Want to really, really complicate your life?
Go do some crimes. And don’t let an arrest – or two, or three – get in your way.
Each day as I wander wide-eyed through the dimly lit corridors of the Solano County Hall of Justice, I encounter dozens of home-grown career criminals who steadfastly refuse to give in to societal pressures and abandon their arduous paths through the California judicial system.
I should, perhaps, explain that the popular concept of “career criminal” doesn’t exactly fit with what one finds here in S’lano County, where men are men and women know their Miranda rights by heart.
When the average citizen thinks “career criminal” they imagine a slick holdup man with a string of daring bank robberies under his belt, or perhaps a wily international arms smuggler hustling automatic weapons between Rotterdam and Redondo Beach.
In S’lano County, “career criminal” usually means a guy who has a few drinks for breakfast, writes a bad check for his rent, punches out his landlord and then drives woozily down to the corner convenience market to attempt an armed robbery while brandishing a bent golf club.
And that’s, like, just one day.
Monday, for instance.
On Tuesday, our career criminal might decide to vary his routine by cooking some methamphetamines, appropriating the mag wheels off someone else’s rusty 1988 Impala and then trying to sell them to an off-duty police sergeant while parked in front of – or on top of – a fire hydrant.
I know at first glance this might seem somewhat exaggerated, but the fact is, there are plenty of hard-working desperadoes down at the old Hall of Justice who are at least this busy on a daily basis.
It’s not unusual for one individual to trundle into Superior Court trailing a half-dozen different criminal cases in various stages of adjudication.
We’re not talking about part-timers here, amigos.
This kind of career requires hard work and dedication – plus the ability to get caught each and every time you decide to shoplift a six-pack from Elmo’s Liquor Emporium or siphon gas from an unmarked police car.
Not long ago, I ran across an enterprising defendant (name withheld to avoid embarrassment) who was in court for hit-and-run driving on one case, forgery on another, welfare fraud on a third, assault with a deadly weapon on yet another, possession of methamphetamines on a fifth and battery on another.
About the only thing we’re missing here is piracy on the high seas, and I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.
With an arraignment here, a plea there and the occasional jury trial, these frequent flier felons no longer have mere court appearances, they have careers. This is eight-hours-a-day stuff.
Originally published July 6, 2003