By Bill Collins:
Years ago, I defended a man charged with soliciting prostitution. In this case, an undercover officer posing as a prostitute was standing on a street corner, on Sunset Boulevard, during the day. My client, according to the officer, pulled up next to her and asked, “How much for head?“ My client drove away and was promptly arrested.
In court, I asked the highly strung, diminutive Vietnamese prosecutor for a deal.
"This is his first offense. I’ll plea to a 'disturbing the peace' charge (415 P.C.)," I said.
"Absolutely not," he replied. "Plea to the charge of soliciting an act of prostitution (647b P.C.) or go to trial."
"Are you crazy?" I responded. "You want to go to trial over this?"
"Plead or go to trial," he said.
So we went to trial.
On the day of trial, my client shows up in a purple jumpsuit, zipper front unzipped exposing a tangle of gold chains. Luckily the case was pushed for one day.
"Hey, wear something more conservative," I told my client. "You look like a pimp!"
The next day he showed up in a black jumpsuit.
The following is how the trial unfolded:
"Officer Miller (the undercover officer), do you see the person in court with whom you had a conversation on the date in question?" asked the District Attorney.
"Please point to him and describe what he is wearing."
Officer Miller complied, pointing to my client.
"What did he say to you?" asked the D.A.
"He asked, 'How much for head?'"
At this point I looked at the jury and noticed a couple of older, female jurors talking quietly to each other. After a few more questions, the prosecution rested.
I immediately asked the jury to be excused.
"Your Honor, I would like to make a motion to dismiss the case pursuant to 1118.1 P.C. The prosecution has failed to establish a critical element of the charge."
"I expected this," said the judge. "Proceed."
"Who is going to tell those little old ladies in the back row of the jury what 'head' means?"
"EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT HEAD MEANS!!!" yelled the D.A. in a high-pitched voice as he waved his arms wildly.
"I don’t think my mother knows what head means," I said.
"I don’t think my mother knows either," said the judge. "Bailiff hand me a dictionary."
The judge opened the dictionary and found the word. After looking through all the meanings, he shook his head, finding no sexual references.
"Case dismissed," he said.
That case cost the taxpayers about $20,000.
Bill Collins has practiced law in the Southern California area for over forty years and has a lot of stories to tell. We are proud to welcome his unique perspective and original stories to Flapper Press.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Bill Collins here.