Allison Ettel, dubbed "Permit Patty," was under fire after calling the police on an 8-year-old selling water bottles without a permit. People of the Internet got really pissed at her.

Legally speaking, was she right? A quick Google search leads me to believe that minors do actually need a permit to sell stuff. However, the kid and her mother didn't get into any trouble.

Was it a situation where calling the police was the proper legal action? Was Allison Ettel legally right even though everyone hates her?


It's called police and prosecutorial discretion to discern when to arrest and prosecute; and that situation in particular is also the result of a decision of the jury of the court of public opinion.

Permits are required to sell on the street in Oakland. But not everyone who sells has a permit, and not everyone who is confronted about not having a permit is arrested and prosecuted. There are simply too many potential cases to prosecute. And, the police officer has the discretion to ticket or not. When you get pulled over while driving or riding a bike, you don't always get a ticket, since the officer has the option of discretion.

When the officer responded and found an eight year-old selling water, he obviously was aware of the fact that it was a violation. But he was also aware of the court of public opinion. What is it going to look like if he arrests an eight year old and their parent?

Allison Ettel was right, in a purely legal sense, to make the report. And technically, the child (and adult) needed a permit. And could have been ticketed and prosecuted. But it was Ettel was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, and she lost her case. Happens a lot.

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    Which law required a permit here? It seems like the answer could go different ways depending on whether you classify her as a peddler or a street vendor or something else. – bdb484 Jul 7 '18 at 6:05
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    This event occurred in San Francisco (the recent park BBQ permissions event was Oakland). San Francisco has a 311 system for non emergency things like code violations; does a caller have a duty to correctly choose between 911 and 311 if provided? – user662852 Jul 7 '18 at 20:54
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    Any caller has the duty to call 911 only for dangerous situations, since calling 911 for non-dangerous situations can get people killed if there is no 911 response to a dangerous situation because the police is busy elsewhere, like checking up on 8 year old girls selling water. In that situation, 911 should never be called. – gnasher729 Jul 7 '18 at 22:39

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