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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

What is the TODDI Defense?

On Behalf of | May 30, 2013 | Defenses

The TODDI defense is often employed at trial, especially in trials involving co-defendants. “TODDI” stands for “the other dude did it,” or ‘the other dude done it,” and is thus derived from the way some criminal defendants, rather than judges, lawyers or law professors talk. The TODDI defense is closely related to the SODDI defense. The term “TODDI” is used when the Defense knows who “the other dude” is, with “the other dude” most commonly being a co-defendant. The term “SODDI” is used in situations where the Defense does not know who “the other dude” is; it could be any number of possible “dudes.”

I happen to practice criminal law in Centre County, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University, where TODDI defense scenarios arise all the time. A classic scenario involves the Penn State Police paying a visit to a dorm room, after an RA has reported the smell of marijuana. The police then either secure the room and obtain a search warrant, or they obtain permission from the occupants to search the room. The police then discover marijuana, a bong, and alcohol in a room occupied by four underage students, none of whom claims ownership of the contraband. With no one claiming ownership, all four will likely be charged with possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and underage drinking/ possession of alcohol by a minor. Should this case go to trial, each defendant could point the finger at the other, while the prosecutor will likely argue that all four “constructively possessed” the contraband. Given the fact that it’s a victimless crime, and a high percentage of jurors have smoked marijuana themselves, juries often feel good about themselves when they render a not-guilty verdict in such a scenario.

Of course, not all TODDI scenarios involve harmless, young people partying in a dorm room. I once had a trial in which my client was accused of receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm without a license. He was pulled over in a vehicle, which is known as a “crack rental,” meaning that the owner “leased” his car for a period of time in exchange for crack. The police saw a handgun at my client’s feet in the backseat of the car, and the gun turned out to be stolen. The other backseat passenger made a successful escape by running away. I employed the TODDI defense, arguing that the gun could have been left in the car by the cracked-out vehicle owner, or it could have been left there by any number of people from the criminal underworld who would have been in and out of a crack rental, or most likely, the gun had been possessed by the guy who ran away. The TODDI defense in this case created enough reasonable doubt to result in an acquittal. Unfortunately, for this particular defendant, he also had to contend with other, unrelated charges, but at least an acquittal in the gun case kept him out of state prison.

Matt McClenahen is a defense lawyer and Penn State alumnus in State College, Pennsylvania, who limits his practice to criminal law.

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