Next Time You Get a Ticket
A friend of mine, the Scarlet Pimpernel of Low Key Anti-Tyranny, lives in another state. He has a very low tolerance for the petty blue light tyranny practised on us daily—police stopping you for a tail light out (when the law says you only need two and you have three burning), road blocks, drivers license hassles, social security numbers demanded everywhere (neither he nor his children have any).
So not long ago his wife was stopped at a “routine roadblock” (as if violating your ancient rights of freedom to travel and freedom from unreasonable search could ever be “routine.”) She didn’t have her driver’s license with her at the time, so she gave him her name. The state trooper ran her name through the computer, and it came back “license revoked.” (She lives in one state but has a license in another. She didn’t know it had been revoked for not paying a parking ticket.) He gave her a ticket.
She went into municipal court with her husband. The Scarlet Pimpernel said to the judge, “I’ll be defending my wife.” The judge appeared terminally confused, but grunted approval.
The prosecutor put the trooper on the witness stand, and he testified that he had run the wife’s name through the computer, and it had come back that her license had been revoked.
The Scarlet Pimpernel stood up to cross examine. “Now, how did you know the drivers license had been revoked?”
“I ran it through the computer, and it came back invalid.”
“Precisely who told you that?
“Well, the computer.”
“If that person is not in the courtroom, your honour,” the Scarlet Pimpernel then humbly said to the judge, “that’s hearsay, and inadmissible.”
Whereupon a deep silence fell over the courtroom. For an embarrassingly long time. The judge adjourned, and returned 15 minutes later and threw down a stack of law books.
“I’m dismissing the charge of driving with a revoked license,” he said, “but finding you guilty of driving without a license in your pocket. Fine is ten dollars, and court costs five hundred dollars.”
The Scarlet Pimpernel, nothing downcast, immediately filled out a notice of appeal on scrap paper. (He had nothing else, and muttered loudly, loud enough for the court to hear, that this was a lot of [expletive deleted, but, under the circumstances, not too extreme.])
His wife never paid anything, and they haven’t heard from the court since then, over five years ago.
The judge was subsequently chosen “judge of the year” by his fellow “judges.”
Why did the court and the prosecutor lock up? Because they knew the Scarlet Pimpernel was dead right. The testimony they use every day to convict thousands of victims—the officer testifying that he called in something and got such and such an answer from the computer—is incompetent hearsay. First of all, the only person who could make such testimony is the custodian of records from the state where the wife was licensed. Second, the Scarlet Pimpernel would have to be able to cross-examine that custodian. Third, he would have to verify that testimony with official record copies. Fourth, if computer evidence were allowable at all, the testimony could only come from a person who had written the software and could verify the accuracy of it, and even then I don’t think it would fly without an official custodian of records and somebody to testify about inputting the data. Fifth, the officer’s testimony is hearsay because he is not the custodian of the records and has no knowledge of them, and has no official records before him.
In other words, every single day the petty blue light tyranny is convicting and milking thousands of victims with incompetent hearsay testimony. How do they get away with it? They’ve dumbed down their victims for years with public schooling and convinced them the law belongs only to the voodoo priests of the legal profession.
So go ahead—have a little fun. Try this one back on them the next time they try one on you.
Originally published April 2001