A Bit of Humor from the Bench (“Good” vs. “Bad” Technicalities in the Law)

Written by Gregory Monte.

When it comes to judges, I have mixed feelings.  You can pick up on this if you note that I have two categories in my blog post archives related to this issue:

  1. Judges Rule!
  2. Judges Suck!

Well, today’s post fits into an entirely new category.  I think I might call it:

Judges are Funny Sometimes!

I am currently in the process of producing a book on how to beat a speeding ticket. This will compliment my last book which described how to beat a stop sign ticket (Pennsylvania Stop Sign Ticket Defense).  A big part of the preparation for this book involves reading every single court case I can find related to speeding tickets.


The Case That Made Me Laugh

I recently came across a case that was decided in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in Cumberland County back in April of 1986 – Commonwealth v. Dashiell.  The particular type of speeding involved here was racing on highways (Title 75, Section 3367).

Now, obviously, racing is no laughing matter, but the judge’s reaction to Mr. Dashiell’s attempt to beat his ticket is hilarious.  After the State Trooper related the details of what he observed at 2:00 AM on the morning of July 31, 1985 on Interstate 81, the judge had the following to say:

Having just observed the classic drag race, which would be recognizable as such by a visitor from Mars, the fun and games commence on the issue of whether one of the operators, David Albert Dashiell, was properly convicted for the offense he obviously committed.”

Maybe it is just my sense of humor, but I laughed out loud when I read this comment.


“Good” Technicalities vs. “Bad” Ones

One of my slogans is “using the law to beat the law.”  What I mean is that you will only win in traffic court if you can find a technicality in the law that a judge has no choice but to accept. 

Mr. Dashiell thought that he had found just such a “good” technicality to use in his defense.  Even though it was obvious that he had been racing on Route 81, he argued that:

“… the citation issued to him on July 31, 1985, was defective in that it failed to specify the speed at which he was going during this drag race and the applicable speed limit on the interstate highway.”

Before you dismiss this defense out of hand, there actually is a section in the Pennsylvania speeding statute which appears to require this – Title 75, Section 3366:

“In every charge of violation of a speed provision in this subchapter, except for a violation of section 3361 (relating to driving vehicle at safe speed), the citation or complaint shall specify the speed at which the defendant is alleged to have driven and the applicable speed limit.”

The judge found Mr. Dashiell guilty because racing at any speed is prohibited:

The speed at which somebody races on a highway is not an element of the prohibition against racing in any form; therefore, it is not necessary to plead the speed limit or prove how fast the parties were racing on a highway in order to satisfy all the elements of an offense under section 3367(b).”

Unlike Mr. Dashiell, my son, found a “good” technicality which enabled him to beat his stop sign ticket.  He discovered that the sign was never properly authorized as required by law and so was not enforceable.  If you want to find out more about this “good” technicality, check out my free 23-page eBook How My Son Beat an Unfair Stop Sign Ticket in Pennsylvania.

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