The Corner

The Waterboard Team

I’ve written before about the psychologically unhealthy need of every tinpot makework bureaucracy to run around pretending to be Seal Team Six. In a free society, a law-abiding citizen strolling the streets of her community has a reasonable expectation of occasionally encountering a uniformed constable, but plain-clothes, undercover “agents” from the Department of “Alcoholic Beverage Control” who want to examine her bottled water?

When a half-dozen men and a woman in street clothes closed in on University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, 20, she and two roommates panicked.

That led to Daly spending a night and an afternoon in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Her initial offense? Walking to her car with bottled water, cookie dough and ice cream just purchased from the Harris Teeter in the Barracks Road Shopping Center for a sorority benefit fundraiser.


A group of state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents clad in plainclothes approached her, suspecting the blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water to be a 12-pack of beer. Police say one of the agents jumped on the hood of her car. She says one drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee the darkened parking lot.

“They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform,” she recalled Thursday in a written account of the April 11 incident.

“I couldn’t put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were … terrified,” Daly stated.

Good. Next time you’ll know not to walk around with a blue cardboard box. If that’s not probable cause, I don’t know what is.

Prosecutors say she apologized profusely when she realized who the agents were. But that wasn’t good enough for ABC agents, who charged her with three felonies. Prosecutors withdrew those charges Thursday in Charlottesville General District Court, but Daly still can’t understand why she sat in jail.

She was facing potentially $7,500 in fines and 15 years in the slammer, but hey, what’s the big deal? As the Commonwealth’s Attorney says, “no one was hurt in the exchange” – which is always a possibility in sparkling-water stand-offs. This detail is choice:

The woman was on edge after spending the night listening to stories from dozens of sexual assault survivors at an annual “Take Back the Night” vigil on Grounds, said Daly’s defense attorney, Francis Lawrence.

Well, now she knows better. In an age of Big Government, when a strange man jumps on the hood of your car late at night and draws a gun on you, he’s almost certain, statistically speaking, to be a safety inspector from the Bureau of Compliance rather than the local rapist. So sleep easy!

(via Laura Rosen Cohen)

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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