DON'T YOU JUST hate it when the police mistake your McDonald's hash brown for a mobile phone, and charge you with making a call while driving?
Frankly, there's probably only one person in the world nodding along to that, but he can sleep a little easier tonight after successfully spending a year and "significant" legal fees contesting the charge and winning.
The Washington Post has the full story of Jason Stiber, who was pulled over by Westport police just over a year ago while munching on a McDonald's hash brown, which the officer in question claimed was a mobile phone. Rather than paying the fine, Stiber hired a lawyer to prove his innocence, spending far more than the cost of the ticket in the process.
"Distracted driving violations go on your record, and they never come off," he told the paper, explaining that it was a matter of principal. "Plus, a lot of people don't realise your insurance rates go up."
So how do you prove that the snack you were eating a year ago isn't a mobile phone? Not a question we anticipated writing when we woke up today, but an enjoyable curveball nonetheless.
Stiber's lawyer, John Thygerson, used a three-pronged approach, like a fork you might eat a delicious, piping-hot hash brown with.
First he pointed out that the lip movements the officer claimed to see was "consistent with chewing" the hash brown he had just purchased from McDonald's. Secondly, he produced phone records to show that Stiber was not on a call at the time, also noting that the vehicle had Bluetooth hands-free capabilities should he have needed to answer one.
Finally, and most damningly, Stiber made a Freedom of Information request to get records of the police officer's movements that day, and discovered he was on the 15th hour of a 16-hour shift. In other words, he might have been just sleepy enough to confuse a hash brown for a phone, as we all do at some point in our lives.
On Friday, the judge concluded that the state couldn't reach the burden of proof required to show guilt, and found Stiber not guilty. Free the hash brown one!
All's well that ends well? Well, mostly. Stiber can't quite look at a hash brown the same way again: "I definitely haven't eaten as many as I have previously, but I still go to McDonald's for other things," he said, possibly opening up an exciting McDonalds vs the state of Connecticut follow-up case.
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