Inspector Mick Dempsey arrives at the Lismore Police Station with Rodney Stevens.
Inspector Mick Dempsey arrives at the Lismore Police Station with Rodney Stevens. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Panic of blue lights

PANIC sets in as soon as I hear the chilling shriek and see the blue and red glow of the police lights on the way home from a few drinks at Goonellabah's Hilltop tavern.

I'd paced myself, so know I shouldn't be over the limit, but as I pull the car over I realise my fate is in the hands of the breath-test machine.

As a constable approaches, my stress levels escalate.

I wind down my window and he asks if I have had any drinks tonight.

I reply, "Yes".

"You have been pulled over for the purposes of a random breath test," the constable says.

He holds a breath tester near my mouth and instructs me to count to 10.

As I am counting, I think: Why didn't I just get a taxi? I only live five minutes away.

The test beeps and the constable utters the dreaded words.

"You have returned a positive test, you are under arrest."

I get out of my car and lock it as a senior constable approaches and reaches for the handcuffs on his hip.

As the handcuffs click shut, the feeling of the cold steel on my wrists sees my panic level spike.

It didn't actually happen like that - I wasn't drink driving and I wasn't really arrested - but the steel of the handcuffs felt real enough as a police officer snapped them over my wrists during a "simulated" arrest at Lismore Police Station yesterday.

The cold stainless-steel seat in the cell reinforced the seriousness of the situation after I was searched by police and had my property confiscated.

During the mandatory 15-minute observation period - to ensure there is no alcohol in my mouth - my mind races. I sit there with my head down. If it were real I would be panicking right now, wondering what my family, friends and employer would think.

The next thing, a police officer opens the holding cell and I am led into the breath-analysis room.

Here the officer would ask me to blow into the breath-analysis machine to get a reading of the grams of alcohol per 100ml of my blood.

After I finished blowing, a number would flash up on the screen.

"You have gone .125, mid-range, have you got anything to say about that," the officer would say.

"No," I would utter.

The officer would offer me the services of a doctor before I was led back into the holding cell while police processed the required paperwork.

After an agonising half hour I would receive a court attendance notice and a copy of the certificate from the breath-analysis machine.

Then the officer would inform me my licence had been suspended due to my mid-range reading. Guilt-ridden, I would have to make the dreaded phone call to my partner to get her to pick me up.

Thank God it wasn't real.

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