Fact Check

Drunk Takes Police Car

Drunk mistakenly takes a police car and parks it in his garage.

Published Dec 31, 1998


Claim:   A drunk's attempt to escape the long arm of the law goes awry when he drives off from the scene of the arrest in the wrong car.



[Collected on the Internet, 1997]

The incident happened on the New Jersey Turnpike. The guy was pulled over for drunk driving, and while the officer was questioning him, a traffic accident happened a short distance away. The officer told him to wait in the patrol car, while he went over to work the accident.

After about 15 minutes or so, the guy got behind the wheel and took off. He got home, parked the car in his garage, closed the garage door and went inside. He told his wife to tell anyone that asked, that he had been home all day, and laid down on the couch and went to sleep.

After about 2-3 hours (I wonder what took them so long), the police showed up. He told them he had been home all day. They asked to see his car, and when the opened the garage door, there was the cruiser, with the lights still flashing.

[Collected on the Internet, 2004]

A man goes to a party and has too much to drink. His friends plead with him to let them take him home. He says no — he only lives a mile away. About five blocks from party, the police pull him over
for weaving and ask him to get out of the car and walk the line. Just as he starts, the police radio blares
out a notice of a robbery taking place in a house just a block away. The police tell the party animal to stay put, they will be right back and they hop a fence and run down the street to the robbery.

The guy waits and waits and finally decides to drive home. When he gets there, he tells his wife he is going to bed, and to tell anyone who might come looking for him that he has the flu and has been in bed all day.

A few hours later the police knock on the door. They ask if Mr. Joe is there and his wife says yes. They ask to see him and she replies that he is in bed with the flu and has so all day. The police have his driver's license. They ask to see his car and she asks why. They insist on seeing his car, so she takes them to the garage. She opens the door. There sitting in the garage is the police car, with all its lights still flashing.

True story, told by the driver at his first AA meeting.


Origins:   This appealing legend has been around at

Police car

least since 1978 and is told in both Britain and the United States. In some versions, the drunk is hauled off to face the magistrate once the police cruiser is found in his garage, in others the police simply swap vehicles and are on their way.

At various times this apocryphal tale will work itself into the media as a recent news story (Paul Harvey in 1986, for example). In 1987 folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand said of it:

I have a cousin of "The Arrest" on file from the Washington Post column "Bob Levey's Washington" of April 7, 1986. Levey heard that the motorist had been pulled over by the police in Fairfax County, Va. It was said that the cruiser found in the man's garage even still had the motor running.

The police spokesman Levey consulted, however, denied any knowledge of the event, except in the form of a story he had heard going around some 18 months before. As another police authority sagely commented, "Certain stories develop, and they seem to get a life of their own."

Barbara "arrested development" Mikkelson

Sightings:   Look for this legend in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.

Last updated:   31 March 2011


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 101-103).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 109-110).

    de Vos, Gail.   Tales, Rumors and Gossip.

    Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.   ISBN 1-56308-190-3   (p. 179).

    Harvey, Paul.   For What It's Worth.

    New York: Bantam, 1991.   ISBN 0-553-07720-1   (p. 131).

    Smith, Paul.   The Book of Nasty Legends.

    London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.   ISBN 0-00-636856-5   (p. 39).

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.

    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 65-66).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 148).