Criminal Defense

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Embarrassment Of The George Zimmerman Verdict

The result of a verdict today in a criminal trial is that everyone with a twitter or Facebook account gets to let the world know how ignorant they are of the criminal justice system. I know, First Amendment. But your ignorance shows again when you mention that. The First Amendment protects you from the government, it doesn't protect you on twitter or Facebook from people calling you out for your ignorance.

@A1Black_: RT @_surlySprite: They need to APPEAL THIS VERDICT AND GO TO THE SUPREME COURT ❗❗❗ Don't Stop until Justice is Served for T…

@34thwarrior: Trayvon parents should appeal this to the next level

@_CharNae: Trayvon Martin parents better appeal this case! I would NOT let nobody off for killing my child! HELL TF NO!

@_shVn: Trayvon's parents can appeal this verdict and try to get justice again! Lets pray they do and it turns out right this time! Rip

Some background before you start beating on your keyboard:

1. I'm a criminal defense lawyer in Florida since 1995.

2. I watched the trial. Had it on at home, in my office, in the car. I didn't watch it through updates from the morons on HLN or CNN, most of whom should be fired (more on that later).

3. I know the lawyers, on both sides, including the civil lawyers for the Martin family.

4. I did some commentary, and declined commentary on media outlets that were only trying to enrage the public.

As for the case, I think it's terrible that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. That's a tragedy. I don't think he had to shoot him, and had one or two things been different (he didn't get out of his car, didn't have a gun, on and on), we wouldn't be here. I keep hearing Trayvon Martin would have killed George Zimmerman, I don't think so, but I wasn't there.

You weren't there either. You don't know what happened, exactly. As much as you want to believe you were there and know what happened, exactly, you weren't, and you don't.

Not knowing exactly what happened requires a not guilty verdict, no matter how angry or outraged you are. The jury didn't free Zimmerman because they thought he was a good guy or because they weren't sad that a young boy was killed (jurors were rumored to be crying during the state's rebuttal), they found him not guilty because the facts and the law required them to do so.

The state had a crappy case, they knew they had a crappy case. This is why they assigned 3 career prosecutors with a combined stat of probably over 500 trials. Their first problem was no witnesses to the event. You would agree, wouldn't you, that witnesses help prove cases? Their second problem was a tape that no one could agree on. You know whose voice was on that tape? I don't. The state never laid out, point by point, what happened. If I'm being asked to convict someone of a crime, and I know the state has the burden of proof, the state is required to tell me what happened, not just ask questions and tell me "you decide" over and over again.

Juries don't make decisions because they are mad, sad, angry, or feel bad for someone's parents.

George Zimmerman is not guilty because the law says he's not guilty. You don't think it's right that he killed Trayvon Martin, but that's not what the law says in Florida where we like guns more than we like people. You have a problem with that, do something to change the law other than complain on social media. I know, you're busy, you won't. That's for others to do.

Five things I want to say in closing:

1. Your cries for an appeal are hurting my eyes. There is no appeal. Stop letting the world know how ignorant you are. If you don't know criminal law or procedure, shut up. Ask someone before you display your stupidity to the world.

2. If you didn't see the trial, stop criticizing the verdict, it just makes you look stupid.

3. HLN, get rid of Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell. They are not legal commentators helping the public understand our important, essential, and treasured criminal justice system. Neither are many of their guests who should never be asked back. There are 95,000 lawyers in Florida, there is no reason a lawyer from another state who doesn't know Florida law needs to be on daily telling everyone "I don't practice in Florida, I don't know Florida law" just because they can yell. Their daily display of drama may be what you believe to be the "First Amendment," but it is also pathetic, and making people dumber and angrier.

4. CNN needs to send Sonny Hostin and Gloria Allred packing. First of all Piers Morgan, this is a criminal trial in Florida. Why is the only guest you continue to have on is someone from California that doesn't practice criminal law and is known for representing, at press conferences, women victims? What could she possibly have to offer about this case?

And CNN, especially Anderson Cooper, get rid of Sonny Hostin. This woman was a prosecution shill from the beginning of this trial, struggling to say anything positive about the defense. Last night, after the verdict, she said "justice took the day off." She wasn't there to provide commentary, she was shilling for the state. She should have disclosed from the begining that she desperately wanted a conviction, that way it would have been easier to listen to her biased commentary. She's terrible and should never be asked to appear in the media again when there is an important trial.

5. The media, especially TV, needs to start vetting their guests. I know these are lawyers with agents, but they've never been in a criminal courtroom, or at least not since they spent a year as a prosecutor in 1978. Can you not find lawyers that actually know what they are talking about? Piers Morgan is asking Gloria Allred what she would do in opening in the Zimmerman case? I have a better question, Gloria, when is the last time you gave an opening statement, in any case?

That's all I want to say, for now.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal and Bar 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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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 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 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 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 rules Post to Twitter