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VOL. 36 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 12, 2012

A ‘shorts’ lesson on how not to avoid DUI charge

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After printing those letters last week, how can I not come back this week with more stuff from the record? How can I not?

The writers of those letters don’t care that I want to review books I’ve read, share the latest in haiku theory and fuel the debate on the Oxford comma. They want funny stuff that really happened. In court.

This week, I turn to my friend Peter V. McDonald, Q.C., of Hanover, Ontario, whose 1988 book Court Jesters sold enough copies to merit a third printing in 1993.

Peter writes of a case in Stettler, Alberta, where the following colloquy occurred between a prosecutor and the arresting officer:

Q. [H]ow long have you been with Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

A. Going on seven years, sir.

Q. [H]ave you had experience dealing with impaired drivers?

A. Yes, sir. Many times.

Q. [Has] eating one’s shorts ever gone on before?

A. No, I’ve never had anyone eat their underwear.

A suspected drunk driver had been observed in the back of a patrol car tearing chunks of his briefs from his body, stuffing them into his mouth and swallowing them. The defendant said he thought the cotton fabric would absorb the alcohol in his stomach and lower his blood alcohol content.

Peter writes of another briefs case, this one in St. Catharines, Ontario. There’d been an armed robbery of a convenience store. The perp had worn as a mask “an old, soiled pair of men’s underwear. The image of an armed robber peering out from the opening in a pair of putrid jockey shorts” was more than the crown’s attorney could handle.

As the solemn and dignified prosecutor tried to routinely read the facts into the record, when he reached the details of the disguise, he lost it, breaking up with laughter. Laughter being contagious, it spread through the whole courtroom, with everyone laughing the second and third time that he broke up at the same point in his reading. I wish I’d been there.

We’ll conclude this retrospective on Peter’s book with a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, where an elderly couple were litigating property rights in connection with dissolving their “common law” marriage. They were, it is said, before a judge who was almost elderly himself. Oddly enough, each litigant had pretty much the same evidence against the other.

Their relationship had been fine until a few months earlier when they had vacationed at a resort called Radium Hot Springs. The man said that he returned from a walk one afternoon and found his woman in bed with another elderly man. The woman’s testimony was that she had been out for a walk one day and came back to the cabin to find the man in bed with one of the neighborhood women.

Before issuing his ruling, the judge took a recess and invited both lawyers into chambers. “I’ve decided one thing already,” he told them “From now on I’m going to take all my holidays at Radium Hot Springs.”

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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