by Paul Bowers
A Charleston man was arrested last weekend after asking two undercover police officers for a ride home because he was too drunk to drive.
According to an incident report from the Charleston Police Department, two CPD personnel were working undercover near the corner of Legare and Tradd streets around 2:26 a.m. Saturday when a 25-year-old man approached their vehicle and offered to pay them for a ride, saying he would "pay double" for it.
Now, there are three interpretations of what this means. One is that Charleston police are going undercover in taxi cabs. A second is that the officers were in an unmarked Crown Victoria or Lincoln Towncar, which would look a lot like a taxi if you were drunk. A third explanation is that the man approached a random car in the street asked whoever was inside for a ride home. Reached by phone Tuesday, police spokesman Charles Francis would not comment on what kind of car the officers were using. "We're not going to get into the particulars of anything involving the operation," Francis said.
Regardless of what kind of car the police were driving, what happened next is a head-scratcher. According to the report, the undercover officers noticed that the man seemed intoxicated, so they called for backup. A third police officer arrived on the scene and stopped the man as he was walking west on Tradd Street, taking note of his "poor balance, staggered gait, and lethargy of movement." After smelling alcohol on the man's breath, the officer asked him if he knew where he was, and the man replied, "I know where I am, but I can't tell you which street I'm on exactly," according to the incident report.
The officer asked the man where he had been drinking that evening, and he replied, "Mt. Pleasant, but I didn't drive here because I know better than that. I got a ride." Then, after a mixup involving King and Queen streets (the address listed on the man's driver's license was on upper King, but he said he lived on Queen and was trying to get to his girlfriend's house on King), the officer arrested the man on a public intoxication charge and transported him to the Charleston County Detention Center.
The whole incident is especially interesting in light of another, more common practice of Charleston police around bar closing time: When officers see people stumbling on the sidewalk, they often stop them and tell them to hail a cab rather than walk home. If a person refuses to take a cab, he or she is usually arrested for public intoxication. The City Paper sees this type of incident in police reports nearly every weekend.
So, a word of advice, drinkers of Charleston: If you're out downtown and you've tossed back a few too many, make sure you get a ride home — just be careful who you ask.