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“Possession of Drug Paraphernalia!”

An errant and seriously misdirected letter from the City of Conroe brings grave concern to this law abiding Texan.
Me, a writer, yours truly.......

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
"Possession of drug paraphernalia" was the subject of an official letter I received recently from the City of Conroe Municipal Court. It was no prank! The letter was on city letterhead paper, signed, sealed and delivered in a city envelope. It arrived via our US Postal letter carrier about 11 AM, June 8, 2005, over a month after a citation (ticket) had been written. It came to my “snail mail” street box and was addressed to, that’s right, yours truly here. I opened it and did a quick scan and an even quicker double take.

What a startling, super shocker that letter was! Any law-abiding citizen can clearly understand my grave concern here. The letter to me explained that if I didn't quickly comply with its demands, my arrest was eminent. Delay could result in additional fines and exorbitant fees. Even jail. --"JAIL???"---

Whew! Let me sit down a minute! My already high blood pressure just shot completely off the "extremely hypertensive" scale. I suddenly felt nauseated. Very sick! My already previously weakened heart condition was having a hard time pulling this one off. I was only getting weaker by the minute with a big knot in the pit of my stomach. I was seriously sick!

Sitting quietly for a while and drinking some warm chicken broth helped me regained some of my stability and composure..... Jail??? I love my freedom!

Until this very day, after strongly demanding an alarming situation be corrected by those who created it and waiting for over a year, I have yet to receive any kind of apology, verbal or written, whispered or mumbled, from our public servants down at city hall.

The letter bluntly directed my already highly alerted attention to City of Conroe Police Department Citation No. 284438. Citation date, May 6, 2005. Fine due $252... 252 dollars?? Original citation payment due date of May 26, 2005, for the offense of “POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA.” Supposedly I had been given a ticket for this crime.

My first inclination was, as I pondered this matter for a while, to just let it slide, play itself out and see if I would actually be subjected to an illegal arrest. But then hours later, somewhat better judgment began to kick in and my thinking was that this matter could possibly balloon far out of hand. It could get into the media in a very unwanted and negative way. As often happens, the whole situation might continue severely distorted, causing my family and me very negative results, adverse and unwanted publicity. I sure didn’t want that!

So, at 8:35 AM, the next day June 9th, sleepless and highly concerned, I made a phone call to our "Mr. Mayor", Tommy Metcalf’s office. He wasn't in at the time (too early I suppose) so I left a message with "Ms. Peggy". To my total and most pleasant surprise, Mayor Metcalf personally returned my call a couple of hours later. While explaining the letter to him, I said, "Mr. Mayor, I highly appreciate your war on illegal drugs and all the efforts you and the police department are making in our neighborhoods. I strongly support the program and the positive results being attained. Your drug policy is a model to other cities. I truly believe all Conroe citizens can see an improvement citywide in the local drug problem. I eagerly applaud you, Mr. Mayor. But honestly, honestly sir, those efforts definitely DO NOT involve me."

After talking a while, Mr. Mayor, in his polite, quite and understanding way, suggested that I call Ms. Rhonda Scarborough, Court Clerk, Conroe Municipal Court and explain the matter to her. Apparently a serious mistake had been made!!! (Apparently?? No question about it!)

Immediately upon hanging up the phone, I called for Ms. Scarborough. She wasn't in at the moment either (out to coffee, I suppose) and another lady answered the phone. I didn't get that person's name, but upon giving her all the information from the letter, she advised me, "Come in immediately, at 2 PM today and see City Judge James Cates. If you don't, a warrant will be issued and you will be arrested.." Say what? ARRESTED?

Not knowing that I had just talked to Mr. Mayor Metcalf, she did nothing to relieve my stress. Matter-of-fact, she succeeded in re-elevating it considerably!

WHOA! Wait just a minute! Hold up here! ARRESTED! Please, just don't let that happen! I explained to her that I had no reason to see Judge Cates. That a serious mistake had been made and I wanted it to be straightened out, forthwith, right now, ASAP. I asked her to just have Ms. Scarborough call me. Soon!

Within the hour, Ms. Scarborough returned my call and by then she had already researched the matter and reached a most favorable conclusion to my pressing problem.

It seems that an assistant, or another transcriber-clerk, or whoever does these things, (probably the one I had just talked to a short time earlier) had mistakenly pulled MY name from a city water service list. There, the real defendant's name, (the guy that had actually gotten the ticket) had been right next to, above or below, my name. The city utility service billing address list is used, I think, or maybe some other such city service list.

Any way, only our last names were the same. First names, addresses and all other information were incorrectly transcribed and mailed to me. MY name and address had been mistakenly used. A big mix-up! Yep! A careless and serious (to me at least) mistake made by our sometimes described as under staffed, under paid, over worked humble public servants, but never over qualified.

What a relief! Ms. Scarborough had found the source of this mistake. For once in my life, I had nothing more to prove to anyone; no lawyers; no witness testimony; no deposition; I was totally ecstatic! I wasn't going to have to see Judge Cates or go to jail after all. I could put my wallet back in my pocket and rest at ease.

How often do these sort of mistakes occur? Does anyone have an idea? I know innocent mistakes can occur. Never the less, when they do, it causes unneeded concern, alarming of citizens and high blood pressure. Not to mention wasting of valuable city payroll time, painful effort and having to later straighten it all out. Does anyone else know of other cases like mine? How many and how often?

Now quickly, I have to tell you this. I am a former state law enforcement officer, living in happy, quiet and cool retirement. I have NO need, past, present or future, for illegal anything. Drug paraphernalia, or whatever else might be considered illegal, immoral, fattening or unconstitutional, is totally off limits to this old docilely cat. Just give me some cornbread, buttermilk and maybe a bowl of ‘good old’ butter beans. I’ll be totally happy.

All the drugs I ever see these days are from the right source; prescription. In retirement I love the quiet, simple life. And you know, I really don't cope too well with an over abundance of excitement. Or, unwarranted accusations from someone with the possibility of being locked up for "POSSESSION” of anything. Especially, when today I would recognize very, very little of those illegal things if ever I chanced to gaze upon ’em.
© N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" September 1, 2007 Column
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