When confronted with gaps in their evidence, prosecutors will stammer and bluster about things that my client did that they found offensive – as though that actually made them guilty, somehow.
A juvenile client of mine was accused of DUI. However, no breath or blood test ever put his blood alcohol level at or over the .08 limit in California. Now, it is illegal for a minor to have any alcohol in his or her system but the standard set by law for a DUI charge is .08 BAC regardless of age. When I confronted the DA with this fact and asked him for a reduced charge, his first instinct was to mention that my client had three other minors in the car with him and how “offensive” he found that and how my client needed to be “taught a lesson.”
As though any of those things made him guilty.
I used to think that this was a tactic, a dirty trick that DAs used when backed into a corner. But today, I realized that this may be a sign of a deep-rooted bias. I have no idea whether their office culture promotes this bias or whether this mindset predisposes one to a career in criminal prosecution. It certainly explains why the laws we pass to protect ourselves from people we fear are being used against people who merely piss us off.
I’ll give you another example:
A woman was accused of committing an “assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.” The “assault” took place in the jail infirmary. Our client is a woman who had an incurable STD. She spit in a nurse’s face and declared to the entire infirmary that she hoped that the nurse would die.
This behavior is most certainly rude and totally gross. However, to imply that such behavior can produce “great bodily injury” is just not true. Medical science lacks any sense of civic duty and there has never been a single documented case of transmission of her STD via saliva.
But the nurse was afraid, and The People are offended on her behalf. If modern medicine can’t be more sensitive to the feelings of crime victims, then we’ll just march boldly backwards to the days when Ryan White’s classmates thought that they would get AIDS from sharing his toilet seat.
There’s precedent for this sort of thinking. The state of North Carolina recently declared that no climatologists on the state payroll would use models that predict exponential increases in ocean temperature by the end of the century; only linear models will be used. Screw it if these models happen to be scientifically correct.
This is a democracy, damnit! Nobody, neither legislative expert nor scientist gets to write laws without the consent of those that are offended by facts!
Facts are sometimes difficult to understand, so let’s make it easy: If it’s offensive, just make it illegal.