from the this-spud's-for-you dept
Readers here will know that we rather enjoy when an ordinary person takes extraordinary steps to clap back against government intrusions over speech and technology. A recent example of this was a Canadian man routing around a years-long battle with his government over a vanity license plate for his last name, which happens to be Assman. One thing to note on the technology side of the equation is that as legislation seeks more and more to demonize anything to do with technology, even in some cases rightly, it causes those enforcing the laws to engage in ridiculous behavior.
For example, one man in Connecticut has only just won a legal battle that lasted over a year, and cost him far more than the $300 traffic ticket he’d been given, by convincing a court that a McDonald’s hash brown is not in fact a smart phone. This, I acknowledge, may require some explanation.
On April 11th, 2018, Stiber was pulled over by Westport Police Cpl. Shawn Wong Won, who testified that he saw Stiber moving his lips as he held an object resembling a cellphone to his face while driving. Stiber’s lawyer, John Thygerson, countered by saying those lip movements were “consistent with chewing” the hash brown his client purchased at a McDonald’s immediately before he was pulled over.
Stiber also made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to acquire records showing that Wong was on the 15th hour of a 16-hour double shift and may have had less-than-ideal judgment when he pulled Stiber over. The judge concluded that the state didn’t bring forth enough evidence to show that Stiber was, indeed, on his phone while driving.
The fact that Stiber stared down this $300 traffic ticket to the tune of two separate trials and whatever the cost of his legal representation might strike some as absurdly stupid. On the other hand, Stiber was apparently wrongly accused. What matters the cost of getting proper justice served? Especially from a hash-brown-chewing man with such high-minded morals such as the following?
In the end, this outcome took two trials and more than a year to come by, and it cost Stiber legal fees exceeding the $300 ticket and four days of missed work. But he has no regrets: “That’s why I did it, because I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through this. Other people don’t have the means to defend themselves in the same way.”
Now, this might only bring up additional questions, such as why talking on a phone and eating a hash brown are treated so differently by law, despite them requiring similar bodily motions? Eating can certainly be distracting to driving, after all. Have you ever lost that last fry down by your lap or feet while on the road? I certainly have and there is no army in the world that could keep me from finding that delicious morsel under the right conditions.
But those questions aside, it’s a win for Stiber, who spent a year in court to prove that a hash brown is not a phone.