Sunday, March 02, 2008

Voluntary Surrender Shenanigans

Six a.m., the number one time for police, federal agents, to bust in the house, wife and kids woken up crying, begging, "no, no, no!" "Don't take my Daddy." The wife asks "where are you taking him?" "Shut up lady, he's a criminal," she's told.

The truth is, just like my 5-year old likes to "press the button" on the elevator, law enforcement lives for these moments. These are the moments where the investigation ends, and the prize is the arrest, the "perp walk," the embarrassing scene in the neighborhood.

Many times, the future defendant is well aware of the pending arrest. He's been under investigation for months or even years, defense lawyers, prosecutors, and law enforcement have spoken and met.

Even in these situations, the "voluntary surrender" is something for which we beg.

This whole thing is embarrassing. Enough already.

The purpose of an arrest is to take the defendant into custody and present them before a judge or have them bonded out immediately. It's not a damn prize or game.

And I'm tired of prosecutors telling me "I'm not going to interfere with their desire to arrest your client." What are you all so afraid of? Tell the officers/agents, I know this defense attorney, he keeps his word, let his client surrender. If they say no, so be it.

Right now I have a police officer client. The arresting agency, another police department, wants to arrest him at his police station. Nice way to maintain that "fellow officer" thing." (UPDATE - THEY'VE AGREED TO A VOLUNTARY SURRENDER!)

I hear other stories from prosecutors about why the defendant can't surrender - my favorite - "ok, he can surrender, but not to the jail, to the police department, because they want him to ride in one of their police cars."

Let me not leave out all the mature people in our system that when asked about a voluntary surrender, say "I don't care about that."

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