What was the saddest sentence you have seen a judge give someone?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 04, 2020 04:02 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 04, 2020 04:02 PM

This had to have been around ’73 or ‘74. I was in traffic court to protest a parking ticket and there were quite a few cases ahead of me.

Well this one guy is being charged with having an open container of alcohol. The thing was, nobody disputed any of the facts in the case.

He had had a previous dui and was under court supervision
The cop who arrested him for the dui had been following him waiting for an opportunity to nail him again on pretty much anything that might land him in jail
During a lunch break from his job (don’t remember what it was) he went to a local park with a sandwich and two cans of beer, which he consumed (perfectly legal in California at that time)
Afterwards he shook as much liquid out of the cans as he could, crushed them, and put them in his lunch sack along with the sandwich wrapper
He tossed his “trash” (the cans were worth something like a nickel each) on the floor of the front seat of his car/truck(?)
He didn’t get a half a block away from the park before being pulled over and arrested for “open container”
In court he argued that the cans were empty and he would have tossed them in the trash, but for the nickel deposit he wanted to get back.

The judge asked him if he could guarantee that there weren’t at least some traces of alcohol left in the cans. He said no that he couldn’t say that there was absolutely zero alcohol in the cans.

The judge pronounced him guilty and sent him to jail. He was cuffed and walked out by two deputies.

Well, I got curious and after my ticket was dismissed** I went straight to the university library, where I looked up the California Vehicle Code. The law said that the definition of “open container” was a container that had held alcohol and that still contained the amount of alcohol present in one fluid ounce of beer with 5.5 percent alcohol.

There was no effing way either of those cans could have still had one-twelfth of their contents after (even the arresting officer admitted) that the guy had shaken the last few drops of beer out of them. The judge was a traffic judge and knew the vehicle code inside out, and still railroaded the poor guy into jail. The guy had already lost his job after failing to show up after lunch, and now he was looking at a criminal record.

I could only hope that he got a decent PD to represent him on appeal.

**The citing officer failed to show up, and I testified that there was no “no parking” sign in the area where I and a couple dozen other cars had parked.

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