March 26, 2012
By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy OregonLive.com
In my line of work, you rarely get the whole story. As a lawyer who, among other things, specializes in automobile-related law, I hear all kinds of stories from many people who are anxious to share their car and driving stories with me. Some come in as clients, some stop me on the street, and some just want my opinion as to what they should do.
But in the many years that I’ve been doing this, the following story pretty much takes the cake. A man — we’ll call him Neil — made an appointment to come and see me. He explained over the phone that he wanted to file a complaint against the police and that he needed to be defended on several automobile related charges.
Neil arrived on time, was well-dressed, well-spoken and clearly had bruises on his face. He started off by pointing to his face and saying “Look what the police did to me!”
This certainly was a unique start to a consultation and his story was unique as well. He decided to start from the end and work his way backwards. He said that he had been charged with disobeying a police officer, assaulting a police officer, causing an accident, and driving while under the influence of alcohol, all while not being in possession of a valid driver’s licence.
He said that he wanted to file a complaint against the police for not treating him fairly and for beating him up. Naturally, I asked for the details as to what had happened on that day. His answer was short and evasive. He said that he had forgotten to renew his driver’s licence and while he was driving his car slipped on a patch of ice and he hit another car. The police arrived and yelled at him for not paying his driver’s licence on time and then beat him up.
I then pointed out to him that the court process contained several steps. The first would be entering his plea of ‘Not Guilty’ and receiving communication of the entire prosecutions filed against him. This would contain witness reports, police reports, and a detailed explanation of the charges against him. Criminal law in Canada requires that the defendant be provided with the entire case against him so as to be able to prepare a full and complete defence. By the same token, the defence lawyer will then learn the other half of the story.
I asked him if there was anything else that he would like to add before I decided whether or not I would take him on as a client. His story, as he originally gave it to me, was not terribly convincing.
It turns out the real story made more sense, but did not provide for much of a defence. He said that his driver’s licence had been revoked because of a previous ‘driving under the influence’ charge. Although he is sure that he was not drunk when he was driving on that day, he did admit to having consumed eight or nine beers within the two hours before he got behind the wheel of his car.
While it was true that he did get into an accident, he had neglected to mention that the car that he drove into was a police car! He rear-ended the cruiser with enough force to set off the air bags in his car. Since he was not wearing a seatbelt, his face took the brunt of the damage caused by the air bags when they exploded. This explained the marks on his face.
He did say that the police were very angry with him and were not overly polite when they arrested him. They did not, however, beat him up. He still wanted to file a complaint because he thought that the police car stopped suddenly and it was the officer’s fault for causing the accident. In addition he believes that the police should have reacted more calmly to being rear-ended by him and not to have yelled at him at all. Now I had the complete story, or so he claimed.
I declined the case. Wouldn’t you?