Guy With Suspended License Takes Court Call on Zoom While Driving

Yes, he was driving

Technology makes our lives better in many ways. For instance, its relentless advance is constantly opening up opportunities for people to do stupid things that have never been done before, and also to do stupid things they were already doing in new and even stupider ways.

For example, people have been getting lost for thousands of years, probably starting right after destinations were invented. While technology can help with this, it also offers new opportunities of the kind noted above. See, e.g., “Google Maps Made Me Walk Onto the Highway, Woman Claims” (May 31, 2010) and “Google Maps Blamed for Invasion” (Nov. 10, 2010). Similarly, lawyers have been filing briefs citing cases they haven’t actually read for some time now. But today, generative “AI” gives them the ability to file briefs citing cases that don’t even exist because the bot made them up. That is also new, different, and somehow stupider.

And, of course, there is no shortage of cases in which criminals have used or misused technology in a way that gets them caught. See, e.g., “Police Rapidly Crack the Case of the Stolen GPS Devices” (Jan. 20, 2007) and the quite similar “Surveillance-Camera Thief Captures Complete Record of His Crime” (Dec. 16, 2022); see also Facebook: Bad News for Bigamists” (Mar. 29, 2011) (explaining—again—why posting pictures from your second marriage may be a bad idea).

And now that I look at it, there is no shortage of such cases involving Zoom. See, e.g., “Man Charged With Driving Stolen Car Appears for Zoom Hearing From Inside Another Stolen Car” (Apr. 9, 2021). But in that case, it wasn’t apparent from the Zoom call itself that a crime was being committed during that very call. That may be what sets this one apart.

According to CBS News, a 44-year-old Michigan man, Corey Harris, attended a hearing by Zoom on May 15 that was related to earlier (unidentified) criminal charges. As are many courts, this one is still allowing virtual hearings in at least some cases, so it wasn’t a problem that Harris joined via Zoom. Nor was it necessarily a problem that he was taking the call from his car. But it quickly became a problem when the judge noticed the car was obviously moving.

You can see this quite clearly from the very entertaining Zoom video, which I would embed here except that it seems to have been removed from YouTube. But it’s still up on the CBS site, and is worth watching.

In Michigan, as in most if not all states, it is illegal to use cell phones while operating a vehicle unless you are using hands-free technology. Harris’s phone was apparently mounted to the dashboard, and under Michigan’s law, you do get a single “press, tap, or swipe” to activate the phone before you are considered in violation. He also pulled over right after the call, saying he had been on his way to the doctor’s office. So he may not have violated the no-cell-phone law. But he was violating another law, namely the one that prohibits you from driving unless you have a valid driver’s license.

Harris did not, a fact that the judge seems to have had immediately available to him. At the beginning of the call, the judge asked Harris whether he was driving. He was, of course, but quickly pulled over, announcing that fact in a way that suggests a sense of accomplishment, which further suggests he assumed the judge was upset because it’s unsafe to drive while taking a video call. That might have been true at first, but things quickly escalated.

“So maybe I don’t understand something,” the judge says. “This is a driver with a license suspended?”

“That is correct, your Honor,” the prosecutor responds.

“And he was just driving,” the judge continues, “and … he didn’t have a license.”

A long silence follows, during which one can see, as CBS put it, “a look of grim realization dawning on [Harris’s] face.”

“I don’t even know why he would do that,” the judge eventually says. He then revokes Harris’s bond and orders him to turn himself in by 6 p.m. that day or else a bench warrant will be issued.

Harris then can be seen rolling his head back in disbelief. “Oh my God,” he breathes, as it finally sinks in that he essentially filmed himself committing a crime during a court hearing. That moment is well worth the time you would invest in watching the short video.

Harris apparently did turn himself in (presumably on foot). He spent two days in custody and is scheduled to appear in court again on June 5. The CBS News report doesn’t say what his original crime was. If it was driving with a suspended license, I assume they would have said so.