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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

About That DUI Checkpoint On Miami Beach Friday Afternoon

Last Friday night (12/28/2012), in the middle of the holiday vacation season, there was a DUI Checkpoint on the way to Miami Beach. When I say "on the way," I mean at about 6:30 p.m.

Now let me say this: I don't have a problem with DUI Checkpoints. They have to be advertised and they usually snag a good number of drunk drivers and others with suspended licenses and other issues. They serve a purpose, and all that. With the advent of social media, "advertised" takes on a whole new meaning. As you are preparing to go out, or go home, check your Facebook or twitter feed and you're sure to find a note about the checkpoint and be able to avoid it.

And I'm sure this one, at 6:30 the other night, caught a few post-happy hour folks on their way to dinner and some others who just can't fix their license suspension issues.

I just have a question, without offending MADD and the cops and the others who will cry that "getting one drunk driver off the street" is worth anything we have to do.

Here's the question: Don't most people drive drunk after a night out and not on their way to their night out? (note: I did hear there was also a late-night DUI Checkpoint on another road leaving Miami Beach) 

I ask this because when I started practicing law, I was placed in the DUI division of the county court. Most DUI arrests occurred after midnight and before 6 a.m. I know this because we would comment on the "odd" arrests that occurred in the early evening or post-sunrise morning hours.

Back to the decision to perform this DUI Checkpoint in the early evening hours on the one of three causeways to Miami Beach.

Several years ago I was on Miami Beach on New Year's Eve. I had some drinks. There was a DUI Checkpoint on the causeway from South Beach (the most popular of the three causeways). It took me over 2 hours to get to the checkpoint. If I was drunk, by the time I got there I would have been fine. It was a mess. Traffic was at a stand still. It was the last time I went to Miami Beach for New Year's Eve.

So let's look at this checkpoint last Friday night.

Miami is full of tourists, mostly visiting family for the holidays and the bowl game crowd is trickling in. It's the Friday before New Year's Eve. Dinner reservations are made, people are on their way to South Beach hotels to see family and friends, restaurants and bars await the big crowds with money to spend. It's 6 p.m.

I had dinner reservations on South Beach at 7:15 p.m. I knew about the checkpoint, so even though I had not consumed any alcohol, I took the north causeway to the Beach. No problem.

When I got to the restaurant, I saw the angry tweets and other postings from those who were turning around and advising others "don't go to Miami Beach tonight."

Did the city leaders know about this? Did the police sit down and say "we're going to basically stop traffic to the city on Friday night as people are on their way in?"

I doubt it. I assume the police just set up their checkpoint and if the merchants had to suffer a few lost customers on a holiday weekend due to the necessity to let the world know that you can't drink and drive, the hell with it. If people decide not to go to the Beach that night or turn around, at least the point was made.

Just seemed like a stupid idea.

 Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Because There's Nothing To Say

But sometimes, 
we forget what we got, 
who we are, 
Oh who we are not, 
I think we gotta chance, 
to make it right 

- Amos Lee - Keep it Loose, Keep It Tight

It's early Saturday morning. My treasured Saturday morning where I sleep a little later after a long week of work. But today I couldn't lay in bed because I had two little girls down the hall sleeping peacefully, as I do every day - and I knew that 20 families elsewhere, didn't.

I write this not for you, for your comments, your "likes," or to whom you may forward. This is one of those posts I write to be able to come back to someday to remember my thoughts and feelings after the most horrific school shooting in American History.

Like you, yesterday when I initially heard that a gunman went in to a school and killed an adult, or two, or some number of adults based on whatever news source was rushing to be "first," I thought "that's terrible." But I was comforted to know that no kids were killed.

And then, as many of us say these days "my twitter stream blew up."

Ten, 18, 22, no 20.

Twenty homes with unwrapped presents, half-decorated Christmas trees, plans to go see Grandma next week, a life ahead.


They say there is nothing like losing a child. I wouldn't know. If there is nothing like losing a child, to an accident, or health issue, then knowing that you dropped your kid off for a day of elementary school and they were murdered, is in a category all alone.

As it goes, when things like this happen (and it was telling yesterday when a news reporter easily said "a school shooting like this"), we see people at their best, and worst. Yesterday House Majority Leader John Boehner, who is at the throat of President Obama, cancelled his scheduled briefing because it was a time for "the President to speak for the nation." That's leadership.

If you missed President Obama's speech yesterday, find it. It's up there with "ask not what your country can do for you," and similar Presidential speeches. He spoke not as a President, but as a father, a citizen of the world. He cried. I cried listening to him.

It's already started, and it will continue - people are and will say some stupid things right now. Maybe you think this is stupid. I don't know. But I want to say this about guns.

I don't like guns. I don't own a gun. I've shot guns at ranges and it was fun. I don't care if you own a gun. I don't want to take your gun away. I believe that you should be able to protect yourself.

But let's stop the talking points, the scripted thoughtless words. Stop saying that guns don't kill people. Guns kill people. People with guns kill people. Yes, beer bottles can kill people and moving cars can kill people, and a really sharp pencil can kill someone.

I, though, have not recently heard of someone going in to a school with a broken beer bottle, or pencil, or car, and killing innocent kids.

We need to stop thinking that any attempt at a solution is by definition, taking your gun away. No one is going to take your gun away. If you truly understand the Constitution, you understand that every right has a restriction. The First Amendment, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, all of them. The notion that every other Amendment can be restricted but 2, is without logic. You can't bring a gun on an airplane, in a bank, in a courthouse (unless you are law enforcement), and we're all OK with that. 

Those of you that say "gun control is not the answer," need to come up with an answer, because the answer is not to "do nothing" because we can never stop some deranged gunman from doing what was done yesterday.

I disagree.

I don't know that "gun control" as a concept would have changed anything yesterday because I don't have all the facts yet, and either do you. I do know that I'm OK with doing something to try - try - and prevent what happened yesterday. We can say that hurricanes will never stop, but we can change our building codes to make stronger homes.

I know that - wait, let me get it right - if guns are criminalized, only criminals will have guns. But I heard that the guns yesterday were bought legally by the gunman's mother. If she wasn't allowed to buy an assault weapon..... Hell, I don't know, but I'm not stupid enough to think that those that are passionate about the Second Amendment have all the answers. I can only say that I don't. I'm not that smart.

I agree that creating laws at a time like this is never a good idea. Maybe it's not laws. Maybe its security, metal detectors, something. I just won't accept that the answer is to do nothing because anything we do won't work.

To the families affected by yesterday, I ache for you. I can not imagine your breakfast table today as you sit there speechless noticing the flashing lights from the tree in the other room, doing everything you can not to go down the hall to the bedroom. Know that America hurts today. 

I am glad the gunman is dead, because you will not have to suffer years of re-living this in court. I normally want to know why someone did what they did - but in this case I do not. Sick, demented, mad, whatever. It doesn't matter. May he burn in hell.

I could probably write about this all day. I drove home yesterday in a total fog, and like any parent, was thinking how easily it could have happened at my kid's school.

There's just nothing I can say, which makes me a hypocrite.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Thoughts About The Presidential Election, Break Out The Tin Foil Hats

One thing that social media has shown me is that we have lost the ability (or maybe never had it) to engage in civil discourse about politics. Seriously, some of your heads are going to explode if you don't take a deep breath. There are people whose entire existence online is to attack the President, or support the President. Do you have nothing else to say? It’s pathetic, and it comes from the false collective notion that “you” are wrong and “I” am right. Actually, today it’s more like “YOU ARE TOTALLY CRAZY AND I KNOW THAT BECAUSE I AM TYPING IN ALL CAPS.” Everything is a conspiracy against your guy, those that don’t support your guy “don’t get it,” and if I’m not scared of my guy, I’m doomed.

I keep hearing that “this is the most important election.” Really? Was there any Presidential election that wasn’t important? Have we not had important wars in our past (Revolutionary, Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, did I miss a few?) or important financial issues (The Great Depression, Gas Crisis, recessions, did I miss a few?) Every Presidential election is “the most important,” that’s how we try and sell participation in voting – which is woefully low in the United States.
One of the problems in this country is that we believe we are divided down a straight line of Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats. Not true. Most people are in the middle. The social liberal/financial conservative has been looking for a candidate for years. The problem is that candidates don’t win unless their party is behind them, and each party, Republican and Democrat, have to pacify the extreme right and left wing.

This country was never created to be run by religion, but don’t tell that to some right-wing conservatives. Paul Ryan said he couldn’t separate his religion from his politics. Where was the outrage from the Republicans? You haven’t heard much about that comment since it was made.  This country was also built on the notion that if you work hard, you can be successful. I’m not a big fan of the “rich vs. poor” fight that is raging now, but the liberal democrats believe that part of America’s problem is that the rich need to pay more taxes. While there may be a valid economic argument that the “rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” the answer to America’s problems aren’t found with the “rich,” the so-called “1%” or “2%” or “non-47%,” or whatever. Raising taxes on the so called “rich” may make everyone else feel better, but feeling better doesn’t make your life better.
The problem, as I see it, is that most people have no idea what they are talking about. They are not “crazy” or “stupid,” or “out of their minds,” they are simply uninformed. They latch on to one issue and one message that they heard on an ad or from their friend. The main problem we have in this country right now, is not abortion, or the “rich,” or gay marriage. The problem, as I see it, is that we are creating nothing, and spending too much. We need to start building and manufacturing again in America, start giving serious incentives to keep jobs here, and stop spending ourselves into oblivion. And don’t tell me that one party can do that better than the other. History disagrees.

First, the question that should govern who you vote for (assuming you’re not a party hack that only votes “D” or “R”) is not “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” A better question is: “will you be better off 4 years from now if you vote for your guy?”
If you’re smart, the answer is “who the hell knows?” Many thought Carter was the answer after Nixon, and that Clinton was an idiot from a small southern state who could never manage the national economy, and that Reagan (a Democrat turned Republican) was a moron actor. Bush I said he wouldn’t raise your taxes, so has Romney. Obama promised a lot of hope and change, and has disappointed many, including me.

If you think the President of the United States will make your life better, you stand a good chance of being disappointed. If you are relying on the government to make your life better, that’s your first problem.
So, you say “I’m going to vote for the person that won’t make it worse.”

Make it worse for whom? The country, or you?
You, of course. We generally don’t care about everyone else, we care about us, we, our family.

This election we seem to have two questions – who will get me a job and who will not raise my taxes.
I’ve left out those of you who constantly belly ache about someone taking your gun away, because you all need to realize that no one is going to do that. You can have your guns, as many as you want, any kind you want, and no one will take that away. Personally, I don’t care if you own a gun or 30 guns. I don’t like assault weapons as I seem to think their only purpose is to assault, but if you think that taking away assault weapons is the first step to making gun possession illegal, you can continue advocating for everyone to be able to have an assault weapon or 4. Just stop saying that if they take away your guns that only criminals will have guns, because as a lawyer, I find that argument to be stupid. If they take away anything (meaning it is illegal) then by definition, only criminals will be in possession of said item that is “taken away.” So every time a group of people, kids, whatever, are shot to death by some deranged gun owner, yes, you’ll have to make your case for guns, but I’m serious, don’t worry, it’s never going to be the law in America that we can’t own guns. That Second Amendment is precious to many people, and don’t forget that too many politicians are bankrolled by the NRA for any significant change to occur. But I could be wrong. I don’t think I am.
Now about taxes.

Most Americans don’t pay taxes, I hear. I pay taxes. Come April, I don’t get a check, I write one. I hate paying taxes. I think it’s unpatriotic for any American to want to pay more taxes. I won’t call you “crazy” or unfriend you on Facebook, or anything like that, but really? I don’t want to pay more taxes, but that’s not my only concern. Plenty of people are “one-issue” voters. “He’s going to take away my Medicare,” “he’s going to raise my taxes,” “he’s going to get me a job.” They run those ads for one reason – because they know you are stupid.
I hear if Obama is re-elected my taxes are going up and that if Romney is elected, I will not pay more taxes. I don’t believe any of it, and if both statements are true, I’m still voting for Obama. Here’s why:

I am disappointed in things Obama has done and not done, but I don’t believe I will be better off with Romney.

I am concerned about the future of the Supreme Court and our federal court system. I heard Romney say on that “I appoint prosecutors,” when talking about appointing judges. That’s a problem for me, not because I don’t support prosecutors becoming judges, (many of whom make better judges than former defense lawyers), I do. I give money to prosecutors running for judge, and write letters on their behalf when they are seeking appointments. But to have a President that has already closed the door on non-prosecutors becoming federal judges (does that mean civil lawyers are excluded too?) is a deal breaker for me. When I was debating my vote and then heard that, it ended it for me. But it’s not the only reason. You know all those politicians that say there “shouldn’t be a litmus test” for judges? I agree with their public pronouncements (even though most of them are lying.)

I also believe that Romney is a critic of Obamacare simply because his party wants it gone, even though it is similar to Romney’s health care bill in Massachusetts. That’s called hypocrisy. Is Obama a hypocrite, probably. Most politicians are. But I’m not turning over the keys to the USA to a guy who is making it a central focus to pimp for his party on an issue he probably feels differently about.

I’m also tired of the gay marriage hypocrisy. I’m going to give credence to those that don’t support gay marriage because they don’t believe the definition of marriage should be changed. But let’s get real, the two predominant philosophies surrounding gay marriage are that one, you don’t care if gays marry, or two, you hate gay people. Again, I know and believe that some of you actually feel that gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because no one should have special rights, but most of you who say that are homophobic. I don’t know why more people against gay marriage won’t just say they are simply against gay people. Well, actually I do know why people don’t say that.
And although I don’t think abortion should be used as a form of birth control, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I’m OK if you don’t. Two of my closest friends are pro-life with no exceptions. It’s OK, we can still have a drink and a good steak together.

I bring this sensitive topic up because when we in Florida went from a moderate Republican (now Independent but really Democrat) governor to a conservative Republican who, like Romney touted employment as his highest priority (“Let’s Get To Work!.”) – we spent a legislative session slogging through at least a half-dozen abortion bills and another half-dozen attacking the court system. Watch, if Romney is elected (and he very well may be), you’ll see a ton of social-based legislation take over the “jobs” agenda real quick.
If I believed we could have a Republican administration that would focus on small business, manufacturing, getting people back to work, I would consider Mitt Romney. But I see the extreme right wing of the party ready to pounce on the courts and social issues, like they did here in Florida, and I’m not going to be a part of helping to put that administration in to the White House.
Even if it costs me money.

Non-anonymous comments welcome.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Has The Republican Party Of Florida Lost Their Collective Mind?

Yesterday the Republican Party of Florida voted unanimously to oppose the retention of three Florida Supreme Court Justices. For those (most people) not paying attention, there is a movement afoot to remove Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis because they are viewed as too liberal.

From The Miami Herald:

“The announcement that the Republican Party is engaged in this effort would shock those wonderful Republican statesmen who helped create the merit selection and merit retention processes,” said Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, former president of the American Bar Association who, as a former legislator, helped to craft the law in the early 1970s."

This effort strikes at the heart of the "independence of the judiciary" talk that lawyers are engaging in at every Bar luncheon, conference, and in letters to the editor of bar publications. The jist of it is that judges should not be removed solely based on their rulings. If they commit misconduct or otherwise are not fit to serve, OK, but to campaign against the retention of judges merely because you disagree with their interpretation of the law, is to say that judges should not decide matters on the law but on the will of the public (most of whom believe that the problem with the death penalty is that it's not imposed enough and that the problem with prisons is that they are not full.)

Back to yesterday:

For the first time since Florida approved merit retention of Supreme Court justices more than four decades ago, a political party has taken a stand against retaining three justices.

The Republican Party of Florida sent out a release saying its executive board had agreed to oppose retention of Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. Not coincidentally, they’re the three remaining appointees of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles (though Quince was a joint appointment by Chiles and his successor, Gov. Jeb


“While the collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive, there is one egregious example that all Florida voters should bear in mind when they go to the polls on election day. These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire. The fact that the United States Supreme Court voted, unanimously, to throw out their legal opinion, raises serious questions as to their competence to understand the law and serve on the bench, and demonstrates that all three justices are too extreme not just for Florida, but for America, too.”

That's the reason - they made a decision, based on their interpretation of the law (that the defendant did not give his lawyer the right to concede guilt) with which the Republican Party of Florida disagrees. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed as well, but that's why we have appellate courts.

Now let me tell you about Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis. You don't want to be a lawyer before them on a Bar discipline matter. That's right, they're not my best friends when it comes to my clients.

But I will do everything to make sure they stay. Not because I agree with their stance on Bar discipline matters, but because this movement to get rid of them is based on everything lawyers should be against - politics invading the courts.

In candor, I used to be a registered Republican. I left the party for one reason - our last governor politicized the judicial appointment process (more so than it already was politicized under the rule that governors appoint their friends) to the point where qualifications didn't take a back seat, they were strapped to the roof, with some very thin string. So I made a statement then, as I'm making now - politics and the courts deserve a brick wall between them, and if a political party is going to be a part of invading the Independence of the judiciary, lawyers need to stand up and make a statement in favor of justice over politics.

And former Justice Raoul Cantero, a conservative Republican who voted with these three justices in favor of the defendant? What's his position?

Many prominent Republican lawyers have opposed politicizing the merit retention vote. The most outspoken Republican has been Cantero, the former justice who now practices law in Miami. He was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Jeb Bush and has said he believes the justices have done nothing to merit removal from office.

“My strong feeling is, if we start turning the merit retention process into a political vehicle, then we are turning the judiciary into another political branch of government, which the Founding Fathers of our country specifically intended to avoid,” Cantero told reporters last week.

Shame on the Republican Party of Florida. I hope the lawyers in the party that disagree with this decision will make their voices be heard, loudly.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wine For Public Defenders (And Yes, Prosecutors)

When you blog, you feel compelled to explain why you haven't blogged. You get comments like "haven't seen you blogging lately."

I don't feel compelled to explain, but I will. I haven't been blogging because I haven't felt like it. It's not that I haven't had things to say, it's that I've been more interested in other things, like legal work and enjoying my family.

Then I wake up ready to write about something only to find that someone else has written my thoughts. Doing the "what he said" thing is nice, but doesn't always cause me to take the time that's required to say "what he said."

The other day though, a request came through that got my creative juices flowing. While I view requests like I view social media gurus (blights on society), this was one I couldn't turn down. So I dusted off the laptop, and now, I respond to the following:

"Please make a list of wine for PD budgets."

Now some of you know that on occassion I notify the world that I drank a nice bottle of wine. Usually I get a "nice," or "where can I find that," but now I'm being asked to give a shout out to my former world as an assistant public defender, and although the bloggers of the world refer to this as a "throw away post," (a post written mainly because the blogger felt like it and generally unrelated to the topic of the blog), I must oblige my homies*. (*people similar to me at some point in my life.)

First, let me advise that as an assistant public defender, I didn't drink much wine. They didn't have, nor do I believe they have now, "nickel wine night." I also never found it a better deal to spend $10 on one bottle of something when I could buy 6 bottles of something for about $4.

Although the request was not specific, I have placed two requirements on the following recommendations - they are all readily available, and cost $13 or less at the typical retailer.

These are available to both public defenders and prosecutors. Back in my day we actually used to go out and drink together a couple nights a week. I know that may seem like blasphemy to some of you kids out there, but the war ended in court, for most of us.

The list:

Rex Goliath Cabernet

Read this about Rex Goliath and tell me you're not running out to get some? This is the wine I buy when the kid's school says "Brian, can you donate 10 cases of wine for the upcoming party?"

It's $5.49 at Total Wine. They also make a Shiraz and Merlot. Try 'em all for $17.

Dr. Loosen Riesling

One day someone is going to figure out that this wine is a steal at $11.99. Nothing says "here, I know you're a girl who doesn't like wine but try this," better than Riesling. Riesling is a German wine. It's made in America, but I don't like the American versions, especially when I can get a German one for under $12. I buy this, and it always gets good reviews. Loosen makes higher level Rieslings, but this one will shock you for the price.

Instead of that crap $10 Chardonnay you think you like, spend the extra couple dollars and get this.

Speaking of cheap Chardonnay, I won't recommend any. So keep wasting your money on those magnums of Woodbridge. I don't like Chardonnay, I've only had one in my life that I liked and it's $40. So do me a favor, try this:

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier

The great thing about this wine is that it's got that fancy French name, it's made by a well known Napa Winery, and I've seen it as cheap as $8.99. Next time your friend asks you to "bring over some Chard," surprise everyone with this. It's a screw top to boot.

Now let's go to Argentina.

One of the things you PD's need to do is get away from the "do you have a cab, merlot or chardonnay," thing that you do at every bar. Start asking for other things and the bars will start carrying them. Maybe they do, but you just keep ordering the same crap.

Let's try some Malbec, at $9.99


This is another wine I drank and was surprised it was so cheap.

So I know you're waiting for me to tell you weather there is any really good Napa Cab that you can get for under $20.

Under $20, hell, this is an under $13 list. So let me give you my find of the year for $12.99, at Total Wine.


Last year I was in a wine shop and the owner poured me a glass. He told me it drank like a $25 bottle of wine.

I drank it, and bought a bunch to give away. It was outstanding.

The story is great too. Joseph Carr is the winery owner and his dad was nicknamed "Josh." This is a tribute to him. The 2009 was rated a "best buy" in Wine Spectator.

"Any French wines under $13," you ask?


How about $8.98.

Paul Jaboulet Parallel "45"

I was shocked the first time I tried this wine - it was on the wine list at a nice steak restaurant. It's great. No one will think you brought a $9 wine to the party.

Finally, my favorite grape - Zinfandel.

Many great Zins are priced in the $30 range, but that doesn't help you. You're a PD, you want the cheap stuff and you're tired of drinking the same crap.

How's $8.99?

Cline Zinfandel

Nice looking bottle.

Cline makes more expensive Zinfandel, but this is their entry level wine, and it won't disappoint. Zin is a great barbeque wine. Let everyone else bring the Busch Light, you bring over a couple bottles of this.

In closing, I will tell you that one of the secrets to finding good, cheap wine, is trying alternative grapes - Carmenere, Semillion, Viognier, Albarino, and wines from lesser known regions. Some places you've never heard of are making great wines. Take a chance on the advice from the people in the wine shoppe.

By the way, I still recommend the beer and cheap liquor. Wine can be an expensive proposition.

Of course, I've missed hundreds of great cheap wines out there, so feel free to let me know what you've found.

And please, no more requests. It's not my thing, usually.

Non-anonymous comments welcome.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Criminal Defense Association: A Message To Young Lawyers

This past weekend I ended my term as Immediate Past President of FACDL at its 25th Annual Meeting. That's it, no more officer positions. I'm done there. I sit on the board as a past president, sent off to pasture as the chair of the quiet "long range planning" committee, and committing to not be the type that spends his time expressing his opinion on every single issue, reminding the kids at every moment how "we did things" and criticizing every new idea.

I'm looking forward to "retirement."

I joined FACDL as a public defender in 1995. Why wouldn't I? It was $35 a year, I got a magazine filled with articles written by people smarter and more experienced than me, and if I was going to be a Florida criminal defense lawyer, I was going to be a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and their local Miami Chapter. I met the President of the Miami Chapter of FACDL and he invited me to a party at his office. As a PD, I had never received an invitation to a party at a private lawyer's office. My parties were limited to the local watering hole with other PD's.

Back then, there were no email list servs, and email was in it's infancy, so if you had a question, you called someone or pulled them aside in the courthouse. Through the Miami Chapter I got to know some great lawyers, made friends, and a few years later, I went to my first statewide annual meeting. I didn't know many people there, other than my Miami folks, but by the time I left, I had some new contacts throughout the state. I was asked to chair the new "young lawyers committee" for statewide, and haven't missed an annual meeting since.

Ten years after joining the Miami Chapter, I was its President, five years after that, I would be installed as President of statewide. I never joined these associations for the purpose of becoming President, but as things go, I would take on projects, committee assignments, and accept nominations.

I always encouraged people to get involved, to go to meetings, write for the magazine, go to happy hours, go to annual meetings. Always got the same excuses - no time, no money, no interest, FACDL does nothing. Some minds I could change, others were just interested in cursing the light, and the darkness.

The script is set in stone - something detrimental happens to the criminal defense bar, and non-members everywhere run to blogs and anonymously ask "where was FACDL?" Then there's those who do everything they can to avoid the annual meetings. The excuses are like a bad tape recording: "I have a trial set," (that will resolve), "my brothers third cousin is coming in to town and I need to be there every minute he is there," "I can't afford to go."

In my 17 years as a lawyer the referrals I have received from FACDL members are in an amount that is stunning. When I first went to the annual meeting, I stayed 2 nights and went to the seminar. Now, I stay 4 nights, sponsor part of the annual, bring gifts for people that have been good to me, and spend what I consider pennies on the dollar for the conference, drinks and food for friends, and their kids. It's called giving back, and I give back because I've been the recipient of a lot. I'm able to do this because I don't spend money on direct mail or a social media guru.

I invest in relationships.

But not everything was great. I no longer subscribe to the list serv for statewide. I was getting criticism for being "too mean" for some lawyers who use it as a research tool for every case they have, asking the most basic questions that a quick google search would discover, asking the same question that's been asked 20 times before. I attempted to make them better lawyers by encouraging them with sarcasm to do their own work first before asking, but some lawyers in this age of pampering and laziness wouldn't have it.

I used the listserv to refer cases to those asking for lawyers in cities across Florida and the United States, and to give answers to well thought out questions by lawyers who had done a stitch of work to resolve the issue. Now the listserv, from what I hear, is a nice friendly place. The two lawyers who made it clear that my tone was not welcome are lawyers that I respect, and to whom I used to refer clients. I guess they won that battle.

We also continue to get killed in the legislature. The majority of Florida's legislators have no use for the criminal defense bar. We need more members, more criminal defense lawyers, to run for office.

As I sat in my first board meeting this past Sunday as a nobody, I watched and listened to new young voices making arguments, proposing ideas, being involved. FACDL is going to continue to get stronger, I have no doubt.

If you are a criminal defense lawyer, you need to join your local and state criminal defense bar. Go to a meeting, go to all of them. Take on a committee assignment, plan a social event with a judge. Do something. You don't have to run for office in the association or be there for everything, but there are important issues to be dealt with, and strong relationships to be developed.

And don't tell me your association is a waste of time. I hear that from criminal defense lawyers. If you think it's a waste of time, then do something to make it not a waste of time. Stop screaming from the rafters.

Be relevant to the profession. If you care, about the profession.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Florida Is Number One - In Prison Sentences

Another one of those damn studies:

From the press relase:

TALLAHASSEE — Thanks to its gung-ho approach to lengthening jail time, Florida led the charge in beefing up prison sentences during the past two decades at a taxpayer cost of more than $1 billion a year, according to a new study by the Pew Center on the States.

What else does it say?

In 2009 prisoners served an average of nine more months in custody — 36 percent longer — than offenders released in 1990.

Incarceration rates are the highest in the Southeast.


The Sunshine State led the nation in lengthening prison sentences under both Democratic and Republican governors.

Drug-related sentences climbed 194 percent during the study period, from 0.8 years on average to 2.3 years. Sentences for violent crimes grew 137 percent, from 2.1 years to 5 years. Sentences for property crimes such as burglary, breaking and entering, and vehicle theft grew 181 percent, from 0.9 years to 2.7 years on average.

As a result, the average prison time served grew by 166 percent and cost taxpayers $1.4 billion in 2009. The 36,678 Florida prisoners released in 2009 served an average of 22 months longer and cost taxpayers $38,477 more per prisoner than those released in 1990, the study determined.

More conservative states around us have taken note of the cost:

Indeed, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed a reform reducing jail time for nonviolent criminals that is expected to save the state $264 million over five years. And Louisiana passed legislation that expands parole eligibility for repeat offenders and nonviolent ones serving life sentences; expands the state's re-entry courts; and allows courts to waive mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders.

We were going to do something - reduce prison time for non-violent drug offenders who entered substance abuse programs.

But Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the legislation, saying Florida's tough sentences had reduced crime rates and that "justice … is not served when a criminal is permitted to be released early from a sentence imposed by the courts."

Governor Scott said this legislation was insensitive to victims.

Victims of non-violent drug offenders. I'd like to talk to some of them, whoever they are.

At least the beaches are nice.

Non-anonymous comments welcome. Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Share/Save/Bookmark okdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Today I Become Juror 885

It will be my third time.

The first time I got as far as being brought down to a criminal courtroom and after answering in the affirmative that I knew almost the entire list of names of lawyers and law enforcement officers read off by the judge, he looked over (having not seen me enter the courtroom), and said "get out of here."

My second time was in the civil division, and for some reason, by 11:00 that day it was determined that none of the civil lawyers wanted to go to trial.

Today I'm back in criminal. Last time was I think 15 years ago. This time there's a chance that someone I used to work with in the public defender's office (maybe even someone who started after me) or one of my adversaries from the state attorney's office will be presiding, and that I may not know the prosecutor.

They've summoned me for 8:00 a.m., but I know all too well that it won't be until at least 9:30 or later that some judge calls for some of us. I'll be there sometime after 8, as I don't have to find parking, or the jury assembly room, nor will I have a slew of questions like "where are the restrooms," "can I use my cell phone in here," and "do you validate?"

I'll have my laptop, and assume shortly after I sit down and start typing that some nice person sitting next to me with a popular author's latest novel in paperback will look over and ask "are you a lawyer?" Ten minutes later I'll know all about this person's life, and they'll be happy I was able to give them a decent lunch recommendation.

I probably could have gotten out of this, but it's against my principles. Part of being a criminal defense lawyer, as much a part as waking up in the morning, is getting the panicked call from anyone who knows you that gets a summons for jury service. And yes, I used to give them advice on how to get out of it. No one ever took it. For some reason, they all panicked and showed up. I not only stopped for that reason, but because I realized it was wrong.

I sit in courtrooms nodding in the affirmative while listening to judges thank jurors for their service and talk about the importance of jury service and how we need people to serve. There I was though, being a lawyer and giving advice on how to legally avoid jury service. I was being a hypocrite and I knew it. Now when I get the call, I have the same script. "I don't tell people how to get out of jury service. I think you should go, it's important." They don't like it, but I don't care. Call me Mr. Goody Two Shoes.

Jury service has changed in the last few years. Coincidentally, as I sit here on the eve of my arrival in the jury assembly room, my pal Fred Grimm wrote a lengthy article in the Miami Herald on the issues of social media and jury trials:

U.S. judges have declared a slew of mistrials in the past few years caused by jurors doing their own research or for posting real time narratives of their jury experiences with text messages or Twitter or Facebook postings.

Grimm continues:

Lawyers worry that the Internet, with its great onslaught of hearsay information and social networking, crushes the principle that jurors deliberate in a kind of intellectual isolation, considering only evidence and testimony that has been scrutinized by judges.

In the article, Grimm quotes another friend, Professor Ricardo Bascuas, on his observations regarding today's jurors:

“Everyone’s so focused on themselves,” said Bascuas, who won’t allow his law students to bring electronic gadgets into his lectures. Miscreant jurors, he said, “are so busy tweeting about themselves, about whatever experiences they’re having, that they can’t seem to understand the seriousness of the enterprise. It’s called jury duty,” he said. “It’s not about themselves. We live in this modern culture where everybody wants to be the story,” he said. “But not everything you do is fascinating.”

Well, Professor Bascuas obviously hasn't been spending enough time on social media to understand that some people believe everything they do is fascinating. This notion is validated by those who make sure the person who posts said fascinating information about themselves is congratulated on posting the self-perceived fascinating information.

Today, when I enter the criminal courthouse, not as a defense lawyer, but as juror 885, I will not tweet about my experience. I will not post about it on Facebook. Tomorrow I am under orders to appear and serve and I will do so as I would want a juror for my client to behave. When it's over, I may have some things to say, but we have a problem in our jury system, a system that decides whether someone is convicted or set free, is given money, or told they must pay, or whether someone lives or dies.

Juror 885 will not be a part of that problem. I swear.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.


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Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Attack Of The Stupid Warrants

Any criminal defense lawyer in a city with an international airport has dealt with the guy who finds himself in the local lock up after passing through customs and being advised of the presence of an old arrest warrant.

It's mostly the same story. Guy in his late 40's to 60's returns from vacation with his family and while junior and the misses get the "welcome home" from the person behind the glass and computer monitor, he gets a set of shiny silver bracelets.

It's never because of an old murder, or rape, or other violent crime, and it's never because of something that happened in a major city.

It's always a bad check, an old suspended license charge, or some weird "larceny by deceit" charge that no one understands, and it always comes from a place where there is someone referred to as "the local prosecutor." Never is the charge from a couple years ago, it's always at least 10 years old.

So the family is heading through customs with their latest set of overpriced photos from the cruise, or famous food product for grandpa, and Dad has to say good-bye and hire a criminal defense lawyer.

Since 9/11, this scene has become more common, and it's something that needs to stop. I know that we are proud of the new level of communication and cooperation that allows someone to be arrested at the airport in Miami for a warrant out of Mayberry from 1992 due to a $294 bad check, and these types of law enforcement success stories make us "feel safe" from terrorists," but can we just call it a win and try something different?

Or are these types of announcements making you feel safe?


•Michael J. Benjamin, 38, of the 9000 block of 50th Avenue in Oak Lawn—driving while license suspended (2006)
•Lenear B. Bolden, 44, of the 8300 block of Cregier Avenue in Chicago—unlawful use of registration (2001)
•Andrea M. Jackson, 25, of the 18200 block of California Avenue in Homewood—disorderly conduct (2009)
•Umberto Lomeli, 27, of the 1200 block of Galway Road in Joliet—driving while license suspended (2009)
•Joshua P. Mancha, 24, of the Linden Avenue in Monee—theft (2008)

•Lorenzo T. Brandon, 23, of the 21700 block of Peterson Avenue in Sauk Village—driving on a suspended license (2010)
•Freddy Diaz, 48, of the 1800 block of 59th Avenue in Cicero—retail theft (1998)
•Shawn A. Lewis, 44, of the 0-100 block of Messina Court in Tinley Park—retail theft (1997)

•Michael R. Atkins, 31, of the 6500 block of South Hamilton Avenue in Chicago—retail theft (2003)
•Dorese L. Dalla-Costa, 39, of the 4400 block of 152nd Street in Midlothian—retail theft (1994)
•Joseph W. Tritz, 30, of the 300 block of Whitmore Lane in Lake Forest—driving while license suspended (2010)

•Victoria A. Howard, 20, of the 0-100 block of Aegina Drive in Tinley Park—retail theft (2011)

•Yamen I. Youssef, 32, of the 15700 block of Plumtree Drive in Orland Park was arrested during a traffic stop for felony theft warrant (2011) and two others under aliases for criminal trespass to state-supported property (2007) and violation of bond (2009)

•Richard S. Walczak, 34, of the 5600 block of Merrimac Avenue in Chicago—retail theft (2007)

I write this after leaving the jail yesterday and meeting with this type of client. He's traveled in and out of the U.S. many times since the warrant for some small non-payment thing was issued a decade ago. Now, with our new-found system in place, he is finally brought to justice upon returning from vacation. His family continues on to their home - the kids needing to get back to school, and his wife is left to hire lawyers in Miami, and where the warrant was issued. A warrant with no-bond.

Turns out, after the warrant was issued, the small debt was sent to a collection agency - he was notified, and paid the debt.

No one ever told the prosecutor, or the judge.

Luckily, the prosecutor took mercy on him, but that was this prosecutor, who was probably in high school when the warrant was issued.

OK, so these things happen, and this situation is one where the client is the victim of miscommunication. I had another one a few weeks ago where the client simply didn't show up for court on a suspended license charge. Fifteen years later, the warrant "hit" the system, and upon entering paradise, he was arrested. Luckily, that warrant had a bond. The prosecutor realized that he couldn't prove the charge anymore, so he dismissed the case.

Listen, I know not showing up to court is a problem and clients should have to pay a price for that, but can we think about a way to better handle these types of situations? (Author's note: I know everything I'm about to suggest will never happen.)

We now realize the power of government. Violate the law, any law, and we will find you (except for several unsolved murders, rapes, robberies, and other violent crimes.)

Now let's throw in some practicality.

If a warrant is issued for a misdemeanor, anywhere in the country, it should have a bond. Most defendants who fail to appear for misdemeanors do so for lack of notice, or they got the notice and just don't care. Do we really want to have a country where we make clear we deeply care about misdemeanors? So the guy wrote a $75 bad check. Set the bond at $150 and give it to the victim. You can't get interest like that anywhere.

I know we are happy to arrest people and let people know we will find them no matter how long it takes. We will arrest them, pay for them to remain in jail until the bus gets to them, and in the end, spend any amount of money to let the world know that we value out misdemeanor system of justice.

But it's stupid, a waste of money, and no offense, no one cares.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Pray For A Conviction While I Pray For These Things:

It was a lone comment on one of the hundreds of stories announcing the arrest of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin:

"Now I pray for a conviction."

That's nice. I pray that there is a conviction as well, as long as it's because there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt for whatever charge the jury considers.

But I don't have all the evidence. Neither does Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's wise choice as counsel. In fact, the evidence won't be fully developed until the witnesses are deposed (in Florida we get to take depositions of witnesses pre-trial), exhibits are produced, experts play expert, and about a few dozen other things happen.

So no one has all the evidence. Not even you, watching your favorite non-practicing lawyer opine on cable TV.

I know the arrest happened yesterday and in your "Law and Order" TV world, you are now outraged that it's the next day and there's no conviction along with some case ending philisophical comment from the prosecutor, but maybe you'll instead join me in prayer for the following:

I pray that:

Lawyers who know nothing about the law say nothing about the law in the media.

Lawyers who know something about the law but nothing about being a criminal lawyer (prosecutor or defense) say nothing about what they "would do" in this case.

Lawyers who know nothing about the lawyers in the case say nothing about "what they know" about the lawyers in the case.

Lawyers who practice criminal defense, don't fall in to the mob mentality and pretend on TV they would handle the case differently.

Lawyers who are on TV or in the media, help explain the system so that people understand, not so they are happy.

Lawyers who don't know what they are talking about, politely decline to be on TV.

Lawyers outside of Florida don't go on TV just to say "I don't know how they do it in Florida, but..."

Lawyers in Florida don't seek publicity for the purpose of trashing their colleagues (I got that request already.)

The media, specifically reporters, only say what they know, not what they think. Report, just report.

The media take every opportunity to educate the public and not make them stupider than they already are as a result of inaccurate TV shows about the criminal justice system.

The media tells the public that the state has 15 days to turn over discovery in Florida and that is extended routinely.

The media calls a "continuance" a continuance and not "another delay."

The media explains that both sides will need to be ready for trial, not just the state (who had a head start.)

The media explains that justice is a decision, a verdict, a conclusion that is just. It may mean the state drops the case, that the defendant gets a good deal for pleading guilty, or that the jury didn't find proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

To add to the above, that the media does not say that "justice was not served" if justice benefits the defendant, meaning he walks out of court when it's over, or that he won't die in prison.

But I probably need to pray much too hard for these things.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wanna Get Famous Off Trayvon Martin?

Got an email today. Subject line was "Trayvon Martin Media."

In the past week, our phones have not stopped ringing with calls from TV & Producers asking for legal experts who can discuss the Trevyon Martin shooting. They want strong Florida Attorneys and if you are one of them, we should probably speak ASAP.

Are you a strong Florida attorney? Well, are you?

What does that even mean, and who makes that determination?

You, I guess.

A strong National Television & Radio appearance can bring to the attention of millions your legal expertise.

What if you have no legal expertise?

Nevermind, I know better than to ask that question - being on TV makes you a legal expert.

We also have the ability to bolster you & your firms Twitter & Facebook followers and enhance your firm’s YouTube Channel.

OK. And?

Nevermind, I know. SEO, Google juice, more hits, more leads, more calls. More people with no money that want to talk to you because "yer famouse."

Now in all fairness, I was quoted on this case. Reporter called me - had a question about the law. And have I been on national TV? Yes, twice in 17 years. Once to comment on one of my cases, and the other to comment on a trial going on. I wasn't asked back a second day because I wouldn't "take the position" they wanted me to take. You know - criticize the lawyers and pretend I would do a much better job?

Any new clients?



But getting back to the issue of being a "legal expert," it is clear that the way to this title is not by work or reputation, it's by being placed and appearing to be an expert.

So there's a dead kid, and hey, maybe it's your time.

Are you a strong Florida attorney?

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Unintended Consequences, Again

So now here in Florida we have a dead black kid, killed by a neighborhood captain of crime watch white guy that has 911 on speed dial, and has the community - the country - in a rage over the fact that our "Stand your Ground" law caused the cops to decline an arrest.

Stand Your Ground was passed by the Florida Legislature in an effort send a message that not only should guns be allowed everywhere, but that people should be allow to use them - to kill people - anywhere. The NRA supported it, NRA (and their money) loving legislators supported it, and the Governor signed it. Yeah, we all heard the testimony that it may cause otherwise minor altercations to turn into a phone call to the local funeral home, but that's what we call "unintended consequences," and hell, it's just part of the parade of horribles that liberal gun-rights-hating folks whine about.

I mean, are we really to think that some over-zealous neighborhood crime watch captain is going to blow away some kid who has a bag of Skittles and an Iced Tea in his hand and claim self-defense? C'mon.

But now we're going to have hearings. We're going to amend the law. We've got the feds and state law enforcement department investigating the non-arrest, while the local state attorney prepares the case for a grand jury.

The community does not believe this death, this claim of self defense was an intended consequence of Stand Your Ground.

Unintended consequences of criminal legislation usually get the short shrift during the legislative session. Laws, brought to legislators by prosecutors, victims advocates group, or as a result of a tragic death of a child, need to be passed. That the wrong people will go to jail or not go to jail, is something that local prosecutors and judges (if given discretion) can deal with.

Legislators normally respond to scenarios of unintended consequences with "no prosecutor would file that case," or "we trust the police to make judgment calls."

Well, the police made a judgment call in this case.

Was it the right one?

Appears the community's answer is a collective "hell no."

Death always generates emotion. The death of a child is always described as "the worst." When the death of a child is tied to a crime, there is always legislation.

And the Stand Your Ground law will be amended. Next session, bet on it.

But what about other laws that have unintended consequences? How many cases have we heard about where minor drug offenders are in prison under archaic minimim mandatory sentencing schemes? What did legislators say when these unintended consequences were presented?


What about where those that aren't sexual offenders (in the literal sense) or sexual predators (in the literal sense) are tagged as such?

Every year advocates go to the legislature and seek modification of these laws - these criminal laws that snag those who were not intended to be "victims" of these tough-on-crime statutes.

But the cries mostly fall on deaf ears. Only death brings about change. The old adage "does someone have to die," holds true in the world of criminal legislation.

In the years I've spent watching the Florida Legislature, it's been made clear that of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, the one is most sacred isn't 4, or 5 or 6, or 8, but 2.

And now we have a problem. We have a law - a gift to gun rights advocates and those "sick of crime" everywhere. And we have a dead kid, a kid that is viewed as having done nothing wrong. He's dead. His killer claimed self-defense. The discretion given to law enforcement was used - but used in a manner that received disapproval.

Unintended consequences of criminal legislation imprison people every day, take away their livelihoods, their families, and their futures.

But when these unintended consequences result in death, those that were too busy to listen before, now cry for justice.

Equal Justice means that equal attention to those who are victims of unintended consequences is required - whether they are convicted, imprisoned, or dead.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another Stupid Discussion About Trying Every Case

In Miami, we have a misdemeanor "jail division." It's for those charged with misdemeanors that haven't bonded out for whatever reason. All their cases are set for trial in the "jail division." There you find the career criminal homeless, the recidivist DUI offenders that no longer have anyone to post bond for them, and others that are sitting in custody for misdemeanors while the county pays about $140 a day for their stay (The downtown Hyatt Regency has a rate in the off season of $129 a night.)

About 15 years ago, while I was still in the public defender's office, my former trial partner was assigned to the jail division. After a few weeks, he had an idea to help the judiciary in their long-standing goal of "moving things along," and filed demands for speedy trial on every case in the division. For some reason, the state wasn't able to try every single defendant in the jail division within 2 months, and so some of these misdemeanants were simply released.

Yeay! Great idea. Everyone loved it. We all cheered, (except the brass at the PD's office who raised some issue as to whether the clients were all on board with the demands and whether this mass filing was in each client's best interest). But we were young, and celebrating at happy hour.

And so now the New York Times has an article about the notion discussed by every PD and private criminal defense lawyer at every bar since the beginning of plea bargaining, of trying every criminal case in order to collapse the system.

Here's my response:

Shut the f*ck up.

It's never going to happen.

Forgetting for a moment that it's (more than) kind of unethical to recommend a client proceed to trial because someone needs to "take one for the team," (and also that lawyers are required to convey plea offers and going home today or going to trial in 3 months isn't really a decision that's difficult for even the dumbest criminal defendant), the private bar won't do it because there's no money in trying cases (and most of the private bar is only interested in not having to work that hard for their fee). The PD's won't do it because, well, every PD in the country has discussed this option, and it's never happened and it's an impossible conspiracy to coordinate.

Yes, if every case, or even a few percentage points down from the current 98% of cases that don't go to trial, went to trial, the defense bar would own courtrooms and judges would be begging the prosecutors for better offers. It would be a watershed in the American criminal justice system.

But it's not happening.


Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Friday, March 02, 2012

If You See Something, Say Nothing

Why is it that only after a kid like T.J. Lane blows away 3 other kids, whose only crime was going to school that day, do we begin to look at their social media activity?

Why is it that a kid like T.J. Lane writes "Die, all of you," and we don't even think to say, "hey, T.J., (and I hope I get this right) "U Mad bro?"

Why is it that we watch people fall on the internet and, watch? Why is the thought of an email or text or God forbid, a true blue live phone call, out of the realm of possibilities?

Why do we watch?

Why do we say nothing?

We can make the excuse that we don't take it seriously, that it's all "internet banter," but why are we unwilling to know? Do we want to see the results of the truth of it?

And let's not blame the dozens or even more of T.J. Lane's 148 Facebook friends that saw his writings and did nothing. We, do nothing. No one is to blame for the decisions, insanity laced or not, T.J. Lane made this week. The blood is not on the hands of those that lurked, that read his writings and moved on to some great viral You Tube video or awesome naked pictures of some hot chick.

This concept of watching things on social media, and, watching, isn't limited to the writings of future serial killers. Lawyers do it too.

Lawyers watch other lawyers lie, puff, and create false reputations on the internet all day, and do nothing.

We, do nothing.

We see something, and see it.

Someone else will say something, but you're not going to say anything because, well, it may not make you any friends.

And the internet is all about "friends," right?

Recently I saw a cryptic status on a friend's Facebook page and I committed the cardinal sin of calling him. Yes, something was wrong. We talked about it. "How did you know?"

I saw something.

Messages fly across the net and we read them. We know the people writing them, we care about them, we eat with them, we know their families, we know these people.

But they're in "second life."

Maybe it's not true, maybe it's just to get attention.

And sometimes attention is achieved.
Non-anonymous comments welcome.Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No, This Isn't How To Spot A Criminal Defense Attorney's Kid

I'm one of those that laughs at things on the internet that others don't find funny. I think people get a little too bent out of shape about well-intended jokes that because they don't fit in to someone's narrow agenda, are criticized as "not funny."

But I didn't find this funny.

Yes, that's a post by another civil lawyer who believes that only civil law is lucrative - as we criminal lawyers are all out here taking a few bucks for small cases, and that it's funny that a criminal defense attorney's kid is saying "fuck the police."

Reminds me of something that happened a couple weeks ago at my dinner table.

I was relaying that I saw a police officer my family knows, to which my youngest said "where, at the doughnut shop?"

The dinner table conversation ceased. I looked at my wife and thought "where did she hear that?" We certainly don't joke around the house about the old police/doughnut connection. I then let her know I didn't think it was funny, and didn't want to hear it again - not in my presence, or someone else's - especially around school where someone's parent may be a cop.

Yes, my days are filled trying to find their mistakes, where they violated constitutional rights, and how I'm going to show that their allegations are BS. But the not-so-secret secret amongst criminal defense lawyers is that many of us are friendly with law enforcement. Some of us have close friends that wear guns and badges. Others, well, we enjoy a mutual respect. When our homes are robbed, we call the police, when we have a car accident, we look to the police to resolve the dispute between opposing cars. When they drive around the neighborhood, we wave, and when they attend the local community events, we say hello. Whether it's the cop we've known for years that slaps us on the back after we trash him on the stand, or the one that remembers the advice we gave him as a young rookie, or the one that lets us surrender our client next Tuesday, instead of "immediately." We both have a job to do.

Yes, there are scumbag cops, and there are scumbag lawyers. But there is no room for a culture of either cops or lawyers finding joy in their kids lack of respect for either. Is there a cop's kid writing "lawyers are assholes," on a chalkboard?

So I don't know where my kid heard this doughnut shop comment - maybe it was on TV, or maybe it was from some kid at school with a chalkboard at home and a parent with an interesting sense of parenting.

Non-anonymous comments welcome.Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter