It’s safe to assume that not a day goes by in the halls of a courthouse without someone uttering those immortal words: “Welp, I’m screwed.” Whether it be seasoned lawyers or hapless clients, all it takes is one slip-up or one missed detail to royally screw a court case. And sometimes a fully-loaded, tactical screwing is simply just the name of the game when it comes to litigation. These Redditors run the gamut from lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs, defendants, and everything in between, and their stories range from truly tragic to downright ridiculous. Let’s get into it.
1. You Just Played Yourself
Not the worst, but one that sticks out something they did to themselves. Woman shows up to court in an “It’s party time! Drink up!” t-shirt. She was there for her first appearance on a third DUI charge. Judge was not in a humorous mood that day.
2. Custodial Cruelty
Nasty custody fight. The ex-wife was a lawyer and represented herself. The ex-husband had a pretty terrible lawyer. She kept hauling things back to court trying to get more benefits from him. His lawyer just let it keep happening and it was destroying his life—allegations of child abuse, was taking so much money that he could barely afford a crummy apartment, and couldn’t afford a car which both figured in later for custody.
Finally, the ex-wife’s father (also a lawyer) asked to meet with the judge and mentioned a few things that he knew were going on…and they were absolutely chilling. One of the children was manic-depressive and the ex-wife would take him off his meds before it was the ex-husband’s turn for custody. The child abuse allegations were from the ex-husband trying to restrain the child during a manic episode because he wasn’t medicated. The ex-wife had intentionally timed the child abuse allegation to fall just before the holidays so the ex-husband couldn’t see the kids for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. She bragged to the family that it would do the maximum emotional damage possible doing it then.
The ex-wife had also forged documents to overstate the ex-husband’s income when alimony was being determined. Oh…and the ex-wife was sleeping with the ex-husband’s lawyer. The ex-husband’s lawyer was reported to the bar (not sure what happened there). The Judge ordered a review of everything and arranged for a new lawyer for the ex-husband. It was looking like the alimony would be vastly reduced and the ex-husband was going to get custody.
But then the ex-husband passed away (blood clot) two months later. Years of being screwed over, finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but ended up being the wrong light at the end of the wrong tunnel.
3. If The Sweater Fits
Not my case but still my favorite story. Dude screwed himself over when he went to a jury trial for a burglary charge and wore the same, distinct sweatshirt he wore the night he committed the crime. Kind of hard to argue the guy in the video isn’t your client at that point. Needless to say, he was convicted and spent a few years in DOC.
4. Not Gonna Happen
There’s a lawyer in my town who has a reputation for being a real jerk—and holy cow, the reputation was earned. He left a very successful firm to go off on his own. He and the firm negotiated which clients he would take, and how eventual fees from those clients would be divided. All seemed fine and dandy. As soon as he’s out the door, he sues his old firm saying the deal is unenforceable and that he should get 100% of the fees from the clients who came with him.
He lost, and appealed, lost again and appealed to the state Supreme Court where they shut him down and, in extremely diplomatic language, pretty much called him an idiot.
5. Sexism Gets You Nowhere
One time, I saw an indigent defendant who was in custody tell the judge his public defender wasn’t working hard enough and he wanted the judge to appoint different counsel. The judge asked him what specifically was the problem and he said, “I don’t want a female lawyer. I need a man who can take charge and fight for me,” or something very similar to that.
The judge (also female) said that’s not how it works, then he started yelling and getting into specifics about his public defender, just mainly I don’t like her, she won’t visit me, etc. The judge is annoyed and looks at him and is like fine, I’ll appoint another attorney for you, but because you are not satisfied with your attorney and I need time to appoint you new counsel I am not going to hear any other issues today and will reset your case. He had no idea, but she had just royally screwed him over.
A few days later the judge sends the defendant notice of his new appointed attorney, who happens to also be female, and a notice of the case reset for six weeks. The case was originally set for a bond hearing and the DA and his PD had agreed to release him on an unsecured bond, meaning he would have gotten out that day if he hadn’t thrown his temper tantrum. Instead, he waited another six weeks in jail just to have another female attorney represent.
6. Childish Tactics
I’ve seen a parent stop all discipline as a tool to win over their teenage child so that the child will choose to live with said rubbish parent, and rubbish parent will receive child support from the other parent. It boils my blood seeing someone allowing their fifteen-year-old child to drop out of school, get high every day, buy them drugs, alcohol, just about every negative thing you could do to a kid, just so they don’t have to pay $100 in child support a month.
7. Indefinitely Screwed
Was involved in a custody case where a wife cheated on her husband and had a child as a result. She let husband believe the child was his until she was about five years old and they were divorcing. To stop him from getting custody, she convinced the biological father to try to get custody thinking that if he won she would wind up with the child.
Became a huge three-way fight, multiple sets of grandparents involved, attorneys fees skyrocketed because the case would have been pretty quick otherwise. She couldn’t pay her attorney, tried to get the bio dad to, things got even messier, etc. Basically there still isn’t an agreement all parties will follow. They are in and out of court every year or so. She screwed herself.
8. Nightmare Step-Aunt
Not a lawyer but this story always gets me. My biological grandmother died 20 years ago of ovarian cancer, she left all her money, trusts, bonds to my grandfather to use (while alive) and disperse (after she passed). My grandfather remarried something like 15 years ago to my step-grandma. My grandfather ended up dying first a few years back. My step-aunt is a greedy nightmare who lives on the opposite side of the country, she’s lived off of her mother and my grandfather for all of her life—I still can’t forgive her for what she did.
She’d come over and take them on “vacation” where she’d use their money to buy herself things and get a free skiing trip about eight times a year. After my grandfather passed, my step-grandma had to move where her children live to get care for dementia. My step-aunt has access to not only her own mother’s estate, but my grandfather’s as well, so she can “take care of her mother’s needs.”
That wasn’t enough. She decided to try and sue my dad and uncle for their dead biological mother’s estate. My dad is bilaterally paralyzed and in a wheelchair. My uncle is a triple bypass survivor with a pacemaker and multiple stints. Both are on fixed disability income. The court date came and I literally wheeled my dad in while my uncle walked with a cane.
My step-aunt is entirely able-bodied and rolling in the millions my step-grandma and grandfather worked their whole lives to earn. The judge took one look at the whole picture and she was absolutely denied access to my biological grandmother’s estate. We were there for less than an hour.
9. Property Pains
This wasn’t my case but I followed it closely because it was an acquaintance’s divorce proceedings. He and his now ex-wife shared some commercial property that was worth some dough. They were both on the paperwork/had access to the same info. Well, things went south and the property was in arrears and I think some lien was filed.
The husband would try to talk to his then-wife about the whole thing and she would blow him off. Not only would she ignore him and the finances, she started cheating on him. Fast forward to divorce. It’s contentious and they get down to fighting for the primary residence whose market value (unencumbered) is much less than the commercial building.
She demanded the house and the husband effectively offered to give her the commercial building if he could keep the residence. She never paid attention to how bad off the commercial building was and for some strange reason, her lawyer didn’t do any due diligence so they took the deal. I don’t know if the asset allocation included any saving conditions or caveats for the ex-wife, but I did like to see that her own disinterest may have led to bargaining for an underwater property instead of a paid-off house.
10. What a Gasbag
I have been in dispute with British Gas for around 10 years, every now and again they take me to court, every time I win and we go away for another few years. The last time I lawyered up, it’s in a Magistrates even though it’s a civil matter. My solicitor waited for the British Gas guy to swear his oath to tell the truth the whole truth etc., then asked him what he knew of the previous court cases.
When the guy said he didn’t know anything about them my solicitor ripped into him saying he’d just claimed to tell the whole truth so clearly nothing he says can be trusted. It went on for a few minutes, it was utterly brutal. The Magistrates agreed and we walked away with £600 in costs. It was a joy to watch this bloke, who was all “we’re coming with the police to enter your house” before we went in, be told to sit down and not say anything else unless he was asked a question.
It’s to do with a disconnected meter at my house (for electric to a closed shop). I have written to the CEO, I’ve had my MP involved and been to court four times. British Gas don’t change, don’t listen, so I’ve given up. I’ll just go to court every now and again and claim my £600.
11. Missed Me?
Not my case, but my dad’s. He was the equivalent of a Public Defender decades ago. There was this guy who would get caught for being drunk in public, public lewdness, etc. EVERY weekend. He seemed to draw the same judges and was pretty well known to everyone in the courthouse as an absolute lost cause. One of the “regular” judges had him appear in his court again.
The judge is ready to give him a prison sentence because he was driving a car this time, but the guy starts crying that he finally got a job out of town and was trying to turn his life around. Judge tells him as long as he never makes a mistake “in my town again” he would just drop the charges. Well, sure enough, the guy shows up the following Monday.
Same judge. Driving drunk AGAIN. My dad now has his case. The judge tells him he gave him his final chance, to which the guy sobs and replies “I was leaving town, your Honor. But my friends decided to throw me a going-away party.” The judge was not amused. My dad had to do everything he could to not laugh.
12. A Social Media Screwing
Well, not my story, but a prior boss’s story: They had a drunk-driver-kills-a-car-worth-of-people case at the time when they were a general practitioner. My boss was representing the family that got hit (one where the two kids and the wife had lost their lives, but the father had not) and wanted the college guy’s drunk-driving skin to be mounted on a wall.
This was back before Facebook was commonly used in Court proceedings and before tons of people realized that stuff is too great for any attorney worth their weight in salt to pass up. So, the kid (drunk driving college kid) had managed to get the judge’s sympathy during the first part of the hearing by saying he was sorry, haunted, never going to drink again, this was going to ruin his life, etc. The judge seemed to really be eating it up.
Then comes my boss and immediately burns this kid’s remorse to the ground by showing numerous Facebook statuses and photos of them binge drinking, partying, and even joking about driving drunk from the date of the accident up until a night ago. The kid looked like he was being forced to swallow hot coals and the judge was absolutely livid.
Needless to say, the kid had to do way more than just apologize and be remorseful after that.
13. Fine, I’ll Do It Myself
Not a lawyer, but I took my landlord to small claims court for refusing to return my security deposit without cause. I did my due diligence. I wrote a demand letter, looked up the law that he was breaking, and prepared evidence to show the judge. After I presented my case and requested the full amount I was owed plus damages to the full extent I was entitled to, the judge looked at me and asked me if I was a lawyer.
I’m pretty sure my former landlord had an “I’m screwed” moment, and I felt pretty good about my chances of getting my money back. I won the suit, but did not get full damages.
14. A Whole Bundle of Bias
A witness for the plaintiff in a civil suit, who was a co-worker of the plaintiff, testified very strongly against the company and in favor of the plaintiff. I questioned her about bias toward the plaintiff, if they knew each other well, were friends, etc. She said, no just friendly co-workers, “work friends” at best. I pinned her to it.
When I got a chance to cross-examine the plaintiff, she had no choice but to burn her witnesses credibility, because not only were they very close friends, but they had become sisters-in-law just a few years before (No, they did not have the same last name or anything, but I had done my homework). I still don’t get why people want to fight small bias, by destroying their credibility, but…it happens more than you’d think.
15. Untimely Guilt Pangs
Someone I knew had a pro bono case where she had to defend a person who had been charged with a criminal offense (don’t know what, confidential and whatnot). Even though the police and DA could pretty much pinpoint the crime to her client, there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, circumstantial at best. She had instructed him to shut up and let her do the talking during the trial, as from experience the client sometimes does not know how to answer a question properly—oh, how he should have listened.
She pleads and can show that the court has nothing on her client, she feels that for once, a pro bono case is going her way. After her plea, the judge thanks her for her plea and turns to her client. He asks if the client had something to add to the plea. Client looks at her, back at the judge, tears well up in his eyes and he blurts out: “I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again!”
She threw her notes and everything else she had in her hands at the client (now convict) apparently. She basically got screwed by her own client, who screwed himself even worse.
16. Completely and Contractually Screwed
Lady brought a frivolous case to get out of a contract she signed. She lost, then sued the attorney and the witnesses for conspiring against her. They got her case dismissed and an award of attorney fees, which she refused to pay. Lawyer recorded it as a lien on her house and scheduled a foreclosure sale, which caused her mortgage lender to declare a default and accelerate the entire mortgage balance.
Lawyer made a side deal with the lender to pay them all proceeds of the sale and then sold her house on the courthouse steps to the highest bidder and then arranged for the sheriff to forcibly eject her onto the street with her things. She’s homeless now.
17. Borderline Elder Abuse
I’m currently representing a sweet old lady on a case. I’ll be sparse with the details in case anyone figures out who I am. Long story short, this lady’s neighbor convinces her that her house is basically unsellable, that her house requires all sorts of repairs, the repairs to the house would bankrupt her, and that she should just sell the house. To him.
He shows up at her house the next day with documents to sign. She has no idea what’s going on. Doesn’t read anything (actually has an eye condition) and signs everything. When she finally sees a lawyer to close the deal, he says you can’t do this. You see, the price of the transaction was about 36% of what the house is actually worth and there weren’t any repairs that needed to be done that would justify the price. Not kidding, it was stuff like fixing a faucet in the bathroom.
Also, she didn’t understand that she would have nowhere to live afterward. Old lady thought she could just stay in the house for the rest of her life. To make matters worse, she’s living off a modest pension and the other side is suing for the house. They’re essentially trying to get her to cave because her legal fees are getting exorbitant.
I hate people—but this guy is a special kind of evil. If it went to trial, she’d to have to spend a lot of money. Money she doesn’t have. She has an eye condition (uveitis), but it isn’t bad enough to qualify as a defence (non est factum). At the time she was driving. She’s a terrible witness. Her evidence is all over the place. When she was examined (deposed for you Americans) she denies being taken advantage of. Not great for our position.
In Ontario, where I practice, contracts for the purchase of real estate don’t have to be notarized. Thankfully though, we literally just settled this afternoon, so my client can live in peace. In a little more debt than before, but nothing that will bankrupt her.
18. A Spectacular Self-Screw
Story from a friend of mine. He was defending a guy in court, don’t remember what he was charged with. The main witness for the prosecution was on the stand and was asked if she could identify the defendant. She scanned the courtroom and seemed confused—my friend was already silently celebrating because if she couldn’t identify him, he could probably get all charged dropped.
As he was mentally adding this case to the “win” file, he happened to glance over at his client, who had just helpfully raised his hand to make it easier for her to identify him. Even the judge facepalmed on that one.
19. Well That Backfired
One of my father’s friends tried to salt the earth before getting divorced. A rental house and a cabin were deeded to relatives, the cars they drove every day were sold to other relatives for tiny sums, stocks handed over to a trust “for the children,” etc.. He even vanished a chunk of cash from the company he co-owned with his wife using phony invoices and stopped paying himself a salary, electing to burn through their personal savings for over a year instead.
He learned that judges really, really hate when you try to hide or intentionally diminish assets, and they will absolutely refer you to prosecutors for fraud. I don’t think he did any jail time in the end, but his ex-wife got EVERYTHING, plus the satisfaction of firing him from his own company.
20. MySpace Misstep
My brother was on a jury back in the days of MySpace. A woman had been hit by a big rig during foggy weather. She was suing for a back injury. The last day of the trial they ask her if she has a MySpace account and brought up her site for the jury to see (I think all profiles were open then). There’s a picture of her dancing on the hood of a car and right next to it is a text exchange of her saying that she shouldn’t go out too much because her lawyer says that she has to look injured.
Needless to say, she lost that case.
21. Imperfect Strangers
Not a legal professional, but I do have a good story on this topic. Fifteen or so years ago, my dad was the manager of a small hotel. One of the semi-regular customers was this big Samoan dude, who booked in for a day at a time, always had a few visitors, and always paid in cash, in a one-to-one conversion with American dollars—highly unusual in Australia.
Dad always said he was a great customer, very friendly with the staff, never gave anyone any problems, and always had a bit of a chat when he checked in. One day a couple of detectives rocked up, and asked to speak to my Dad. They showed him a photo of the aforementioned customer, and asked if he was currently staying in the hotel.
Dad confirmed that he was, and in a matter of minutes a small contingent of cops arrived, stormed the room and escorted the guy away in handcuffs. Turns out the guy was a pretty major dealer and was wanted in a couple of states. Cut to the court date quite some time later. My dad is in the witness stand, and (for whatever reason) the defense is trying to make out like my dad didn’t know the defendant, and had never seen him before.
Obviously my dad insisted that he did in fact know the defendant, but that line persisted from the defense. As my Dad left the witness box, he walked past the defendant and said “Hi Barry,” to which Barry enthusiastically replied, “Hi Jason, how are you?!” While I’m sure this wasn’t the only thing that counted against him in the case, it certainly can’t have helped.
He ended up getting quite a few years in jail.
22. Doesn’t Quite Work Like That
Not my case, but still a personal favorite. I was sitting in court waiting for my turn. Case going was a littering case, officer said he saw the defendant throw the clear wrapper on a pack of gum out of his window. Guy decided to defend himself. Girlfriend takes the stand (officer has already testified). Guy asks, “Did I throw a gum wrapper out the window?”
She replies, “No you did not” with this huge grin on her face. The defendant is now also grinning and goes, “What did I throw out the window?” To which she replies, “It was the plastic wrapper from your cigarettes.” Guy rests his case right there. Literally thought he would get off because the officer couldn’t properly identify the clear plastic that he admits to throwing out the window.
23. Keep Digging That Hole, Counsel
I was prosecuting a contempt action in family court (something that basically never works) and everyone in the room could tell I was winning. The other side was unprepared (out of arrogance) and I was basically ripping this guy to shreds on cross-examination (which his lawyer didn’t even think would happen, because he expected the case to be dismissed). At the end of the trial, the judge ruled for me and stated that she found the defendant’s testimony to be untrustworthy. I was shocked at winning a contempt trial to begin with, but then this exchange happened:
Defendant’s attorney: “Your honor, now that you have found my client’s testimony to be untrustworthy, I am requesting a continuance in order to prepare further witnesses” (This concept is shocking in and of itself, because to even think you can bring more witnesses after you rest your case is laughable).
Judge: “You had your shot and you missed, counsel.”
Defendant’s attorney: “Your honor, there was no way I could have anticipated that you’d find my client’s testimony untrustworthy and as such, I didn’t have the opportunity to prepare other witnesses in support of his position”.
Judge: “That may be an argument for your carrier, counsel, but it holds no water with me. See you this afternoon for sentencing.”
For those who didn’t pick up on it, the judge basically told the lawyer ON THE RECORD IN FRONT OF HIS CLIENT that she expects him to get sued for malpractice because he screwed up so royally. That was mind-blowing on multiple levels.
24. High and Dry
I was the defendant, representing a nonprofit that I volunteered for. The plaintiff was a 60-something Grandma who was looking for a retirement settlement after falling out of her jacked up pick up truck in our parking lot. The premise of her case was that our parking lot was in bad shape (it was) and that she fell into a pothole and broke her leg, which resulted in her having to take Coumadin and diminished her enjoyment of salads at the Friday night fish fry (no, really).
It was going along fine, until my lawyer put up a photo of the pothole, taken the day of the incident, filled to the brim with water, after a recent rain. He asked the lady if she had gotten her foot wet, to which she replied that she couldn’t recall. He talked a little more about how perhaps if her foot wasn’t wet, it might have been because she fell out of the truck and didn’t really fall into the pothole. He asked again if her foot was wet, and she affirmed that yes, her foot was wet. At that second, he had her. She was screwed.
The “oh snap” moment came when he went back to his desk, flipped through her deposition and read the part where she was extremely adamant that her foot wasn’t wet. Then he did some fancy legal stuff, the case was thrown out, and I went back to work.
25. Need Me To Write It Down For You?
Not a lawyer, but my dad is a physician and is sometimes called as a professional witness in cases of malpractice. In one memorable case, a family was suing a doctor for something fairly frivolous, and my dad was a witness for the defense. The lawyer representing the family was cross-examining my dad and brought up a chapter in a medical textbook and asked my dad to read a highlighted paragraph. He does, and the lawyer says something to the effect of, “So, what you just read means ___.”
My dad confidently replied, “No, it does not mean that.”
Lawyer: “No but if you read xyz, the author clearly states ___.”
Dad: “No, really, that’s not what the author means.”
Lawyer: “How do you know that’s not what the author meant?”
Dad: “Well, because I wrote it.”
Judge basically facepalmed while the lawyer mimicked a goldfish and stared at the author name on the chapter. Basically the best moment of my dad’s professional life (Yes, ruling was in the defendant’s favor).
26. Pays To Be Organized
Not a lawyer, but…a friend kept meticulous records of how much time his estranged wife spent with their daughter. He used pink highlighter for Mom and blue highlighter for himself. Mom sailed into arbitration demanding full custody and handsome child support and the house. Dad pulled out three years worth of year-long calendars. Mom had spent less than a full month with the child in three years.
Mom was not happy with the outcome.
27. Unfashionably Late
I remember when I was a kid my dad got a ticket for running a stop sign. He decided to take the time to fight it because the stop sign was completely buried in a bush and wasn’t visible from the road. He and the police officer who had issued the ticket both arrived to court at the appointed time but the judge wasn’t there.
After they waited for about 20 minutes the bailiff finally apologized and told them they could go home and things would be rescheduled. Just after they had left the judge finally arrived and found both my dad AND the police officer in contempt for leaving and “wasting her time.” One $80 traffic ticket became two $500 contempt of court fines.
About five years later a friend of mine pulled the same judge for a DUI (prescription not booze, he didn’t realize he shouldn’t be driving on them). He just went without any council. He said that she said if he was stupid enough to try to represent himself he could sit there and not say anything so he ended up just sitting there and not saying anything and lost his license for a first offense DUI.
There were several news articles and letters to the editor about what a disaster of a judge she was, so I’m sure a lot of other people had similar issues with her.
28. Best Come Prepared
Not a lawyer, but a friend properly screwed over his ex wife. He thought things were not going well. She seemed off. He did a little digging, and saw enough to prove she was cheating. He hired a private detective. The detective got pics of her kissing a dude, going to his house, plus the cell phone call log, credit card statements, etc.
Then…SHE asks for a divorce and claims HE is being unfaithful. She claims she has been nothing but a loving wife, yet provides no proof he is cheating. He pulls out a 3-inch binder with a couple-month log, photos of her going into restaurants with her boyfriend, pictures kissing him in the parking lot, pictures of her car at his place, text log, etc, etc, etc.
Both married people had equally high paying jobs. She wanted to take him to the ringer. He threw out some offer like $25K cash, and nothing else, no retirement funds, no house, no child support, etc, plus he wanted the kids. Basically take $25K and walk. Her lawyer told her she better take it, and she did.
29. Trash-Talking Tool
My dad was a judge and had someone on trial for DUI. Guy would not stop running his mouth and was trash-talking everyone in the room. He instructed him to stop. Dude did not stop. Dad placed him in contempt of court for 90 days. Dude gets out, goes back to trial. First thing, he starts running his mouth again. Boom. Another 90 days in jail for contempt.
180 days in jail when in our state, a DUI at his level is only 60 days.
30. Quite a Gamble
My client screwed themselves—it was so painful to watch. I’m doing landlord tenant stuff and my client was facing eviction over non-payment, but the client was withholding rent payments because of habitability issues in the apartment; no heat, high lead levels, vermin. This is going to be an easy win for me. Told my client continually to make sure they don’t spend the money, keep it but don’t spend it. Because if you show the judge you still have the money it looks real good for you in terms of making the judge believe that you’re withholding for good reasons.
We get up in front of the judge, landlord doesn’t have an attorney so I’m dancing inside, there’s no way I can lose. I make my arguments and the landlord makes his. Judge asks my client if they still have the money. Client goes, “Nah I blew that at the casino last week.”
31. Time to Walk The Plank
I work in criminal law, and once saw a defendant who was charged with simple theft of mail matter. He was a porch pirate and had stolen a package that was worth less than $100. When he was initially arraigned he was offered a 30-day jail sentence to plead guilty. He refused and insisted upon going to trial—huge mistake. When his case reached my office, he was again given a reasonable offer of two years. Because he had a lengthy criminal history, he was considered a persistent offender so the offer was more than what a package thief would typically get, but reasonable nonetheless.
It’s important to note that he was caught on security camera actually stealing the package and getting into a car that was registered to him. Basically we had him dead to rights. But, he still insisted on a trial. So we tried the case. The jury found him guilty and imposed the statutory maximum sentence given his criminal record—20 years.
That’s the story of the man who turned a 30-day sentence into 20 years.
32. Presentation Problems
Paralegal here: We had a client show up to court-ordered mediation several hours late…straight from a lake trip. Part of my job is to call clients a day or two before these kinds of things to remind them of the importance of the hearing. I told her specifically: “It is vital that you show up on time, dressed appropriately.”
When she did show up my boss took one look at her and said, “You understand we have to take whatever offer they give us, right? Because there is no way I’m taking you to trial.”
33. Reckless Miming
I charged a woman with reckless driving when she ran someone off the road. She claimed it was accidental and they were both road-raging at each other. I asked her specifically what she did, and she said and demonstrated that she was aggressively pointing at the other car. As she demonstrated it she pointed with her right hand and pretended to have her left and on the steering wheel.
As she jabbed at the air with her right hand, she was also jerking the pretend steering wheel to the left…toward where the other car would have been. She took the case to trial, and did the same motions when the prosecutor asked her about it. Judge found her guilty.
34. Caught On Tape
I spent a summer as an intern doing narcotics work. You’d be surprised how much information defendants and their friends/family share over prison telephone calls, even when they inform you the line is being monitored and recorded before the call begins. That said, a defendant maintained he was an innocent uber driver and was not in the business of selling drugs…meanwhile he was telling his wife over the phone that they needed to figure out how to move a ton of drugs so they could afford the lawyer to represent him.
Needless to say, he was shocked when the recording was played back in court…
35. Guilt Written All Over You
I’m not an attorney, but a reporter whose beat is the county courthouse, so I’ve had plenty of these moments happen in front of me. A guy was convicted of attempting to murder several police officers. At his sentencing, the prosecutor revealed the defendant got a prison tattoo while he was awaiting sentencing of a tombstone with the names of all the cops he attempted to kill. But the defendant still had the audacity to beg for a lenient sentence.
He got a few hundred years in jail.
36. The Rare Double-Screw
When I was clerking for a judge, a defendant wrote to the judge trying to explain that the two bongs found on the floorboard of the car were actually his girlfriend’s but he was afraid to speak up earlier because she’s on Section 8, and drugs are forbidden for Section 8 recipients. Mind you, he was on probation at the time the cops pulled him over and it didn’t matter who owned the bongs, he was still in violation of his probation for being in possession of drug paraphernalia.
His attempt to get out from his charges not only screwed over his girlfriend, but it also showed that he knew of the bongs that were in her car.
37. Not the Brightest Bulb in the Courtroom
I am a lawyer now, but this was when I was in law school and we had to go watch actual court cases in the local district court. A guy is accused of destroying some stuff his neighbor owns. After a complicated plea by his lawyer about how some evidence is inadmissible and therefore it cannot be proven the defendant is guilty, the judge delivers the verdict, agrees with the lawyers, and acquits him.
The defendant gets up, walks towards the judge, as if to shake his hand, and says, “Thank you, your honor, I’ll never do it again.” The prosecutor then quasi-jokingly says “appeal?”
38. They Probably Can Now, Buddy
I was working as court staff in a hearing where a guy was accused of robbing a grocery store. The defendant’s lawyer was arguing that they could not identify the man in the surveillance camera footage as his client. While the footage was being shown to the court, the defendant leaned over and said loud enough to his lawyer, “Do you think they can tell that’s me in the video?”
39. Better Never Than Late
Lawyer showed up 45 minutes late for court, just to reschedule it because she didn’t have time to talk to defendant prior to court. Next court date, showed up late again, and proceeded, despite still not having time to talk to the defendant beforehand. Twist? She was my lawyer. Second time she was late I got to facepalm as I listened to judge and bailiff joke about what a crackpot my public defender was.
40. Talk About a Bad Trip
Lawyer here. When I had been licensed less than a year, I was representing a guy in a custody case. He was adamant that his ex was on drugs so I requested drug testing. The judge said both parties had to be tested, which I had warned my client would likely be the Judge’s request. Mom tested clean. My guy tested positive for drugs.
We did not win the case. Same guy also fell asleep during the hearing.
41. Very Subtle
Unfortunately I’m not allowed to say too much but basically, on charges of growing cannabis, he stated he was growing “herbs for medicine” (and gestured air quotes with his hands) and then whispered, I kid you not, “marijuana.” Bro…
42. A Crucial Clerical Error
I was in an accident a few years ago. It was definitely the other guy’s fault. He got a ticket for an unsafe left turn, and I got a ticket because I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. In the section on the ticket, the cop inadvertently wrote, “Did wear seatbelt while operating motor vehicle.” When I got to court, the judge asked how I wanted to plead.
I asked the judge if I could ask a question first, and he said sure. I stated, “The ticket says I did wear my seatbelt while operating my motor vehicle, and if that’s the case, I want to plead guilty.” The judge looks down at the ticket, and looks back at me and says, “Case dismissed! Have a good day.”
43. Don’t Stop Believing
My dad is out of state on business driving through some no-name town when he goes through an intersection. Suddenly, a cop pulls him over and tickets him—stating that he ran a stop sign. My dad insisted that there was not any stop sign, but the cop did not listen. Angry, he went back to the intersection and saw that there was indeed a stop sign hidden behind a tree and twisted in the wrong direction!
Even angrier, he went into a convenience store and bought a disposable camera. The clerk laughed because he saw what happened and knew what was up.
Luckily, my dad had to be back there in a few weeks for work. The cop assumed that someone with out of state plates would just pay the ticket, and was shocked when my dad turned up in court, calmly presented his evidence to the judge, and strolled out in five minutes scot-free.