Saturday, April 2, 2011

All a man needs is a big wallet

Here is one of my favorite "war stories."

It comes from my time as a city attorney.  I was prosecuting a case where a guy was picked up for having an unlicensed firearm. It was actually a fake gun -- aka, a toy. But still a crime because it didn't have an orange nose.  Or something like that.

He got busted because the cop saw him in a bus stop enclosure with a purse.  He claimed he was holding the purse for his girlfriend. (This turned out to be true.)  Cop said the guy made a move to flee after he asked about the purse, so the cop took him into custody and searched the purse. Found the (fake) gun. Lawyer time.

(I talked to the cop on the phone and he was good-natured about the whole thing.  He said once he stopped a guy just for wearing a fur coat in summer time and found contraband underneath -- sometimes you go with your gut.)

Day of trial.  The PD was going to ask for a suppression hearing, on the theory that there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the stop and search.  She had a pretty good argument, obviously.  The assigning judge told me to settle the case or he'd send me to Judge Nordby -- a  super liberal judge who we all knew would grant any suppression motion (this is how justice works -- and it works strangely well.) 

The PD and I went off to the side.  I said, "Aren't you curious about whether 'man with a purse' is probable cause?"  She said, "I think I already know what the answer is."  I said, "Look, all a man needs is a big wallet."  At this point I pulled out my own giant wallet to make the point.  I waved it in her face. "Anything more than a big wallet, and the guy's probably got a gun in there."

She pretty much lost it.

We settled the case for a CWOP -- or a continuation without prosecution.  A slight victory for me, in the grand scheme of things.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments on posts older than 30 days are moderated because almost all of those comments are spam.