boot him for his driving, but rather his drug possession. But then, we’re not supposed to talk about that, are we.