How We Do It: The Case of the Disappearing Texts

The Client: Stacy Bad-Choice*

The Accuser: Lisa Mean-Text*

The Charges: Falsification.

The Final Result: Charges dismissed by the prosecution – CASE DISMISSED!

The Allegation: Stacy Bad-Choice and Lisa Mean-Text are members of the deaf community. Stacy Bad-Choice had welcomed Lisa Mean-Text into her home as a roommate and the two had been living together for some time when Stacy Bad-Choice had an opportunity to move to a new town – and Lisa Mean-Text was not invited. Although the move was a good thing for Stacy Bad-Choice, it meant that Lisa Mean-Text would be kicked out of the home she had been living in with Stacy Bad-Choice and would be out on her own. Lisa Mean-Text did not handle this news well and expressed her feelings by harassing Stacy Bad-Choice by text message. When Lisa Mean-Text’s messages became threatening in addition to annoying, Stacy Bad-Choice sought the help of law enforcement.

Stacy called her local police to file a report. Worried that her responses to Lisa Mean-Text’s text messages would hurt her credibility with the officers, Stacy made a bad choice – she deleted the messages she sent in response to Lisa. The police officers noticed something odd in the text message transcript, and became suspicious of Stacy instead of intervening and stopping Lisa’s harassment. The police officers subpoenaed Lisa Mean-Text’s phone records and saw that Stacy had responded to Lisa, and further, the police officers believed Stacy had lied to them about whether she had texted Lisa Mean-Text or not. The police officer decided to charge Stacy Bad-Choice with falsification – a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Why We Won: The central tenant of our firm – holistic criminal defense – was the key to Stacy’s vindication. Through our client intake process, we learned that Stacy is deaf and communicates only through American Sign Language; yet the officers who came to her home to take her statement and ultimately, to investigate her instead of protect her from Lisa’s harassment, did not speak American Sign Language, did not bring an interpreter with them, and did not make any effort to ensure Stacy understood their questions, say by writing them down and allowing her to read them and write a response. Through our thorough investigation process, we learned that the police officer who responded to Stacy’s home to take her report could not speak American Sign Language and further, had a speech impediment of his own that made reading his lips impossible. Because we took the time to listen to Stacy’s description of how she experienced her interaction with the police officers we could then verify her account through our own investigation of the police investigation. Part of holistic criminal defense is embracing the subjective experience of our clients and acknowledging the importance of perspective in understanding a series of events. Stacy’s perspective is informed by how she communicates, or cannot communicate, with others.

This case is a sad example of police turning the target of harassment into a suspect through their own subjective perspectives – also known as bias. Here, the officers used Stacy Bad-Choice’s disability against her instead of seeking an American Sign Language interpreter to clarify the situation. This was a simple miscommunication between the police officers and Stacy Bad-Choice, and yes, all agree that Stacy made a bad choice in deleting her half of the text messages with Lisa Mean-Text. However, deleting the messages did not amount to falsification, because the content of Lisa Mean-Text’s threatening messages did not change regardless of what Stacy Bad-Choice may have said. The prosecutor agreed, and dismissed the charges against Stacy.

The Bottom LineTelecommunications Harassment is not a joke – it comes with serious penalties and collateral consequences. If you are being harassed by through text message, it is important to remember that what you say will be on display to law enforcement as well. Replying with a simple, direct statement like “do not contact me again or I will contact police” would work. Most importantly, if you are accused of a crime, get an attorney on your case who will look at the whole pie and not just the slice dropped on the plate in front of him. Call us today to see what a difference holistic criminal defense will make to your case.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.