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Lawyer of the Day: Prosecutor-To-Be Mouths Off to Officer — and Loses Job

When I worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I’d sometimes hear colleagues joke about handing over their Justice Department credentials along with their driver’s license if pulled over for a moving violation. It was a joke because it was generally understood that trying to get out of a speeding ticket by flaunting one’s status as law enforcement was a bad idea (setting aside the ethical issues). The police officer might give you a free pass, or he might get ticked off at your attempt to take advantage of your position. You could end up with a scandal on your hands — the kind of scandal that could derail career ambitions.

This is a lesson that Iowa attorney Lisa Jones-Hall learned the hard way. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports:

A woman on track to become a Linn County prosecutor lost that chance after police pulled her over in Marion last month for having tinted windows. New dash cam video police released today shows Lisa Jones-Hall called the officer names and tried to use her new job to get out of the ticket. The officer asked Jones-Hall to sign a ticket because he said her windows were illegally tinted. But, she initially refused to sign it, called the officer names and then brought up the job she was supposed to start the following week.

“Ok. I want you to arrest me for having tinted windows. I start with the Linn County Prosecutor’s Office next Tuesday. I want you to arrest me for not signing this,” Jones-Hall told the officer.

After hearing about this incident, the Linn County Prosecutor’s Office decided not to hire Jones-Hall.

Ouch. Jones-Hall should have read our earlier post about how lawyers should handle traffic stops (which also involved the offense of overly tinted windows).

The police video is actually quite mortifying — the article doesn’t do it justice….

You can watch the video over at the Gazette website. One of the best parts, not mentioned in the article, takes place around the 3:20 mark. Jones-Hall points out that she’s been driving her car for almost a year without getting a ticket for excessive tinting, then adds:

“I think that you’re picking on me because I’m a black woman driving [a type of vehicle – inaudible] in Marion.”

Playing the race card? Sure, Iowa voted for Obama in 2008, but don’t press your luck.

Then Jones-Hall gets saucy:

Officer: Listen to me.

Jones-Hall: I don’t have to listen to you, officer.

The officer orders Jones-Hall out of her car at around the 2:35 mark — and they come close to a physical struggle. Jones-Hall calls the officer a “jerk” and an “asshole.”

The officer and Jones-Hall argue for a while over the citation, which Jones-Hall at first refuses to sign. The officer tells Jones-Hall that he will arrest her if she doesn’t sign the citation (to acknowledge receipt; it’s not an admission of guilt). She at first refuses, questioning his authority to arrest her if she doesn’t sign. But after the officer makes her read the citation — lawyers are good at reading comprehension! — she begrudgingly signs. She concludes by haughtily demanding to know the name of his sergeant, like a customer on an 800 line asking to speak to a manager.

Now that she’s lost her prosecutor position, what’s next for Jones-Hall?

Lisa Jones-Hall said she just wants to put this whole situation behind her. She’s returned to her job at Iowa Legal Aid and says she just wants to keep helping people like she’s always done.

Sounds like a plan. Based on her videotaped interaction with the po-po, it seems like Jones-Hall would be more comfortable working with defendants than with law enforcement agents.

Let’s just hope she doesn’t have clients involved in traffic stops.

UPDATE: Oh, the irony! It turns out that Jones-Hall was once a police officer. (Gavel bang: commenters.)

Woman loses job as a Linn County prosecutor after confrontation with police
[Cedar Rapids Gazette]

Earlier: How Lawyers Should Handle Traffic Stops

(hidden for your protection)

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