Wake me up, I am having a nightmare. I am back in law school, staring at the hypothetical on my crim law exam. I thought I understood criminal law. The statute sets forth the elements of the crime, the prosecutor has to prove up each one for the defendant to be found guilty. DUI: Element one – Defendant is under the influence. Check. Element two – Defendant is driving . . . a La-Z-Boy?? My mind races . . . does the Minnesota statute say “driving a motor vehicle”? Is anything outfitted with a motor a “motor vehicle”? But wait, I’m not dreaming, just reading the morning news.
October was a good month for Minnesota attorneys to revisit the classic law school hypothetical. Surely I was not the only one thinking about the logical extensions of the La-Z-Boy DUI. I’m sure I was not alone in thinking through the legal ramifications of whether bong water is a controlled substance. Made me wonder if my dear departed mother could have been a candidate for contributing to the delinquency of a minor had she not carefully dipped the maraschino cherry from her mixed drink into her water glass before handing it over to me.
No, by training or by nature, lawyers think differently. We look for the rules, the exceptions. (Some would say the loopholes but that is so negative, isn’t it?) Only in a group of lawyers do I hear on a consistent basis, “But what if…” (Okay, maybe in a group of lawyers or a group of teenagers; both are relentless advocates for the exceptions over the rule. Teens are really just lawyers-in-training, eh?)
I will admit that one of my favorite weekly reads is the police blotter. Over the years, I’ve discovered some gems. Imagine handling the case of the woman stuck to a toilet at a mall after a prankster put cement compound on the seat. Or the case of a University of Iowa mascot, dressed as Herky the Hawk, who was injured when a band member bopped her with a stuffed banana. What about handling the defense of the man who attacked his fellow bus passengers with a folder from his anger management class? Or the defense of the man who stumbled at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and shattered three Qing dynasty vases? Charmingly, as he lay dazed on the floor amongst the shards, he pointed to his shoelace and said, “There it is; that’s the culprit.” What lawyer among us does not think, “Could I make that case?”
Call it black humor but, like I said at the outset, these stories just make me reminisce about the law school days of bizarre cases and ludicrous hypotheticals. No doubt, the La-Z-Boy DUI made some law professor’s day. Not only that but bids on E-Bay are already up to $37,100.