The statute in play prescribed a mandatory jail sentence of 18 months for anyone convicted of carrying a concealed weapon without having a license so to do. No ifs, ands or buts.
A nineteen year old male, with an extensive criminal record well known to the police, was walking with his female date of the same age, in a high crime area. There were two outstanding warrants for his arrest. A gun was in his inside jacket pocket. He did not have a license to carry.
A police officer, riding shotgun in a cruiser patrolling the area, spotted and recognized the male. He directed his partner to pull over, exited the vehicle and gave chase in an attempt to execute the warrant by arresting the suspect.
The male, seeing the rapidly approaching cop, removed the gun from his coat, thrust it at his companion and barked, "put this in your purse!" She, having been unaware of his illegal possession, did as she was told. The cop arrested the male and, pursuant thereto, patted down the woman for weapons and, to further assure his own safety, searched her purse. The gun was found. She was also arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon. The matter was tried before me, jury waived. There was little, if any, factual dispute.
As the trial was nearing its end, I began to analyze the case.
Technically, the acts of the defendant fit what the statute condemned, hand in glove.
But was this situation embraced by legislative intent? She had no criminal record. Every crime requires criminal intent. Was this her state of mind at the split second of obeying her companion's command? Was her conduct the true target of the statute's aim? If I found her guilty, I would have no room for leniency in sentencing despite the mitigating circumstances. The statute mandated 18 months IN. I had no discretion.
I found the defendant not guilty.
Any negative reaction, in words or expression, from the prosecutor? None.
Did the District Attorney file an appeal? It was never even considered.
I had done what to me was fair.
And if it was the fair thing to do, it was the right thing to do.