What's the most clever excuse you've ever used to get out of a traffic ticket? Have you faked being sick, or said that you were on your way to the hospital to see a dying relative, or insisted that your car was a victim of unintended acceleration?
A California activist and consultant for nonprofits named Jonathan Frieman may have cooked up the most clever excuse for committing a traffic offense in the history of the world. Frieman got nailed for driving alone in the carpool lane, but he insists he's innocent. Why? Because corporations are people. That's what he says, anyway.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" decision rankled many Americans because it ruled that corporations and unions have a right under the First Amendment to make independent political expenditures. This opened the door for them to give unlimited money to the so-called "Super PACs," who spent most of it during the last election on advertising designed to sway voters one way or the other. Critics say this has opened the door to corporate personhood.
Back to Frieman. Inside Bay Area reports that he was ticketed in October for driving in the carpool lane during restricted hours, a violation that nets a $478 fine.
But Frieman will argue — in a way to protest the Supreme Court decision — that since he had his incorporation papers onboard with him, it's okay for him to drive in the carpool lane. He had an extra "person" with him, you see.
Here's what he said in a news release sent to Inside Bay Area:
"Corporations are imaginary entities, and we've let them run wild," Frieman said in a news release. "Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I'm wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me."
They added this:
California Vehicle Code section 470 defines a "person" as "a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation." Section 21655.5, under which Frieman was cited, states that "no person shall drive a vehicle upon lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices."
Ford Greene, Frieman's attorney and a San Anselmo councilman, said the Vehicle Code makes "person" and "corporation" equivalent, so "when a corporation is present in one's car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes. When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile."
Frieman has a traffic court hearing on Monday, and he says that if he's not victorious there, he'll take his case all the way to the California Supreme Court. My guess is the judge won't think he's terribly cute.
Do you think Frieman has a point here? Will he pull this off?
Photo credit Shutterstock
Hat tip to D R!