Prosecutorial discretion is immense. And it starts with the decision on whether someone should be prosecuted in the first place. Now submitted, for your approval, the stupidest prosecution yet, at least in terms of “your tax dollars at work”.

From the charging instrument filed last week (cause number 08-po-00237-MHW-1 for federal criminal defense lawyers with access to Pacer):


…the defendant… did willfully destroy, damage and remove Government property without authorization, namely by consuming soft drink beverage (sic) belonging to the Department of Veterans Affairs…


So the defendant had driven her dad to the VA to get medical care, took her refillable thermos into the lunch room and filled it up. She had been charged $1, $1.50 in the past but this time the clerk told her it was going to be $3.80.


After being told eventually by the manager that she was going to have pay the increased cost she unwisely poured the soft drink on the counter – presumably as a protest. By the way I’m not defending her actions; they are puerile at best. But criminal? As in don’t-make-a-federal-case-out-of-it criminal?


According to this federal prosecutor, yes! He charged her under 38 Code of Federal Regulations 1.218 Security and Law Enforcement at VA facilities. The quoted part above is from section (a)(3) and he threw in an (a)(5) charge of disturbance alleging that her conduct otherwise impeded or disrupted the performance of official duties by Government employees.


A buddy of mine asked me last week whether I thought the Feds could find something to prosecute me for if they set their mind to it. Well, not if I don’t leave the house…


[Hat Tip to Sentencing Law & Policy; original story]

  • Brian Mcdaniel

    Lol, this is too funny. I do have to wonder tho, if this facility posted a notice anywhere, that all returned merchandise must be in it’s original packaging? I mean, the Lady did not attempted to leave without paying. She mearly disagreed with the price and returned the product.

  • Brian:

    Thanks for stopping by. Are you perhaps an actual criminal defense lawyer or do you just think like one?

    I’ve got to say that “She merely disagreed with the price and returned the product” is criminal defense-type spin, not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  • Publius

    The Feds make a JOKE out of being able to prosecute ANYONE if they want. The old joke used to be they could’ve gotten Mother Teresa. A book was published on that very practice entitled, “Three Felonies A Day (How the Feds target the Innocent),” by Harvey Silvergate. The joke was they could find, on any given day, three felonies to charge. It was a kind of parlor game. THAT is how pitiful it has become.