A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Traffic Ticket Court

Yesterday I ventured into traffic ticket court. I don't go there all that often anymore. I know some of you "big criminal defense lawyers" scoff at traffic ticket lawyers, but they've got the greatest gig. They don't charge much, they have a steady stream of volume business (even though they continuously undercut each other by $10 just to get the edge), no one goes to jail, and for the most part, there's no prosecutor in court. What could be bad?

But yesterday I had one of those clients all of us criminal defense lawyers have; the old client, great client, client who wont walk into any courtroom without us, or just that client for which we have a soft spot.

Such was yesterday, and I was shaking my head at what I saw and overheard.

I'm not one of those criminal defense lawyers who "hates cops," or "hates prosecutors," but yesterday I saw some pretty sad behavior.

There were only 4 officers in court, but 3 of them were acting like they had arrested mass murderers, instead of merely handing over a citation for a minor traffic infraction.

I first heard one say "I had a great Thanksgiving, gave out a ton of tickets." "Yeah, I like to park by the high school the Wednesday before Thanksgiving every year and give tickets to the kids leaving."

He then went on to brag about arresting a doctor who refused to sign a citation. Truth be told, it is an arrestable offense. The officer has discretion to take the person to jail, or give them an additional ticket for refusing to sign. The officer was enjoying telling his story about taking the doctor to jail, and explaining how he listened to him apologize over and over again.

Another officer was getting annoyed answering questions from a lawyer who was trying to verify whether the officer was the one who gave the tickets to his various clients, for the purpose of advising his clients to plea guilty. At one point he said "now, I'm done talking." I could see a detective on a serious felony cutting a conversation short with a defense attorney, but this was a traffic ticket. When the lawyer walked away, he bad mouthed him for about 5 minutes in front of me, complaining about his behavior which was nothing more than conversational.

This was the same officer who told the judge that the woman who was ticketed for an expired registration and came to court with a new registration, should not be found to be in compliance because she had no proof the registration was valid on the day of the ticket.


The judge did not call cases out of turn for lawyers, but for officers. He explained that he does this because he "wants these officers out catching bank robbers, not sitting in an air conditioned courtroom on traffic tickets."

When I left after resolving my case, I saw the result of the judge's efforts to return these officers to the streets, as one of them was handing out a traffic ticket to someone outside the courthouse.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Redux

Because I have to leave for the airport 6 hours before my flight to get through the throngs of media reporting on the throngs of people, I will be lazy and re-post my Thanksgiving post from last year. Enjoy!

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for:

1. Families Against Minimum Mandatories (FAMM). A real organization, with real goals, and the most promise of achieving some of them.

2. Prosecutors who sincerely respect the role of the defense lawyer.

3. Prosecutors who don't sincerely respect the role of the defense lawyer and quit being a prosecutor to do insurance defense.

4. Judges who realize there is a whole world outside their courtroom. This world includes traffic, kids, vacations, clients waiting in the lobby, and trials that aren't ready to be trials, yet.

5. Cops who walk out of court after you cross-examine them and slap you on the back and say "good job."

6. Clients who appreciate, well, anything you do.

7. My kids, who don't see what I see everyday.

8. My wife, who loves what I do, because she loves me.

9. The fact that I do not have to advance an argument because "my supervisor" says so.

10. Any prosecutor who understands the gravity of their position.

11. Public Defenders

12. Public Defenders

13. Friendly clerks, bailiffs, and corrections officers.

14. Clients who have payment plans with their family, and pay you up front.

15. Any legislator, state or federal, who doesn't use the criminal statutes or sentencing guidelines as their focus for legislation, solely for the purpose of their re-election.

16. Anyone in government or the courts who believes we have gone WAYYYYYY overboard with minimum mandatory sentences, and is willing to do something about it, other than shake their head.

17. Defense lawyers who are in this business for something other than money.

18. Judges who exercise the independence they so covet.

19. Members of the public who think protecting the constitution is a noble profession even if they think the police "can search my house anytime, I've got nothing to hide."

20. Practicing the only law that really matters.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

Monday, November 05, 2007

Unhappy Criminal Defense Lawyers Get What They Ask For

This morning, one of our courthouse resident complainers was asking me how I handle clients that don't pay after I get them a great result.

I told him that doesn't happen to me. He chuckled until he realized I wasn't kidding.

He couldn't understand how I get paid up front or within 30 days in "tough times" like these.

I told him I insist, and yes, people walk out the door (probably to his office).

Think about it for a minute my colleagues. What would your practice be like if all fees were payable up front, or in a short period of time? What would you do if you never concerned yourself with deadbeat clients, or waiting desperately for the mail or a visit from a client or two with some money?

I know, you'd have less cases.


I know, "you don't understand my clientele."

Yes I do.

We in the criminal defense bar get what we ask for. If we ask for very little, we get very little.

Isn't it time we concentrate on practicing law, instead of begging for money?

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com