Society

Police Officer Pepper Sprays Teen's Pizza, Doesn't Get Punished According To The Law

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Police officers in America commit crimes. This is a fact. Here is another fact: when they commit these crimes, they do not get punished by the same set of rules as the rest of us.

For example, what do you think would happen if you pepper sprayed a teenager’s pizza and the teenager became violently ill after eating it? There’s a good chance you’d end up in jail for purposefully poisoning a minor.

An Orange County, California police officer pleaded guilty to doing exactly this recently. The officer, Deputy Juan Tavera, pulled over four teenagers during a routine traffic stop. While another officer talked to the teenagers, Tavera spotted a pizza box in the backseat of the car. He managed to spray the pizza without any of them noticing.

The teenagers returned home and ate the pizza. All of them fell ill. This made them suspicious of their earlier encounter with the deputy, so they reported the incident to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The department opened an investigation and Tavera pleaded guilty to contaminating the pizza.

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What was Tavera’s punishment for his crime? 100 days of community service and probation. This light sentence was handed down despite California law calling for the unlawful use of tear spray (which pepper spray qualifies as) to be punished with prison time.

Here is the California statute governing punishment for Tavera’s offense:

CAL. PEN. CODE § 12403.7 : California Code - Section 12403.7

“(g)Any person who uses tear gas or tear gas weapons except in self-defense is guilty of a public offense and is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years or in a county jail not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment…”

Think about the message these fluffy sentences send to law enforcement officers. If you can do just about anything you want without fear of being punished, what reason is there to keep your behavior in check?

Sources: LA Times, OC Weekly