07 June 2022

A Text Mess

Some weeks ago, I posted a few voice-to-text hiccups that found their way into
probable cause documents I had been tasked to review. Since then, a couple more have caught my eye and proven too good to ignore.

The other night, a police officer arrived at a domestic disturbance, separated the warring parties, and started talking to the man. The officer in the probable cause affidavit noted that from the defendant’s speech, mannerisms, and behavior, it was obvious, the report stated, that the arrestee had been “heavenly drinking.”

Without further elaboration, I could only guess that his speech involved promises to “smote thine enemy” and the mannerisms include the waving of “his rod or staff.” The police transported him, presumably not to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Jlcoving, CCBY-SA3.0, Creative Commons.org
A different officer arrested a young man and, during the subsequent search of his person, located a short glass tube blackened with burn marks. The officer, helpfully, identified the object in his possession as a “math pipe.”

The problem with these little typos is not that I can’t figure out what the officer intended to say, but rather they encourage flights of imagination. One minute I’m reading the case report and the next I’m composing a story problem.

Mark bought an eight-ball from his hook-up. How many dime bags can he get from this? Mark took a hit from his math pipe. His hand shot into the air. Thirty-five, he answered. (The answer might depend on the reliability of your dealer and is always subject to the local conditions of your market.)

Of course, interpretation errors cannot always be blamed on the software.

Years ago, I joined the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Back then, the first stop for a newly hired prosecutor was the traffic appeals court. Defendants had the right to a trial de novo on some traffic tickets. We new kids rotated in and out, staying only until a “real” spot opened in one of the regular misdemeanor courts. We would then transfer, and our important selves would move on to prosecuting Class A and B misdemeanors. Don M. was the lawyer permanently hired into the traffic appeals court. He would remain behind to welcome the next new hire.

Don was a weathered attorney, typically in a brown suit. He had traded the stress of an active criminal practice for a steady paycheck and good insurance. (Life choices I better understand now than I did at the time.) The morning docket involved long lists of cases from around Dallas County. Don stood before the judge and stated the government’s position as each case was called. He spoke in a low voice, mumbled, and expressed himself in a code that had been refined to efficiently describe the state of each case to the presiding judge.

“Hiram Bedder,” I heard him routinely tell the judge, and the ticket disappeared.

I didn’t know who Hiram Bedder was or why he had such control over the flow of traffic ticket cases in Dallas County.

I could have asked, but that’s not the normal response of a newly licensed lawyer who’s been validated as special smart. Instead, I wondered and assumed one day I’d meet Lawyer Bedder somewhere in the office’s hallways.

I later learned that Don was saying “higher and better.” The officers had also filed a more serious charge, often driving while intoxicated, in addition to the traffic violation. The district attorney’s office would dismiss the minor charge and not allow the defense to essentially depose the arresting officers. (There was also a jurisprudential question of double jeopardy back in the day, but we don’t need to get all in the weeds on the legal issue.)

My brain went voice-to-text on Don’s speech and completely misfired. I can only imagine where it might have ended up if I’d been drinking heavenly?

Until next time. 


  1. Thanks, Mark, a little humor with my coffee starts the day out right. And, if it wasn't for the drug trade, the U.S. public wouldn't know the metric system, nor how to convert between both measurement systems.

    1. That's the only reason I can convert ounces to grams.

    2. I have argued if druggies and drunks understand the metric system, the rest of us should be able to.

  2. If you do decide to drink heavenly, I'll have what you're having.


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