To quote the justice of the peace, “this is a highly unusual case.” It all began in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, 2008, when an Ontario man, Taki Christopoulos, was driving home from his cousin’s house in downtown Toronto. As his blue BMW headed north of the city, another driver pulled up beside the car, extended his middle finger—and waved a gun. Here’s the really unusual part: when Christopoulos phoned 911 to report the incident, the operator told him to “get the plate” of the other vehicle. So he hit the gas pedal.
Unfortunately for him, a traffic cop noticed both cars barrelling down the freeway… and pulled over the wrong bad guy. Christopoulos was charged with “chasing”—a violation of Ontario’s new stunt driving law—and lost his licence, and his bimmer, for seven days.
Come trial, Christopoulos assumed he had an ironclad excuse: I was simply doing what the 911 dispatcher instructed me to do. In legal jargon, such a defence is known as “officially induced error.” But the strategy didn’t work. The officer, Const. Sven Wiggermann, testified that the BMW weaved from lane to lane, and at one point was clocked at a whopping 168 km/h. Christopoulos refutes the radar reading (he insists he never topped 120 km/h), but the court sided with the Crown. “The advice received was simply to ‘get the plate’ of the driver who brandished a gun,” ruled Mary Ross Hendriks, a Toronto justice of the peace. “It was akin to a discussion with an appropriate official, not authorization to engage in high-speed pursuit.”
Christopoulos, who was fined $2,000, has filed an appeal. “He accelerated briefly to try and obtain the plate, and then slowed right back down when he realized the other vehicle was going much too fast,” says his paralegal, Phil Alexiu. “And the only reason he even accelerated was because he was directed by 911 to see if he could obtain the plate.”