There are few occurrences quite as startling as red and white police lights flashing in your rear-view mirror, especially if you are speeding, as Adrianne Kelly was while driving along MacArthur Boulevard in Northwest Washington on Memorial Day.
But even more upsetting is to end up in handcuffs and a police wagon, as Kelly did when D.C. police officers decided to arrest her.
Having been stopped for speeding on several occasions, I am aware that police have many ways of handling these situations. And I thought that taking people to be fingerprinted, booked and threatened with jail was something reserved for the most serious offenders.
But look at what we have here:
Kelly, who is a doctor, was late for work at the emergency room of the Mount Vernon Hospital in Virginia. She was doing about 35 miles an hour in a 20-mile-an-hour zone when she was zapped by radar.
Dressed in her white uniform with a stethoscope dangling from her pocket, she apologized to the policeman who had stopped her and he replied with the usual, "May I see your driver's license and registration, please?"
The car she drove had license plates from Florida, to which she was considering a return after completing a fellowship at the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center in July. Meanwhile, she was living with her parents on Palisade Lane in Northwest Washington while going to school and working.
Her car registration was in the car. But she had left her Florida driver's license in the purse she had carried with her the night before.
"Do you have a reciprocal permit for driving this car in the District?" the officer asked. Kelly did not know what he meant. She said she became so nervous that she forgot that she had her D.C. driver's license in her pocket.
"Would you please step from the car," the officer commanded. "And take your stethoscope from your pocket." When the officer put handcuffs on Kelly, who is 4 feet 11, 105 pounds, she burst into tears.
She had no idea what was going on. Then another police patrol car and a police wagon showed up. One policeman hopped in her car and drove it away. She was placed in the back seat of a patrol car and hauled away. She asked where were they taking her.
"Second District police station," came the reply.
"For what?" she asked. "Why am I in handcuffs?"
"Driving without a valid permit," came the reply.
Then it hit her. She remembered that she had a a D.C. driver's license in her pocket.
She told this to police, but it was too late. She was on her way to the Second District, and there was no turning back. She did not understand why. And no one bothered to explain.
It was a short ride, but long enough for Kelly to wonder if any of her patients had passed by to see her in handcuffs up against a police car. And long enough to give second thought to the stories she had been hearing lately about policemen harassing women.
It turns out that the wife of one of Kelly's colleagues, and who is a lawyer, had the same thing happen to her, and she was forced to spend a night in jail.
Once at the police station, Kelly was issued a citation for "failure to exhibit a permit," and asked if she wanted to contest the charge in court -- or plead "no contest," and pay the fine.
She said she wanted take the case to court, but was informed that since the courts were closed that day she might have to stay in jail overnight and that contesting the charge would involve court costs.
"How much is the fine?"
She thought out loud. "I have been handcuffed for $10?"
And that was about the size of it, because as soon as she paid them $10, the police gave her a receipt and said she was free to go.
And what about the speeding offense?
For that, she was given a warning.
Now who is going to warn the police?