Fact or Fiction: Man Wins Traffic Ticket Trial by Claiming He Was Eating a Hash Brown

This is a fact!

A Connecticut motorist was ticketed for distracted driving last year, but has won his case after arguing that he was, in fact, eating a hash brown while driving.

Westport, Connecticut Police Cpl. Shawn Wong Won testified that he “clearly” saw Stiber speaking into a black cellphone while driving that morning.  Specifically, Officer Won testified that he saw Stiber holding an illuminated object the size of a cellphone up to his face while moving his lips. After a magistrate initially found him guilty, Jason Stiber refused to pay a $300 fine for the infraction and took his case to trial.

Image Source: abc7ny.com

At trial, Stiber’s lawyer argued that Stiber’s lip movement was “consistent with chewing” the hash brown he had ordered at McDonald’s moments earlier. Stiber also introduced phone records showing that he was not having a conversation at the time he was pulled over. Stiber also testified that his car has Bluetooth capabilities that allow him to talk without holding his phone.

Stiber even obtained police department records showing Officer Won was on the 15th hour of a 16-hour double shift when he pulled Stiber over.

Although Stiber prevailed and was not ordered to pay the fine, Superior Court Judge Maureen Dennis did not find that Stiber was, in fact, eating a hash brown, but simply ruled that the state failed to meet its burden of proof.

California’s Distracted Driving Law

In California drivers cannot use hands to make phone calls or text while operating vehicles, nor are they allowed to text at any time they are behind the wheel of vehicles. Texting at a red light, therefore, is illegal in California. Nor can drivers adjust music in a car via a phone. Adults may use handheld phones for emergency purposes only. Drivers 17 years of age or younger may not use a cellphone at all except in true emergencies.

What do you think? Could a tired police officer have really mistaken a hash brown for a cell phone? Are the distracted driving laws too strict or not strict enough?