December 12, 2011
By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy MassLive.com
Monty is a cool guy. He is a musician and raconteur, aA former rock and roller, a great drummer, and one of the sweetest guys I know. What he isn’t, is calm, cool, and collected. Not that he’s nasty, he’s just a little high-strung. That’s why the story that he told me about what happened to him last week had so much more impact than it would have if it came from a calmer kind of guy.
In Monty’s jurisdiction, it is not legal to drive using a handheld cell phone. More specifically, the law prohibits even holding any device in your hand that is capable of making a phone call even if you are not on the phone at the time. So holding an iPhone in your hands, even to make a change to the music that you’re listening to, would be considered against the law.
The funny thing is that Monty does not listen to music on an iPod as he prefers listening to CDs in the car. At home he only listens to vinyl for what he says is the “truest listening experience”. And he never, ever talks on the phone while driving his car for one very, very good reason.
Last week he had a bit of an ear infection and while he was driving he held his hand up to his ear because he felt that the warmth from his hand made his ear feel a little bit better. The next thing he knew the police were pulling him over. A quick glance at his speedometer showed that he was driving at the speed limit. He was sure that he had not burned a red light or rolled through a stop sign. He was totally perplexed.
His quickly turned from perplexed to irate when the police told him that he was being given a ticket for driving while talking on his cell phone. He told the police officer but that was impossible since he does not own a cell phone. The policeman said that he very clearly saw him holding a cell phone to his ear while driving.
Monty told him to search the car. The policeman refused saying that he didn’t have the time to do so in any case if Monty had hidden it that was his own fault. He wrote out the ticket and told Monty to explain himself to the judge.
Monty wanted to know how he was going to prove that he did not own a cell phone! Did he have to write to all the cell phone companies in North America and get them to send a letter confirming the fact that there was no account opened in his name? Did he need to bring 15 witnesses who could all say that they had never seen him talk on a cell phone? How was he going to be able to prove a negative? What would it take to convince a judge that not only was he not talking on his cell phone, but that he didn’t even own one to talk on.
I let him rant on and on for a little while, watching as he rolled himself up into quite the snit. He was convinced that he would never be able to properly explain himself in a way that a court would understand and would be saddled with a three-point ticket and a fine for something that he really didn’t do.
Actually, it’s not quite as difficult as Monty would make it seem. A judge would believe his sworn testimony that he did not own a cell phone and the testimony of his wife or a friend would likely be sufficient to have him acquitted. After all, the defendant in a penal or criminal charge does not have to prove that he was innocent. He or she just has to raise a doubt in the judge’s mind as to whether or not he or she had committed the alleged crime.
His calm, or not-so-calm, testimony and that of his wife or friend would be sufficient to raise this doubt.