Indian American woman handcuffed, jailed in Georgia for expired driver’s license, gets license renewed, says police wrong

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NEW YORK: An Indian American woman from Georgia, Shalini Gupta, has alleged in a widely circulated social media post on WhatsApp that she was treated unfairly by the police, arrested, handcuffed painfully, and thrown into jail for possessing an expired driver’s license. In an exclusive interview to News India Times, Gupta confirmed that everything she wrote about her predicament is true, and the police department has filed wrong charges against her.

News India Times also got a report of Gupta’s arrest record done by the John Creek, Georgia, police department. The report says Gupta was arrested for not having a license at all. The police report says Gupta surrendered her driver’s license, and was not allowed a driver’s license after that.

In the interview to News India Times, Gupta refuted the charges, saying the police is wrong. She said she has got a court date, to clarify the truth about her case, and get her record expunged. Gupta says she got her driver’s license renewed the next day after her arrest.

Asked if she would sue the police officers who arrested her and the police department, Gupta said she’s only interested in getting her record expunged for now.

“I wrote about what happened to me as an email to some of my friends. One of those friends put it out on WhatsApp,” said Gupta, in the phone interview.

Here’s the full post by Shalini:

Just wanted to tell my story to you all

Arrest

Thursday, February 23, 2017

11:04 PM

Today I was arrested for the first time in my life and hand-cuffed. My feelings were of utter shock, incredulity and humiliation.

It was around 10:30 in the night on Wednesday, the 23rd of February 2017. I was driving my daughter from her AP Chemistry tutoring session from Suwanee to Sandy Springs, GA. Oh I had brought my Golden Retriever baby along for company so I could walk while my daughter was with the tutor. On my way in, I was talking to my husband over the phone and happened to mention to him the seemingly excess police presence along the old Alabama road with very little traffic. Completely unaware of the eerie circumstance in which that thought would plague me for the next few days.

As it was getting colder, my Subaru started to fog and my efforts to turn the defogger on were met with little success. So in the end I happen to look down at the buttons in order to adjust the temperature and the car wobbled just a tad bit on the single lane road. It was a wobble or jiggle or wiggle only   not even a shimmy. I pretty much stayed in the lane and of course there was no traffic in either direction. And just then the dreaded blue flashing beacons appeared behind me. I pulled over promptly and waited for the officer.

The officer’s first instinct was to check whether I was drunk which he asked me. My reply was simply “No Officer, I was just trying to adjust my defogger”. On looking at the dog and my daughter, he seemed to believe me and said ” I am going to leave you with a warning” and he asked me for my driver’s license.

After about 5 minutes he came back and  he asked me ” Ma’am, do you know that your license is expired?”. I was genuinely surprised and replied “no, I had no idea”. He asked me to step out of the car and come behind. “Ma’am, I am going to arrest you”.  I was stunned and could not believe the words I was hearing. ” Are you serious officer?” , I tried to plead with him. I told him that my daughter and dog were in the car, we were coming back from a mid-week tutoring session and that I lived next door to the DMV on Roswell rd. I promised to walk to the DMV the next morning and get the license renewed. He wanted none of that. I told him that my husband was out of state on work and would not be returning back before Thursday evening. The officer was insistent and said, “you need to call your friends or neighbors to come and pick up your daughter and dog”. My daughter had school early next morning and dog needs to fed in the morning and walked. I was dazed at the proceedings. I called my friend and asked her to come and pick up my daughter and dog. The officer asked me to wait in my car and explain the situation to my daughter.

I kept up my futile attempts of pleading with the officer. I implored that my daughter would be alone with my dog and who will take care of her. The officer callously replied, “Ma’am, she is 15 years old and can take care of herself”. At this time, I realized that appealing to compassion was not making a dent. It would only anger me realizing that the actions occurring in front of me were devoid of rationale and compassion.

I sat in my car and explained to daughter that her mother was getting arrested. I called my husband to  break the news to him as well. While waiting, the officer was getting impatient and asked me to call my ride again. Thankfully, my friend arrived on the scene.

I asked the officer whether I could get my jacket from the car. He asked my friend to get the jacket to him. When he got the jacket, he proceeded to shake the jacket and extracted the keys from the pocket and handed it back to my friend. Then instead of giving the jacket to me, he handed it over to his deputy. I asked him whether I could have my jacket. However that request fell on deaf ears. I asked him again, “Officer, I am feeling cold, can I please have my jacket?”. The officer asked in a toned draped in condescension, “You sure you don’t have any sharp objects that could hurt me or cause me pain?”. Aghast at the sarcasm from a member of the group supposed to protect me, I asked incredulously, “like what?”.  The officer responded, “any sharp objects that could cause me pain?”. I was speechless. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me that he had to check it for sharp objects that could hurt me. How could a mom be carrying knives in jacket anticipating an arrest at 11pm on a week day was puzzling to me.

The officer took me back to the car and proceeded to hand-cuff me, a 47 year old mother with a golden retriever in her car. When I protested saying, “you can’t be serious and hand-cuff me”, the deputy replied, “we are doing our job, and if we don’t we won’t have a job”. What kind of job is it that necessitates hand-cuffing a 47 year old mother with her child and dog around when she poses no risk to anyone or anything? He asked whether the cuffs were ok and the moment I said yes, he proceeded to make them tighter, intentionally. I screamed saying that it was not ok and hurting me. The Officer nonchalantly retorted, “Ma’am, the cuffs were meant to be un-comfortable”. I was just aghast at this blatant and unwarranted meanness. When I said that I was not a criminal and I was walking with them to the car and questioned the need for the cuffs, the deputy replied, “Ma’am, you could run away”. I was again stunned. I enquired, ” Officer, look at me. do you really think I can out run both of you?” To which they deigned no reply

The officer and his deputy both observed and made comments about my “Westminster” sticker on the back of the car. The deputy, in an apparently casual chit-chat, mentioned that his buddy went to Westminster and that he was there just a few days ago playing hoops. The main officer smugly asked me how I drove to Westminster on a daily basis. I know not what the motive behind the reference to Westminster was, but it seemed odd.

Caged in the back seat of the trooper vehicle, I was screaming at every bump and turn on the way to the police precinct. During my pleadings, I implored to the officer that we had full and busy lives between school and activities and that I had honestly never realized the expiration of driver’s license. The officer had retorted, ” Ma’am, we do 12 hour shifts and still do our chores”. I didn’t realize that the ordeal was barely getting started. In one final push, I literally begged saying please let me go home. The officer made a snide remark “Ma’am, I would like to go to home to my beautiful lady rather than be here”.

At the precinct, the officer opened my cuffs and started rummaging through my wallet. When I asked him what he was looking for, his reply was “contraband”. At the counter, a lady assigned to my case, took charge of me and the parade started requiring infinite patience on my part. I reached the precinct at 11:30pm and I did not get my call till 12:18, as she was doing paper work. She promptly asked whether I was a US citizen and whether I had a driver’s license, to which I replied in affirmative.

I was told to get $2500 in cash or arrange the money through a bail bondsman. On specifically confirming that cash would be accepted, I told my friend to arrange the cash. After a few hours of desperate search and visits to over 5 ATM machines and using cash advance on credit card, my friend was able to procure the money and come to the jail at 1:58 am. However on reaching the precinct, he was informed by the lady that we would have to wait till 10am next morning if we wanted to deposit our own cash. And that a bail bondsman would be the fastest way to get out. In fact, the lady kept prompting and promoting the bail bondsman throughout my stay at the precinct. I left the precinct at around 3:45 am after the horrendous odyssey of around 5 hours.

So after getting all that cash in vain, my friend has to call a bail bondsman to come and bail me out at a charge of $375 and ton of paperwork.

In the meantime, I was kept inside a cell with no opportunity to relieve myself; I had no intention of using the open toilet in the cell.

Doing preliminary search online shows that statistically in case of first offense of expired driver’s license, only a warning and citation is issued and no arrest. I understand that jail and arrest is plausible however not a likely scenario.

What I fail to understand is how a mother of 15 year old child driving her back from tutoring, not had any alcohol, not causing any property damage could be such a danger to the society to be treated in such a mean and humiliating way, causing colossal waste of time and productivity to two families. Oh and did I mention I had my golden retriever in the car too?

I was thankful that I had friends to bail me out and even procure the cash. What would have happened to my daughter and dog?

My daughter, friends and family were subjected to emotional harassment, humongous waste of time, impacting her school and precious sophomore year exam schedule.

The next day when I went to the DMV to get the license, I was told that they had never heard anyone get arrested for expired driver’s license.

If statistically this is a rare phenomenon, what kind of discretion was used that could have prompted the officer to treat me in this manner, if any? This is the group of our society that’s supposed to protect us. His expression, words and demeanor smacked of nothing but condescension and schadenfreude. I was so incredulous that I thought I was in a dream and as such do not even remember his face.

Thanks for reading and listening

Shalini.

(Editor’s Note: this post was revised and updated on 3/1/2017. The earlier story gave only the allegations by Shalini. The revised post also notes charges filed by the local Georgia police).

(Additional Note by the Editor: We have again revised this post on 3/1/2017, added new details after getting an interview with Ms. Shalini Gupta, and changed the headline for the second time. We realize the importance of putting out the truth. That’s what really matters)

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Gorbochev divided and demilished USSR

    Now the Russian agent here MR. Trump. Is dividing and demoshing USA

    China is the next Super Power.Thanjs to Trump

  2. How can someone even believe the rumors around her. Why would an Indian drive around with a revoked license?
    The cops here are very very biased.
    Once an American hit my car and it was very clear that it was her fault. The cop simply came and did’nt even file a report and asked us to deal with the insurance. They decided no fault – that was ridiculous. I was’nt even driving.
    In another instance my husbands colleague was in an accident and he called the cops. The dirty cop made him drive and charged him on DUI. Later they erased the whole recorded CD. This is how insane the racism is here. What sort of a dirty business is that? Arresting someone who called for help. This cop had no right to ask him to drive the vehicle. Cunning fox.
    Because of one dirty person like him, the whole department is under a bad name, this definitely has a bad effect on cops who give their life in line of duty. Such dirty cops should be kept out of the department and this should be done by none other than the good people of the department – not erase the CD proof.

  3. The cop who arrested her definitely know that he cannot jail her for an expired license. He could simply have entered it as no license to be on the safe side.
    This case needs full investigation and this cop needs to be suspended. There are so many incidents which do not come into lime light.
    She really needs to sue the police department.

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