Man Claims Police Confused A Hash Brown For A Phone
A man from Connecticut has gone to court to try to prove that he was charged with driving while using a hash brown.
Jason Stiber has so far spent around US$1,000 (AU$1,400) fighting a US$300 fine which was issued in April last year for allegedly driving while talking on his mobile phone after he stopped at McDonald’s on his way to work.
But Stiber says that the mobile phone in question was in fact a crispy Maccas hash brown, which he was not in fact having a conversation into but was chowing down on.
In August, a magistrate found against Stiber and ordered him to pay the fine. But he requested a retrial, and second time around engaged a lawyer, John Thygerson, to represent him. And now the case has gone to the Norwalk Superior Court and made headlines.
“I have never in my 21 years as a criminal defence lawyer — and that’s all I do — I have never seen such a minor case engender such disproportionate attention,” Thygerson told The Washington Post. “It’s a big deal to my client, but small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.”
But then, it’s a case which may determine whether or not we citizens are truly free to eat hash browns without fear.
So let’s examine this case under the forensic microscope.
At around 6 a.m. on April 11, 2018, Westport Police Department Cpl. Shawn Wong Won pulled Stiber over. The officer told the court Friday that he saw Stiber talking on a lighted black mobile phone held up to his face, with his mouth moving.
“It was clearly visible,” Won testified, according to The Hour. “He was looking straight ahead, completely oblivious to the fact that I was there.”
But Stiber says the mouth movement must have been him chewing on the hash brown – which he had purchased just three minutes earlier along with a caramel frappe. And he has the receipts to prove it.
The defence also insists it has phone records to prove he wasn’t on a call at the time of the alleged infraction. His car also has a hands-free Bluetooth link which Thygerson says renders the holding of a phone pointless.
While no-one in their right mind would eat a hash brown hands-free.
It seems like an absurd misunderstanding, but this was right around the Connecticut dawn, when a golden hash-brown in a white wrapper may just possibly resemble a black phone.
"I don't blame the cop for misinterpreting what he thought he saw, but the fact of the matter is there was no cellphone use and we have cellphone records to establish that fact," defense attorney John Thygerson told WABC.
There’s also no evidence of Stiber using his phone to compose a wicked tweet with a hashbrown hashtag.
At this stage, the judge hasn’t handed down a verdict, but has promised to by April 5.
Meanwhile, Stiber might consider switching to chips. At least that way he can chat via Wi-fry.
It's worth noting that here in Australia, eating behind the wheel could get you a similar-sized fine.
And whether you’re on Team Hash Brown or Team Black Phone, just a reminder: