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The Lighter Side of Life Lessons

The Lighter Side of Life Lessons

With the coming of the holidays, this might be a good time to remind ourselves to celebrate responsibly. I should know. In my previous profession as a trial judge, I witnessed more than one evening spoiled by alcohol or bad choices.  

This is a serious topic, yet humor is often a better mechanism for instilling a moral lesson than mere warnings. Please read the following true story and see if you don't agree.

I was presiding over a driving-under-the-influence case. Years ago, videotaping of field sobriety tests was unknown. This was going to be my first trial where the officers had video evidence. My staff and I were excited and eager to see what a genuine “woozy” person acted like.  

It is important to know that the video-recording equipment back then was so big, it had to be set up inside a panel truck. A van wasn’t big enough. The equipment they brought into the courtroom so we could watch was not much smaller.  

Witnesses were called, documents introduced, and lights dimmed. The screen came to life. We watched as the officer attempted to focus on the defendant, not the street light or cars in the background.  

The arresting officer appeared on screen and explained he was going to give some tests. The defendant swayed.  

First up, to see if the defendant's coordination was impaired, he was going to give the “finger-to-nose test.” The defendant hit his eyelid once and cheek another time. Not a good start.  

Next was the “heel-to-toe test.” The defendant attempted to walk the white line, but straddled it at best.  

Finally, the officer said he needed to see if his speech was slurred by reciting the alphabet and asked if the defendant knew his ABCs. Surprised by this assignment, the defendant pointed to his left and said, “Oh my! There's one on Clearlake Road and another in Melbourne on Wickham Road.”  

He might have been drunk, but he remembered his liquor stores. The jury laughed all the way into the jury room where they took turns signing the guilty verdict.  

So, please tell that light-hearted story to anyone who you fear might be tempted to imbibe a little too much this holiday season.  

This certainly was not the only amusing case that brought the courtroom to chuckles on otherwise dull days. For example, witnesses have broken us up with such phrases as talking about escorting some important “visiting dysenteries,” taking “milk of amnesia,” being sued in “fraternity court,” and leaving all his court papers in a “vanilla folder.”  

Remember: Don't drink and drive, you might find yourself being asked if you know where the ABCs are.  

Larry Johnston grew up in Brevard County, where his family lived on a boat during his high school years. He has held a Merchant Marine captain's license and flight instructor and airline transport pilot rating. He retired after 17 years as a circuit judge and now writes and travels throughout the U.S. gathering material with his wife in their motorhome. He can be reached at


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