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If A Judge Told You To Jump Off A Bridge, Would You Do It?

, , , , , , | Legal | January 20, 2022

My dad worked as a cook on freight ships for several years when he was young, in the mid-1960s. He saw a lot of the world and had some interesting adventures in far-off places, like becoming involved in building the city of Brasilia and getting stuck in the Suez Canal because the Six-Day War broke out around him. His most perilous adventure, as he calls it, was, however, in our own home country of the Netherlands.

The ship he was working on had just docked in a Dutch port that evening, and dad decided to go look for a bar and have a beer or two. For whatever reason, he was alone that night. At the first bar he found, he looked in through the window to determine if it was any fun. Suddenly, one of the locals spotted him, jumped up, and started shouting.

Random Local: “That’s him! That’s the scooter thief!”

Dad had no clue whatsoever what this guy was talking about. He had never stolen a scooter, and he had never seen this guy before in his life. This was not his hometown; he was from the other side of the country. But this random guy was apparently completely convinced my dad was guilty, because he and three of his friends burst out of the bar, yelling that they were going to teach my dad a lesson. An important fact here: my dad was: A) alone, and B) sixteen years old, while his four attackers were all adults.

There was absolutely no reasoning with these guys, so Dad did the sensible thing and started hightailing it back to the ship. His four would-be attackers were apparently so h***-bent on violence that they chased after him, and a few streets over, they managed to corner him on a bridge over a canal.

You know how Sun Tzu stressed the importance of knowing your enemy? A prime example here: the four knuckleheads from the bar thought they had cornered a local scooter thief, but instead, they had encountered a former student of both boxing and full-contact karate (a precursor to modern Mixed Martial Arts), and one who’d been in enough scrapes to know how to translate those skills to an actual fight. Dad would have preferred to run and avoid the fight, but if these guys wouldn’t let him go, then so be it; he was not letting them kick his a** for something he didn’t do.

The night ends with the four brawl-happy bar patrons in hospital… and Dad in a cell at the local police station. Apparently, the cops, attracted by the fisticuffs, decided the only person still standing must be the guilty party and hauled him off on assault charges. The risk of getting into a fight somewhere where nobody knows you is that the police are more likely to pick the locals’ side. Dad figured he’d explain to the judge that it was self-defense, and then surely he’d be let go… right? Well, that turned out not to be as easy as he hoped, because after the explanation had been given, the judge delivered this gem of an idea on how Dad could have avoided the fight.

Judge: “You were on a bridge. Why didn’t you just jump off into the water?”

Yes, this judge actually thought THAT was a good idea. My dad never told me how high that bridge was, but even if it was low enough, jumping into unknown water, at night, with no idea how to get out again? Not to mention the first thing that popped into my dad’s head and out of his mouth:

Dad: “In the middle of winter? There was ice floating in it!”

Apparently, the judge agreed that hypothermia was a real danger, but he still seemed rather reluctant to let Dad off the hook. But acquitted he was, and he stayed on board the ship for the rest of their stay in port, which I think is understandable.

I’ve heard my dad tell that story several times. Every time, people are baffled by that judge’s reasoning. Seriously, who thinks throwing yourself off a bridge is a good way to avoid a fight?

The Cop Car Needs An Ambulance And The Lieutenant Needs To Chill

, , , , , , , | Legal | November 19, 2021

I used to volunteer with my township’s all-volunteer first aid squad. For overnight calls from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, we responded by pager from our homes. I had a quick five-minute drive to the squad building where I picked up an ambulance and a partner before heading to a call for help.

One morning at 3:00 am, my pager sounded with a call for CPR in progress. I drove quickly (but safely) to the squad building and then headed by ambulance with my partner to the home of the patient. There was an extra sense of urgency due to the nature of the call, but I drove safely and legally.

Upon arrival at the house, I noticed a police car parked on the street in front of the house; it was standard practice in the town for police to respond to every first aid call. My intention was to pull in front of the police car and park along the curb. I slowed and started the maneuver. All of a sudden, I heard a loud crunch and scraping and felt the ambulance rock. I had hit the police car!

I pulled up and parked. There was nothing to do about the accident right then. We had a patient to attend to. As we entered the house with our equipment, however, the police informed us that the patient had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order so CPR had never actually been started. We had to wrap up some paperwork issues and were soon ready to leave. It was then that I approached the officer.

Me: “Hey, [Officer], I hate to have to tell you this. I hit your police car. I’m so sorry. It’s pretty bad.”

The officer and I went out to look. I had heavily damaged the front driver’s side of the vehicle. The tire was pointed perpendicular to the car and the fender was completely smashed in. The ambulance had a gouge down the back half of the passenger side. The scene was a mess.

Officer: “All right, accidents happen. I’ll call my lieutenant and we’ll make an accident report.”

Me: “I can’t believe I did this. I’m so very sorry. I’ve been a member of [Squad] for thirteen years. I’ve been driving for twenty-eight years and I’ve never been in an accident where I was at fault.”

The lieutenant on duty arrived and I explained what happened as best I could. To this day, I still don’t really know how I did it. Obviously, I was too close. But it didn’t seem that way to me as I was pulling in. It shook my confidence in driving. I was very embarrassed.

I was too shaken up to go to work that day, so I took the day off. Somewhere around mid-morning, my doorbell rang. It was the lieutenant.

Lieutenant: “Hi, [My Name]. I had to issue this ticket to you for careless driving. I’m required to do so for insurance purposes.”

Me: “No, you’re not. I’m a licensed insurance agent. I deal with claims all the time. There isn’t an insurance company in the state that requires a ticket to be issued in order to pay on a claim.”

Lieutenant: “Well, it’s been written. Here you go.”

I was angry. I knew the ticket involved points on my license and would cause my insurance premium to rise. I knew the lieutenant only by sight, as he didn’t answer first aid calls. He certainly didn’t know me, but he must have looked up my driving record and seen that I didn’t have any at-fault accidents and not even as much as a parking ticket in my life.

A few days later, at the scene of another first aid call, the responding sergeant approached me.

Sergeant: “Hey, [My Name], I heard about what happened. Did [Lieutenant] actually issue you a ticket for careless driving?”

Me: “Yes, he did.”

Sergeant: “That’s bulls***. The whole department is talking about it and we all agree. Do you have a court date?”

Me: “Yes, it’s scheduled for [date and time].”

Sergeant: “Great, I’m on duty that date. Here, take my cell number. When you go, speak to the district attorney. I know him. Tell him I want to talk to him.”

Me: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.”

On the day of court, I arrived and got in line to speak with the DA. I explained the circumstances of the accident. I also gave him [Sergeant]’s phone number and told him that [Sergeant] wanted to speak with him.

DA: “Wait a minute. Let me get this right. You were volunteering your time in the middle of the night for the first aid squad when this happened? And [Lieutenant] still issued you a ticket?”

Me: “Yes.”

DA: “How fast were you going at the time?”

Me: “Well, I was on a residential street and I was pulling in to park along the curb. I couldn’t have been going any faster than five miles per hour.”

DA: “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I don’t even need to speak with [Sergeant]. You don’t deserve a careless driving charge on your record. I’m lowering the charge to impeding the flow of traffic. It’s a no-point ticket and the fine is only [low amount] instead of [much higher amount]. And I’m going to talk to [Police Chief]. He’ll have a chat with [Lieutenant].”

Me: “Thank you so much!”

And so it was. I plead guilty to the lower charge and paid the small fine. I was an apprehensive driver for some time after that. Since I didn’t know exactly what I had done wrong in causing the accident, I didn’t know what it was that I should be doing differently. Luckily, it’s now ten years later, and I haven’t had any at-fault mishaps.

Wow. A Rude Customer Finally Did it.

, , , , , , | Legal | October 20, 2021

My dad was a sheriff’s deputy, and part of his job was to provide security in a courtroom. This included small claim lawsuits.

He would tell me about some of the most ridiculous lawsuits he would stand by and hear while trying to maintain a straight face, such as one idiot who sued his former boss. One day, after getting chewed out by said boss, he dreamed that he’d gotten into a fistfight with him and punched himself in the mouth in his sleep, knocking out a tooth. He thought his boss should pay his dental bill. I’ll let you guess how THAT one went.

However, the most notable lawsuit was this huge, burly oaf who seemed physically incapable of speaking without shouting. He sued (the parents of) a poor, terrified sixteen-year-old girl because she’d mistakenly shortchanged him $20 in a supermarket during a long, tiring shift. The store manager, who’d been brought in as a witness, testified that the man — who unsurprisingly made a scene in front of everyone in the store berating her — was repaid immediately after the girl’s till was balanced and it was determined to have $20 extra. He then stood next to the girl, waving the bill in the air, yelling, “DON’T GO TO [GIRL]’s REGISTER! SHE’S A THIEF AND WILL RIP YOU OFF!” They ended up having to call security to put him out.

Judge: “Okay, you got your money back. Why are we here? And how does this equate to $3,000 in damages?”

Customer: “I’m here for theft and consumer fraud and breach of trust! I deserve $3,000 in punitive damages!”

The verdict? The judge ordered him to pay the court a $2,500 fine for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Meanwhile, the parents had countersued for $1,000 for mental distress caused on their daughter. The judge awarded them the maximum statutory limit of $3,000, adding that the parents should give it all to the girl.


This story is part of our Best Of October 2021 roundup!

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This Lesson Really Speeds

, , , , , , | Legal | October 18, 2021

I have submitted a few stories about my father-in-law, including this one. Some years ago, we were sitting on our back porch having a cookout and talking. My husband mentioned that I had gotten my first ever speeding ticket at the ripe ol’ age of twenty-seven. My father-in-law looked surprised.

Father-In-Law: “Really, [My Name]? You’re usually such a good driver.”

Me: “Well, they just changed the speed limit on the road from fifty-five to thirty-five last week. I forgot and they clocked me doing fifty-seven. It’s my fault for not paying attention. I am not sure how this is going to work in court since I have never had a speeding ticket before.”

Husband: “I told her she should plead not guilty.” 

Me: “But that would be a lie. I am guilty. While it wasn’t on purpose, I was still breaking the law.”

Father-In-Law: “No, I agree. Tell the truth. Don’t lie; explain it. The judge might be in a good mood and give you a reduced fine.”

Husband: “Hey, Dad, tell her about your speeding ticket in Georgia.”

[Father-In-Law] told us about how he was going down a highway some years ago in Georgia when an officer pulled him over and gave him a ticket. [Father-In-Law] said he didn’t think he was going over the speed limit but it was kind of fascinating because the officer had a radar gun. This was in the 1980s when these were kind of new in rural areas. [Father-In-Law] had never seen one, and the officer was kind of proud of it and more than happy to show it off to my father-in-law.

When they went to court, [Father-In-Law] started noticing something interesting. The first five people called up were all clocked at sixty-seven mph by that cop on the same road on the same day.  

When they called [Father-In-Law] up:

Father-In-Law: “Your honor, I mean no disrespect, but before I enter a plea, I am asserting my right to see the evidence. I want to see this officer’s proof of training on this piece of equipment, as well as the paperwork of the last time it was calibrated.”

The judge was less than pleased.

Judge: “What makes you think you can demand any of that?!”

Father-In-Law: “Since none of you have noticed, the five defendants before me were all clocked doing sixty-seven. And so was I. I am curious about the cases after me. What were they clocked at?”

The judge immediately calmed down and asked the officer to look at his ticket book. The officer flipped through his book and, with amazement, proclaimed that all the tickets that day were for sixty-seven mph.

Judge: “I never noticed.” 

The judge sat back for a moment.

Judge: “I’ve hated those newfangled things since the day I saw them. I never thought they could be trusted. I’m glad I am retiring soon. Case dismissed.”

He then told his secretary that all tickets that day were dismissed and asked her to see if someone could catch the five previous defendants before they left the building. The officer did shake [Father-In-Law]’s hand, so there were no hard feelings.

As for me, I did plead guilty. The judge said I was the first person who ever plead guilty in front of him. He told me that as long as I kept my nose clean and had no more tickets for at least a year, I was good to go. I haven’t had a speeding ticket since and don’t plan to.

Related:
This Lesson Really Blows
This Lesson Really Bites
This Lesson Really Stings, Part 3
This Lesson Really Stings, Part 2
This Lesson Really Stings

Once You Left The Room, You Had ONE JOB

, , , , | Legal | November 29, 2020

I have a colleague who was selected for jury service. He reckons the case will be interesting, as it relates to quite a high-profile incident that was in all the local papers. On his first day of the trial, he is in court most of the day, coming into work in the late afternoon for a few hours. My other colleague is full of questions, but of course, he won’t answer them because he isn’t supposed to discuss the case. Throughout the week, he falls into the same routine: court in the morning and work in the afternoon. On Thursday, the penultimate day of the trial, he comes in.

Colleague: “The verdict will be tomorrow, and then I’ll be free to discuss everything and answer all your questions.”

On Friday, our colleague arrives at work a lot earlier than anticipated.

Colleague: “Well, that was unexpected!”

It turned out that on Thursday afternoon, before dismissing the court for the day, the judge had reminded the jury that Friday would be their big day, and that until then it would be PARTICULARLY important not to discuss the case with anyone — not colleagues, not friends, not even other jurors.

One of the other jurors had been shopping in town that evening, saw the defendant, and in spite of being told not to discuss the case, decided to discuss the case with him, in full view of everyone in the shop! Word got back to the judge, who, on Friday morning, went ballistic. He declared a mistrial, held both the defendant and juror in contempt, and explained that now there would have to be a new trial with a new jury.

My colleague couldn’t believe how stupid and careless the juror had been, and was gobsmacked by how much time and effort had now gone to waste, all because the defendant and juror decided to have a chat in a shop.

The defendant was tried again six months later. The juror who’d breached protocol had charges brought against him. My colleague never got to see the new trial as he was no longer eligible for jury service.