Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Apple #114: Jumping into the Chicago River, part II

Last time, in response to a request from a reader, we looked into the health effects of jumping off the Wells Street bridge into the Chicago River. There's a second part to Chris' question, which is what would the legal consequences be.

I checked the Chicago Municipal Code, what portions of it that are available online, and I didn't see anything specific to jumping off bridges. So I asked a librarian at the Chicago Public Library to look into it for me (when in doubt, ask an expert, I always say). The librarian, Mr. Lyle Benedict, e-mailed me back and said he didn't see anything in the Code specific to jumping off bridges, either. However, he did say that "if the police were inclined to bring charges," they would probably do so under the Disorderly Conduct portion of the Code.

There are 10 distinct acts that qualify as disorderly conduct in the City of Chicago, and while some do get very specific (such as picketing within 150 feet of a place of worship while services are being conducted), none mention jumping off a bridge. But the first two acts defined as disorderly conduct are pretty general and could probably cover jumping into the river, if the police wanted to make the case for such. This is what the Code says:

A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly: (a) Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to provoke, make or aid in making a breach of peace; or (b) Does or make any unreasonable or offensive act, utterance, gesture or display which, under the circumstances, creates a clear and present danger of a breach of peace or imminent threat of violence.

Setting aside the fact that the Code apparently applies only to men and not to women, presumably, you'd be presenting more than just a threat of violence if you had jumped into the river: you would have already committed violence against your own person. You could also argue that jumping off a bridge into an urban waterway might constitute an unreasonable act.

So let's say they gave you a ticket for disorderly conduct. Then what happens? According to the Code, you would get fined somewhere between $5.00 and $500.00 for each disorderly offense. The fact that the Code gives a range means that you'd probably be given a ticket and have to appear before a judge. The judge would then decide how much you'd have to pay. Probably, if some emergency crew had to use some kind of crane or other gear to fish you out, the judge would make you pay for the use of the equipment, or close to that amount, up to $500.

There's another part of the Code that might also come into play, and that is Trespassing on Elevated Track. The picture I posted in the previous entry shows an el track as part of the Wells Street bridge. If this is the same bridge to which Chris was referring, and if he would have to climb on the el track in order to execute his dive, and if somebody saw him climbing on the track prior to his dive, he could also be issued a ticket for doing this. That's assuming that he did not touch the third rail and electrocute himself in the process.

But say he climbed up on the track and survived. Unless he's an employee of the el, he would be given a citation for this, too. The Code doesn't stipulate a fine under this particular section, but it does state under the more general section dealing with plain old trespassing that you could be fined anywhere from $1.00 to $100.00 per offense.

So, worst case scenario, legally, you get fined $600. And here I must remind you that I am not an attorney and this should in no way be considered a legal opinion. I also want to remind you that I am in no way condoning jumping off of bridges, no matter what the fine or the consequences to your health. This is because, although swan dives may sound nice in theory, they sure look a heck of a lot like suicide and might actually wind up being such. And the Daily Apple is doing all it can to turn people away from suicide.

With that in mind, I am pleased to report that this evening I was watching an episode from the fifth season of The Sopranos and was delighted to realize that none other than our very own Diamond Dave, the one and only David Lee Roth, had made a guest appearance at the poker table. He was looking pretty haggard, I have to say, but it was him, no doubt.

In the spirit of dispelling all creeping miasma, let's turn to the Diamond David Lee Roth Army for another quote from Mr. Roth. In an interview, responding to the fact that Eddie Van Halen had screamed on camera that he would kick DLR in the nuts, Roth said:

This causes me to ask, because we're talking to a very articulate magazine here, with an articulate audience readership, and an entirely articulate interviewer here. What kind of balls is he imagining? What kind of testicles are haunting Eddie Van Halen's sleep? Are these giant turbo-prop monster truck nards that smash Chevies and Buicks and are now rolling over his front gate right now up there at 5150 and crushing his designer sports car and the family pet as it squeals a short, brief, glorious warning? Or are these highly trained, super-mobile, small, but highly maneuverable Belgian assault nards that even now are swarming under the gates and are about to sail into the nerve center of the gangland stronghold! The mind fairly reels, sire.

Three more requests to go. I'll keep the request lines open another week, and then go back to our regularly scheduled programming. If you're hankering to know something, post it in that entry, in the Comments field, please.

Selected codes from the Chicago Municipal Code
Chicago Public Library's Ask a Librarian service
Diamond David Lee Roth Army, DLR Rothisms

1 comment:

  1. [Commense Applause]

    Wow - my thanks for providing such a great resource and for answering my question with the kind of thoroughness that trumps our own government's research! You've punched a few holes in my desire to make the leap, but the fantasy still lives - if I can find someone willing to drive a boat up the River to scoop me up immediately after the jump, I just might do it someday. Someday... when I'm flush with cash to cover fines and can afford to carry some kind of inoculation kit with me everywhere I go. Thanks again!


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