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EDITORIAL: Justice calling … please hold

And now, we bring you Chapter #465 in the treatise “Why you might not want to be a lawyer.”

Everyone has probably heard of the amount of time that medieval philosopher spent on answering the arcane question of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

The answer, of course, hinges on the manifest existence of angels — sort of. If angels don’t exist, a pinhead could hold many millions of them.

Segue to the decision of B.C. Provincial Justice Brent Adair in the case of Patrick Henry Grzelak and the absolutely, positively dead iPhone that Grzelak wasn’t holding.

(Let’s state clearly here that the policy of this newspaper was, is and will continue to be that cellphone use by drivers is a hazard to the public. But back to Grzelak.)

Mr. Grzelak was charged with the offence that he “did hold or use an electronic device while driving…”

The judge found that there was complete agreement that, “The defendant was alone in his black Mercedes, coming from work after a long day. He was driving north bound on 152 Street in Surrey B,C. His Apple iPhone was in the centre cubby hole in the dashboard, at the front end of the console. The wire for his ear buds were plugged into the phone. He had the two ear buds in his ears, one on each side. The cellphone battery was dead. The screen was not illuminated, no music, no conversation or anything else was coming through the earbuds.”

So, strike one for the charge. You can’t “use” something that clearly can’t be “used.”

But what about holding the phone, which includes, under B.C. law,  “holding the device in a position in which it can be used”?

You’d think the only thing holding the phone would be the cupholder.

Not so fast.

Prepare for the judicial backflip with a half-twist — holding the phone with your ears..

As the judge wrote, “Obviously, here the cellphone itself was sitting in the centre cubby hole, and was not in the defendants hands, or in his lap. But that is not the end of the matter. In my view, by plugging the earbud wire into the iPhone, the defendant had enlarged the device, such that it included not only the iPhone (proper) but also attached speaker or earbuds. In the same way, I would conclude that if the defendant had attached an exterior keyboard to the device for ease of inputting data, then the keyboard would then be part of the electronic device.”

“Since the earbuds were part of the electronic device and since the ear buds were in the defendants ears, it necessarily follows that the defendant was holding the device (or part of the device) in a position in which it could be used, i.e. his ears.”

The verdict?

Guilty as charged.

Let that sink in.

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