Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who Needs an Attorney?

It’s the rocket docket. It's the lowest level court in this jurisdiction, so all first time cases are heard here. Today is misdemeanor day, so the courtroom is full.

Two young men are called to the front and take their place at the podium. They are not represented by an attorney.  A police officer stands beside them. The charge? Racing. Here, racing on public streets is heavily punished, depending on the specifics. Therefore, when the charge was read, I listened intently. Someone was about to get fed to the sharks.

Remember that, as with any accused, the state has the burden of proving the case. Therefore, the officers (on behalf of the state) had to prove the following:

1. The defendants were driving,

2. Within city limits, and

3. Racing each other

4. BONUS: Proof that the race was a planned event.

In order to get a conviction, the officers have to prove all of the first three. If successful, the penalty is a year in jail, over $1,000 in fines and license immediately suspended for up to two years. If the officers prove #4, both vehicles are immediately forfeited to the state.

The officers (there were two of them) easily testified to numbers 1 and 2, based on their own observations. However, neither was able to prove with any certainty that the two drivers were racing each other, and not just merely going fast. Remember, the state (acting through the officers) has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Let's pause for a second. Remember that old advice about the right to be silent? You know, "Anything you say will be used against you." Remember? Apparently, these two defendants did not.

The judge turned to the defendants and asked if there was anything they wanted to say. He reminded them that they had a right to remain silent and did not actually need to speak. At this point, every attorney waiting in the courtroom is telepathically telling the two young men to be silent.

You see, since the state has not proven all the elements of the case, there is reasonable doubt that these men were racing. Therefore, the charges should be dismissed.

Well, telepathy does not work.

Both men spoke over each other in an attempt to show the court how sorry they were. They said that they had just met at a gas station and were admiring each other's souped up car. They told the judge that they then agreed to meet a little bit down the road and race to see whose car was the fastest.

Did you catch that? Three elements were necessary to prove the case. The fourth element was icing on the cake. The officers, for whatever reason, had only proven the first two elements. Their testimony proved only that those two defendants were doing what millions of us do every day: drive our cars in the city.

Our two helpful defendants had conveniently provided the judge with proof of the remaining two elements. Through their testimony, they gave sufficient evidence to convict themselves.

They lost their licenses, spent some time in jail, received hefty fines, and lost their cars to the state.

They sure saved some money by representing themselves!


Rev. Paul said...

Impressive levels of stupidity on display.

Hamid Rashid Gondal said...

That's why it is said that silence protects the ignorant.