Sadly, This Isn’t a Lawyer Joke

I Expect to Get a Few Complaints from lawyer readers about the lead story this week — a lot of my readers are lawyers. (I also have a relatively high number of cops and preachers in my distribution. Apparently those three professions particularly like this kind of reading.) My guess is that most of my lawyer readers are pretty decent people and doing a good job fighting for true justice, and they also find the sort of comments their colleague made to be reprehensible.

But before going on, let’s get to the story, from True’s 13 August 2006 issue:

Why Lawyers Have Bad Reputations, Part 635

Police in Milan, Mich., say Stephen Humphrey, 39, and his wife, Brenda, 34, got into an argument at a bar. He got in his pickup to leave as she reached in to grab her cell phone. Her arm was caught in the seatbelt, but he kept going; her arm was torn off just below the elbow. Humphrey’s lawyer, John Gonta, decried the felony charges against his client. Because Humphrey stopped and took his wife to the hospital after the accident, “he’s a hero,” Gonta said. “He saved her life.” Gonta says Humphrey can’t remember the incident. “Not because he was drunk or incoherent, but because he was in shock,” Gonta argued. “Who wouldn’t be shocked by such a horrific thing?” Tests taken five hours after the accident showed Humphrey’s blood alcohol level was still .03 percent, plus showed a measurable amount of marijuana. In exchange for prosecutors dropping a third-offense drunk driving charge, Humphrey pleaded no contest to causing serious injury while driving with a suspended license, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He faces up to five years in prison on each charge. (Detroit Free Press, Milan News-Leader, Monroe News) …Enough time for Brenda to get a divorce. Unfortunately, she needs a lawyer for that.

Most Lawyers Would Say, probably accurately, that they are not that sort of lawyer. Yet, until legal groups with significant backbone (e.g., the American Bar Association) start to use their clout to firmly, publicly, and repeatedly repudiate such twisted statements, the general opinion of lawyers isn’t going to improve. Now, that said: do any lawyer readers want to take up the case and argue the other side?

A Lawyer Responds

This page asked, “Do any lawyer readers want to take up the case and argue the other side?”

I heard from virtually no lawyers, so I have to conclude that either none of my many, many lawyer readers practice in the criminal defense arena, or they fully agree, especially the part where I said “My guess is that most of my lawyer readers are pretty decent people and doing a good job fighting for true justice, and they also find the sort of comments their colleague made to be reprehensible.” (and “reprehensible” is a pretty strong word for those who make their living choosing Just The Right Word!)

What do I mean by “virtually no” lawyers? Well, I heard from no American lawyers. I did get this from Garth in Queensland, Australia:

As a lawyer, I am torn between agreeing wholeheartedly with the absurdity of the defence and supporting the need for it. Indeed, many of the finest legal ethicists in the common law world debate this very issue daily, and have done since the earliest days of British law, upon which the American system is based.

Placing the client’s interest above all else is the only way in which the law can work because the alternative — lawyers indiscriminately choosing when to defend and when not to — would undermine the entire justice system. What perhaps you don’t allow for in your thinking is the idea that the making of that defence by John Gonta probably stuck in his throat and almost choked him. We don’t know. However, he was bound by the responsibilities of his professional duty and he did that duty admirably. He did his job. It’s not always a very pleasant job.

Policeman often have to arrest and jail persons who they would personally much prefer to let run free but the law simply will not allow them to do this. It’s a great tragedy. It is easy to criticise the workings of a system but much more difficult to suggest reasonable alternatives. Are you suggesting that Gonta’s client has no right to legal representation? I’m certain you’re not. So then what? Limited legal pursuit of acquittal? How limited? To suggest that the accused should have plead guilty to the maximum offence the prosecution can charge him with is an absurdity, albeit that it is possibly the “right” thing to do (assuming of course that the prosecution doesn’t willfully charge the accused with an offence of which he could not be found guilty).

The common law isn’t always — or even often — utilitarian. It doesn’t pretend to seek to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. In the ideal, it just seeks to ensure that every single client is given an equal right to the most vigorous possible defence. It’s not perfect but, to paraphrase the great man, it’s still the best worst system we can come up with.

Dang it, Garth: you wrote all that (and more — I cut out a bit to make it more concise), but you didn’t go into the reasons why you also wanted to agree wholeheartedly! 🙂

You’re correct that I’m not suggesting people who appear to be guilty shouldn’t be entitled to representation; let’s emphasize it: I’m not talking about lawyers making sure their client gets a fair trial; I’m talking about the absurd ways they try to get their clients off, no matter what they have to say to do it.

Rather, I’m suggesting that lawyers stick to reason, to stop short of “reprehensible” words or conduct. Even “obviously” guilty criminals (say, someone caught on film committing the crime) are entitled (another very strong word!) to a fair trial, and it’s up to their lawyer to ensure they get it. But it’s not my position that it’s a lawyer’s “duty” to get his client off “no matter what,” even though I do believe it’s significantly better for 100 guilty O.J. Simpsons to go free than for one innocent O.J. to be sent to prison.

Lawyers are limited — by the law, by ethics, and by the judges in the case — in what novel theories they can propose, and no one is saying those limits are hampering defendants’ rights to fair trials. All I’m arguing is, there’s a reason most people consider most lawyers to be scum, even though (as I said) most are probably good people. And making “hero” statements like the lawyer in the story last week did add to the damage to the profession’s reputation, so why is it that legal organizations with clout don’t censure attorneys for doing that damage?

And note that I didn’t choose to start this debate on any old story, but one where the lawyer 1) did make reprehensible comments, and 2) in a case that has already been decided — the guy who ripped off his wife’s arm pled “no contest.” Rather than try to explain that myself, I’ll use the legal dictionary from law.com:

No Contest: In criminal law, a defendant’s plea in court that he/she will not contest the charge of a particular crime, also called nolo contendere. While technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of “no contest” as such an admission and proceed to find the defendant guilty as charged. A “no contest” plea is often made in cases in which there is also a possible lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the criminal conduct (such as reckless driving, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault), because it cannot be used in the civil lawsuit as an admission of fault.

At the risk of complaints by lawyers that this is too simple, I’ll summarize that: it’s effectively a guilty plea, but without an admission of guilt that can be used against the defendant in a separate lawsuit.

In other words, the defendant admitted he committed the act, even when his attorney was trying to convince the “court of public opinion” that his client was some sort of “hero” for taking his victim to the hospital after he tore off her arm. (Making “reprehensible” a clearly appropriate word here!)

The Bottom Line

I’m all for freedom of speech. I’m also for professional standards, and a small percentage of lawyers is making the entire profession look bad. So again, I think “until legal groups with significant backbone (e.g., the American Bar Association) start to use their clout to firmly, publicly, and repeatedly repudiate such twisted statements, the general opinion of lawyers isn’t going to improve.”

And it’s sad that a non-lawyer needs to lead this debate, but clearly an outside view is needed.

September 2006 Update

Humphrey was sentenced to 40 to 60 months for each count of driving with a suspended license while causing serious injury, and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which ran concurrently. He was also ordered to attend substance abuse and impulse control counseling, and his vehicle was ordered “immobilized” for three years.

In 2018, John Gonta — still an attorney in Monroe, Mich. — ran for a seat on the Monroe County Board of Commissioners. He was soundly defeated in the August primary.

- - -

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31 thoughts on “Sadly, This Isn’t a Lawyer Joke

  1. Everyone forgets the one item. “Money” A lawyer does not have to accept the case if it will choke him.

    • This is very late (this article just showed up in the latest issue as a note), but this statement is untrue. Especially a public defender must take the case. While they could quit, if every public defender refused a case and the government could not find any other lawyer willing to defend the client *as they wish to be defended*, the defendant will automatically get off with a not guilty verdict. Note that this does not happen in practice as lawyers realize this problem, and thus just take the cases. This is due to the fact that the defendant has a right to a lawyer and cannot be held without trial indefinitely. Additionally, if the client is reasonably unhappy with their defense (such as their lawyer going against their wishes), they can get a mistrial declared.

      This is the main reason I disagree with Randy’s idea, at least prior to the trial and sentencing, if needed. While the lawyer should, in private conference, advice their client as to how to proceed with the defense, they need the freedom, in public, to act per their client’s wishes. Rather than it being up to the lawyer or bar to decide whether a statement is reasonable, it should (and is) up to the judge and jury to make that determination.

  2. OK, I’m coming into this late as I only just found the link in your latest email. I’m not a lawyer, but have had to study and apply a lot of laws here in Australia and am a great student of the British legal system on which both the Australian and USA systems are based.

    I love reading the biographies and like of the British lawyers. One thing I do find interesting is an ethical British lawyer is an officer of the court first and his client’s defender second. His job is to get the best he can for his client, but once told his client admits his guilt to the lawyer, an ethical lawyer can’t defend a plea of ‘Not guilty’ as he would be in violation of his oath to see justice done. Once having pleaded guilty, he’ll do his best to minimise his client’s sentence. And this is how I think it should be, if the person’s guilty, and the lawyer knows this for a fact, he shouldn’t represent him unless he pleas that way.

  3. You say you did not receive any responses on this issue from any lawyers in America? Hmm, I wrote you at least 2 or 3 comments defending the lawyer and pointing out that allowing anyone (bar association or whoever) to decide what a lawyer can or cannot argue in a case would automatically interfere with a defendant’s right to a fair trial. You responded to one of my comments via email.

    I spent several years as a prosecutor, so I have been a lawyer although I don’t practice law now. So what am I, chopped liver? Or maybe you didn’t count my comments because I am not now a practicing attorney even though that was my profession for several years.

    In either case, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say you never received any comments from any American lawyer.

    Then I’m unclear why you didn’t say anything when the contents of this page was first published in August 2006. Sorry, but I don’t remember any messages from you, and I don’t find any in my Comments folders. Perhaps you didn’t mention you are/were a lawyer and I didn’t realize it — I don’t know. I also have no opinion on whether you’re chopped liver or not, as I have not met you in person, nor have I seen objective analysis from an expert.

    (Later thought: I suppose it’s also possible that you wrote me after I wrote this page to say that no American lawyers had responded, by which time it was too late.) -rc

  4. To some extent, this is a self-limiting problem: absurdities offered to a judge or jury are likely to have the judge or jury laughing… while they vote against the defendant.

  5. I have a friend who argues passionately that the lawyers duty to his or her client is to get a not guilty verdict no matter what. This is how she defines “best possible representation.” It all ends up being in how you define that. I do find it odd that people hate lawyers so much but love the police. The solicitor Mr. Slimy Slime might do questionable things in representing his client, or in prosecuting the accused, but it is up to Officer Smiley to accuse someone, and the latter will do much more outlandish things to build a case. Not to mention that lawyers don’t police themselves and know they are subject to the same laws as those they defend or prosecute.

    Things might be different in Canada, but there’s definitely a love/HATE relationship with the police in the U.S. Most love them when they need them, but otherwise “hate” them to be zealous. It’s interesting watching some people try to resolve the conflicts in their thinking. -rc

  6. I am not a lawyer, but I do not think that this is a problem; such a ridiculous proclamation will be summarily rejected by any reasonable judge or jury. The lawyer making this absurd argument is not helping his client, since not only will the argument be rejected, but it also damages his credibility for any other statements he makes on behalf of his client. If this is truly the best defense that can be made, then the system should work, as the accused should readily be found guilty as charged.

    Where I have a problem in this case is with the prosecution plea-bargaining such a “slam dunk” case. Just as the defense attorney should vigorously defend his client to get the minimal possible outcome, so too should the prosecution vigorously pursue the maximum (reasonable) outcome. When the defense must resort to such absurd claims, there is no reason for the prosecution to “cave in” and offer a plea agreement. Offering a plea in such a case for “expediency” or to save money (tax dollars) is reprehensible and indicates that the prosecutors are not doing their job. They are creating a public safety hazard by allowing such an evil person to walk the streets long before he should be allowed to again see the light of day.

    I agree with your first point, though I still see a “problem” in that such tactics damage the reputation of the profession as a whole. Your second point is something I hadn’t considered, and is an excellent thought-provoker indeed. -rc

    • Tom’s second point is indeed thought-provoking, but misleading. Ultimately, plea bargaining is in fact designed specifically for these cases. Why waste everyone’s time and money (including at least a dozen ordinary citizens!) on a trial that is ultimately pointless? The putative point of plea bargaining is essentially to say, “We know you did this, you know you did this, and if you stop wasting everyone’s time and just admit it, we’ll try to get you a shorter sentence.” Note that sentencing is entirely up to the judge; he can accept the guilty plea and reject the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation.

      For further reading on plea bargains, I’d recommend the following article written by a prosecutor:
      http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/theres-no-trial-tax-theres-a-plea-discount/6409

  7. I’m wondering whether the lawyer really did his best representative effort.

    Personally, if I had been the judge (or a member of the jury), all that plea would have caused me to do would be to move the punishment up a notch for not really being repentant. Obviously, if he doesn’t disagree with his lawyer, the defendant agrees with the statements, and therefore I have to doubt his pleas of how sorry he is that it happened.

    Not only did the lawyer a disservice to his own profession (which admittedly should take second seat to the interests of his client), but here I think he also did a disservice to his client…

  8. Randy, I’d say that you explained where this lawyer went wrong, albeit indirectly, in the True Stella Awards book, where you said (p.322) that lawyers are “committed to continue on with their client even though they don’t think the case has merit”. Gonta’s assertions are merely an (extreme to the point of ludicrous) manifestation of this underlying problem.

    There’s a huge difference between being committed to continue on with their client and coming up with outrageous defense strategies that offend human decency. -rc

  9. While I’m just seeing this now from your update I saw on Facebook…

    Yes, all people accused of a crime are entitled to the presumption of innocence and representation from council. In fact, in Alberta, a former politician got sued for slander/libel for accusing a lawyer running for a school board position for supporting pedophilia because he represented a pedophile in a criminal case.

    However, you don’t need to call your client a hero for taking his victim to the hospital. That can certainly be a mitigating factor in sentencing, it doesn’t really change the guilt or innocence factor.

    As for a previous commment:
    “His job is to get the best he can for his client, but once told his client admits his guilt to the lawyer, an ethical lawyer can’t defend a plea of ‘Not guilty’ as he would be in violation of his oath to see justice done”.

    I would disagree. Just because a client says they are guilty, doesn’t mean they are. For example, John Doe recently bought a used car for about $1000 cash on Craigslist. He registers the car, gets it insured, and gets pulled over by gunpoint and arrested for having a stolen car. He tells the lawyer, that he is guilty of having a stolen car.

    The lawyer can certainly ask some very basic questions like “Did you know it was stolen?”. He can do research into it, like the “Blue Book” value of that particular car was about $1500, so it’s not like Mr Doe should have known the price was too good to be true. Could even look at other paperwork to determine the seller forged title, etc. Despite having the client “admit guilt” the lawyer would still be on very solid ground (in fact it would be ethically problematic) to not put in a “Not Guilty” plea.

    I hope the Alberta politician had to pay significant damages in the slander lawsuit. Do you have a link for more info? -rc

    • Here’s the info on Stockwell Day defaming the lawyer for defending a man charged with kiddie porn. Unfortunately taxpayers had to pay the damages as he was an active MLA at the time.

      Yeah, I was afraid of that. Very odd the way the newspaper did the reporting, though — choosing to update a story from 2000 rather than run a fresh story when it was settled: the story notes it was “UPDATED APRIL 9, 2018” so it’s almost impossible to figure out what happened when. Thanks for the link. -rc

    • I’d like to add more to your comment:

      I would disagree. Just because a client says they are guilty, doesn’t mean they are.

      If the client flat out admitted to murdering a person in cold blood with premeditation to the attorney with no migrating circumstance, should the client refuse to plead guilty (or no contest), the attorney is still obligated to defend the client to the best of their ability. The attorney is also not legally allowed to reveal the admission due to attorney-client privilege. The one exception to this is if the client informs their attorney of an attempt to commit a crime to help them defend themselves (most commonly, perjury, but also witness tampering and other similar crimes), whereby the attorney has the obligation to inform the the court of the attempt, even if that involves breaking attorney-client privilege.

  10. This ethical situation comes up over and over and over again, for lawyers, and doctors, and cops, etc. In real life and especially on TV shows. (After all, what percentage are about cops, lawyers or doctors?).

    The answer is simple, but tends to kill plot drama, so it’s often (if not universally) ignored.

    Our society runs based on a division of responsibility, that insures ONE person (or profession), doesn’t have to make huge decisions.

    Defense lawyers only follow the rules about defending them. They’re NOT to shoulder the responsibility of determining if what they are accused of is illegal (that’s the public and legislature), or if they are guilty (that’s the jury), or how they should be punished (that’s the judge and/or public). Likewise cops shouldn’t determine legality or level of punishment, etc. Each level has its duty and rules, all agreed upon, by society. Any that tries to assume additional responsibility is actually breaking the rules, IE: a lawyer determining guilty or a doctor choosing not to treat because he thinks the patient is guilty. Anyone who tries to assume responsibility beyond this is simply egotistical, thinking “my opinions of what I know right now, are still better than what the system will work out”.

  11. It’s not the lawyers who are bad, IT’S THE BAD LAWS and those were made by stupid politicians.

    …who are usually lawyers. -rc

  12. Another, related, point is that a lot of rights people enjoy are based on lawyers getting “clearly guilty” clients off. Things like expectation of privacy were hammered as result of lawyers arguing that even though tape of client saying something exists client expected privacy and as such police needed a warrant. Because criminal got off that way police now need warrant if they want to do same to you.

    Which makes perfect sense, when you think about it. Innocent person has no reason to argue whether what was said in his house but policeman overheard while standing on the street is something police can present as evidence. If you are talking about what kind of paint to use in bedroom and where you can get it at discount you don’t care if others hear you. If you are talking about buying large quantities of illegal drugs…. So what police can and can’t do will usually be decided when somebody who broke the law argues that evidence is inadmissible because reasons. And when it’s said “yes, it is inadmissible and police has to…” then that will apply to everybody. Even those who will grumble about criminals walking free on technicality.

    This goes into more detail than I did, but it is part of what I was alluding to in the paragraph above the graphic (“Rather, I’m suggesting that lawyers stick to reason….”) -rc

  13. The reason that lawyer organizations wouldn’t censure lawyers like this for demeaning the reputations of lawyers in general is that lawyers are REQUIRED to place their own clients’ interests and reputation paramount — above even their own reputations or reputations of their profession.

    Sorry, but I don’t I buy that: I don’t think lawyers are “required” to make reprehensible statements in an attempt to get their clients off no matter what, and I’ll challenge you to show me something contrary in the ABA’s Code of Ethics. -rc

  14. Many times I have said that though some sleazeball defendant truly had no defense for what he did (And I’ve heard some doozies I can tell you: “I was Drunk, I didn’t mean to kill nobody” said the 7-time convicted drunk driver at his 8th conviction; he got 20-life). But a strong defense is important. If the defense “slacks off” then a couple years from now after a key witness has moved out of state, or died (natural causes one hopes), the convict applies for re-trial based on “Representational deficiencies” and walks free. Seen that happen too.

    But with a strong defense, that flies not.

  15. Good points have been made on both sides of the debate, so I won’t weigh in. I just want to offer a linguistic quibble: In Garth’s letter he uses the phrase “indiscriminately choosing.” That’s an oxymoron. To choose is to discriminate.

    • I suggest that if you throw a dart at a dartboard to make a decision, that decision is indiscriminate. To me, “indiscriminately choosing” means you haven’t put any thought into your choice.

  16. Playing devil’s advocate, the no contest plea is used rather than the guilty plea where there is a likely civil suit. I’m no lawyer but a comment made in defence in a higher court may influence the outcome of the later case, so could this outrageous statement have been made to try and mitigate the outcome of the civil case? If so it could be argued that he was justified in ultimately getting the best outcome for his client.

  17. Apart from a Dutch reader, most comments have come from People residing in common law jurisdictions. So, this Austrian will also offer his tuppence-worth … I read law at Uni and I worked for some time in an attorney’s office, so I may state confidently that taking this sort of stance in Austrian court will have about the following consequences:

    a) in the criminal trial, the judge will ratchet up the punishment by a considerable degree (Austrian lawyer-slang: “der wird tief in den Schmalztopf greifen”), because it is clearly apparent that the defendant is not penitent at all;

    b) the driver will have to bid adieu to his driving license for at least several years;

    c) the Press will have a field day;

    d) the Bar Association (Rechtsanwaltskammer) will censure and possibly debar the attorney for doing his client a disservice by provoking the court, the injured party AND the General public.

    Whether the wife’s civil lawsuit for damages will be eased by that, I dare not say, but it seems probable.

  18. The Aussie lawyer used the police as an example: “Policeman often have to arrest and jail persons who they would personally much prefer to let run free but the law simply will not allow them to do this.”

    I think his use of this example is wrong on two counts: 1) The lawyer was trying to get his client free, not incarcerated. 2) Most police are having to release people they want to arrest but are no longer allowed to because of the change to limit offenses that are arrestable.

    At least in Kentucky, breaking into a car and stealing the contents is a misdemeanor and the perpetrator can only be issued a citation.

  19. Just read the whole post and comment section…

    While not a lawyer, I worked with several for many years as a hospital risk manager. In that time, I served as a witness in multiple cases; mostly civil litigation. However, I also provided corporate testimony in several criminal proceedings, as well as professional licensing inquiries by medical, pharmacy, and nursing licensing boards. My experience with the prosecutors, plaintiff’s counsel, and civil and criminal defense attorneys was, far and away, these are reasonable and rational individuals attempting to carry out their charged duties to the best of their ability within the constraints of the law.

    Yes, there are outlier examples of patently absurd civil complaints and criminal defenses, as in the “I’m an orphan” after patricide citation noted earlier. In those rare cases where the claim/defense was an insult to logic and rational conduct, the judges or hearing chairman would disallow “BS” arguments; on one occasion, the judge censured the attorney that brought the nonsense forward. Additionally, when a jury hears “BS,” they are usually very quick to call it out. These cases are fortunately rare, but do draw considerable attention due to the novelty (or better, the notoriety) of the defense. I do not see them as an indictment of the validity of the system; only a recognition that all professions have a minority of members that will act opportunistically and basely.

    This leads me to agree with your point that the licensing boards and professional associations should act more forcefully to remove those individuals. Their failure to do so is often due to inadequate funding by state legislatures as well as poorly crafted legislation that leads to governing regulations without teeth. One board I dealt with had a mandatory requirement for annual continuing education in order to renew licensure; when I inquired as to the consequence for noncompliance, the board official with assigned oversight told me there was none – and further, due to the language of the enabling statute, there was nothing he could do about it. The difficulty facing those boards is that professional licenses have become a property right to the holder, rather than a public privilege exercised for the benefit of society.

    Hmmm… where do we begin?

    I didn’t call for their removal, which is indeed problematic for the reasons you state. Rather, I called for the repudiation of such repugnant defenses from such organizations; a public censure could go a long way, at least in the public’s eyes. -rc,/i>

  20. Laws are written by lawyers. With loopholes carefully crafted to create opportunities for their profession.

  21. What I don’t understand:

    They got into a fight. Her arm is in the truck & gets tangled in the seat belt. He doesn’t see that and takes off, ripping part of her arm off. He then takes her to the hospital. (These are the stated facts.)

    At this point, he has done the Right Thing. He could have left her to fend for herself. I can also see where it might be traumatic for both of them. (Yes, he might have been legally drunk, but he obeys the law in that he did not leave her there, and I note they did not charge him with Leaving The Scene.)

    Why the dissing of his lawyer? The lawyer pointed out his client did the Right Thing for her — got her prompt medical attention? He acted in a heroic manner.

    (Let us leave aside that she has a spare arm — but I have an unusual attitude. See this page. Also leave aside a positive blood test for pot is useless — it does *not* indicate he was stoned — he could have smoked it *days* earlier.)

    (I am going to ignore the tar baby of a defense lawyer’s obligation to his client to get him off vs minimal sentence, etc.)

    It’s quite clear Humphrey has anger issues. He was driving under the influence, and that was at least partially a cause of him causing severe injury to his wife. That he then drove her (drunk!) to a hospital doesn’t make him in any sense of the word a “hero” — and it was repulsive for his attorney to make such a claim. And, as I argued, damaging to the profession. The court clearly agreed he was no hero: Humphrey was jailed as noted in the added September 2006 Update. -rc

  22. Unless you’re miles from civilization — and I’m sure Randy can give us a professional opinion on that distance — then it’s always better to call for help, so that treatment can begin on the way to the hospital instead of having to wait until your drunk ___ manages to drive her there.

    Actually, it’s probably more important to call for help if you’re miles from a hospital, since the victim has much more time to die (or suffer permanent harm). If they’re in a vehicle (or can be put in one safely), you can try to meet the ambulance part way, especially if they’re coming a long way from the direction of the hospital. But you won’t know if you don’t ask! -rc

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