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

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Voluntary Surrender Shenanigans

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

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

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

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

This whole thing is embarrassing. Enough already.

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Anonymous2:11 PM

    I agree with you, arresting a criminal is the long awaited award of hours of work and pursuit.

  2. Anonymous11:01 AM

    I represented a woman with a very young child who was being investigated for a not very serious fraud charge. The prosecutor wanted her to come in for an interview, and I really saw no benefit to that, so we declined. The prosecutor told me that she was going to be indicted, no question about it. I said, okay, just let me know when and where to bring her and we'll surrender. The prosecutor said no. The prosecutor said that she would agree to self surrender if my client had come in and essentially confessed, but since she chose to exercise her fifth amendment privilege, the prosecutor thought that she should be punished. Thankfully no one was hurt when the agents, hopped up on adreneline and steroids effected the arrest.

  3. Anonymous11:53 AM

    This has happened more than once: attorney finds out client is under investigation and law enforcement wants client to talk (like 11:01's post). Client now has lawyer and won't talk, but law enforcement agrees to self surrender, probably within a couple to a few weeks. Then, a few days later, client is arrested, and attorney gets a call saying officers x and y didn't get the memo...