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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Judge, Remember What You Said About "Understanding Private Practice?" Remember?

As I was perusing the blawgosophere this afternoon, I ran across this typical story from my friend and stellar Houston lawyer Paul B. Kennedy.

Looks like Paul did everything he could to be courteous to a judge about a conflict, but it wasn't enough. Paul had to get his tongue lashing.

I often chuckle when at campaign cocktail parties and Investitures I hear judicial candidates and newly-elected judges wax sympathetic about the rigors of private practice.

"I understand you can't be in two places at once."

"I know you have more than one case."

"Everyone deserves a vacation."

"Just call if you're going to be late."

That's all nice to hear, and many judges stick to those promises even years after they've "been there, done that."

But it's the wearing off of common courtesy, understanding, and the reality that the power of the robe gives one the power to just give a lawyer a break when they need one.

Today I had a federal hearing at 9:15. I got out of court at 11:30. I didn't make it to my hearing in state court at noon until 12:30, but I called.

When I walked in, the judge said nothing. After finishing another matter she said, "can I call your case? Oh, and thanks for calling that you would be late."

I've heard the opposite.


Then there's the tongue lashing about being late when after it's over you ask, "Judge, did your assistant give you the message I would be late?" There's usually some grumble or silence, like you didn't say anything.

It would be nice if all private practitioners could set up their practice to handle one case per day. It's just not practical. None of us, well most of us, don't show up late on purpose. We show up late because we went to another court first and thought it would be quick, or we show up late because you judge, ahem, often come in just a wee bit late. It's on that day you appear 5 minutes early that we are all made to feel like louses.

There's other issues, continuances due to conflicts, vacations, kid events. The understanding varies with the numbers and names on courtroom doors.

Yes, there's lawyers who will lie for a continuance, or are chronically late, but isn't it obvious which lawyers are genuine, and which are full of shit?

And I know I'm not a judge and I can't understand the view from up there in the center, but I often wonder if you remember or ever knew the view from down here.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Just Another "Your Job Must Be Exciting" Day In Criminal Defense

This is for my colleagues, who will remember their own day like this, for the law students dreaming of being a criminal defense lawyer because "it must be so cool (and it is), but mostly for me, because if I don't write this down, I will never remember it properly.

So last week I get a call about a 19 year old kid with an arrest warrant for violating his probation. Seems he reported for a couple months until he was told he needed to pay about $600. He didn't have the money, so he left Miami to go live in Tallahassee with his brother.

A few months later he learns of the warrant, and decides to tell his brother, who tells his mother, who calls a lawyer in Tallahassee, and then is comes to me.

Now normally this is how this works: the client is arrested, put on a bus in a few days and sent to jail in Miami. No bond is granted, and a hearing is held. The client can admit to the violation and try to work out an agreement with the state, or take his chances with the judge. Probation is a second chance. Violations usually result in some jail time.

I find out the the prosecutor now assigned to the case is a guy I like very much. I call him. We work out a deal where he'll extend my client's probation and add some community service hours and drug testing. He realizes my kid is just immature, is encouraged that he now has a job and is enrolling in school, and he thinks the judge, newly elected, will go along with the deal.

So I set it for court.

This is going to be great. Fee is paid, client comes in, deal will be accepted, and client will be back to Tallahassee for dinner.

Sort of.

After the judge accepts the deal and gives my client a little "talking to," the clerk announces he has another warrant, some petit theft resulting from a DVD theft at Costco.

Things are still OK. Judge says she will set aside the warrant or I can go to the misdemeanor judge and see if she will. I don't want to just set aside the warrant, I want to close that case as well.

I go see the misdemeanor judge handling the case. She's a friend, but I'm not on her calendar. Her incredibly friendly judicial assistant has the file brought into court within minutes. The prosecutor agrees to no adjudication, and just the payment of court costs.


Message received on blackberry - 2 p.m. depo cancelled.

Back at the office.

I have a client coming in from California for a hearing the next day, and a new client driving 2 hours to see me at 2:30 p.m.

At 12:45 I receive a call from the felony judge's assistant.

"Your client reported to probation."

"Great," I said.

"They're taking him into custody."

"He has another warrant for driving on a suspended license."

"The judge will be back on the bench at 2 p.m. if you want to come in and handle it."

So I call the mother, who doesn't speak English and in a frustrated tone ask her to put me on the phone with the probation officer. Of course I should be smart enough to realize the probation officer is way down the hall behind a "buzz" locked door.

She somehow gets him on the phone.

He has that "I hate talking to attorneys" tone.

But he of course has already called the police and they are there. (Yes, it's Miami, we have no real crime here......)

I ask him if he can just hold my client there until 2 when I get the warrant quashed.

In the end he becomes understanding, and says he will call the judge.

This is the best.

Judge tells him that the only way she will agree to let probation hold him is if I, yes me, I go pick him up at probation and bring him to court.

At first I'm annoyed, but then I think "what judge would do this? I've been given an opportunity to have my client not taken to jail. So I have to take a ride somewhere. Big deal. Maybe this is the creativity I speak of in criminal justice so much.

Probation officer wants me there quickly. I meet my receptionist in the lobby of my building and take my lunch from her. I'll eat it in the car.

Now this probation office is on 79th street and 27th avenue. This means nothing to those of you outside Miami, but for a visual, I've never in my entire life been to 79th street and 27th avenue.

The probation office is located in a mall where there is a traffic school, driver's license office, and coin laundry.

I was overdressed.

After waiting almost an hour until 2:20 p.m.with the half English speaking receptionist telling me "few more minutes," two probation officers walk out. One is the guy I spoke with on the phone, the other is a supervisor. They lie to me like I'm stupid. "We didn't know you were here for almost an hour."

They tell me, gotta love this, "the judge has no authority to quash a bench warrant unless she is on the bench. She cannot do it from her chambers."

Lie. Lie, lie, lie. A judge can issue orders from her bedroom, vacation, on the phone, anywhere.

You liars.

Anyway, they tell me, by the way. the cops already took him to jail.

I race to the courthouse. I enter the courtroom of the felony judge who obviously knows what happened, stops the proceedings and tells me that another judge will set aside the warrant (the actualy judge who issued the warrant)

I go to that judge's courtroom and his clerk writes up the order, gives it to the judge and hands me 3 certified copies.

It's now 3 p.m.

I go to the corrections office.


He hasn't been booked.

I have to wait until he's booked to present this order, or "come back tomorrow."

Come back tomorrow? What are these people thinking? Leave him in jail overnight?

I'm not waiting.

I'm told to go see the corporal.

After a while of back and forth and another corrections officer joining us, both confused that an order has been issued clearing a warrant prior to booking (read: you can't get someone out who isn't in), I am advised that when he shows up at the jail, they will immediately ("immediately") release him.

A few hours later I receive a typo laden text from the kid. He's out and on his way to Tallahassee.

3:30 I get back to the office, sign up the new client, and just laugh.

So to everyone who asks "criminal defense, what's that like, must be exciting?"

Yeah, exciting.

As I've said for a long time, sometimes it's like trying to land a 747 on a short grass strip.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Monday, February 16, 2009

Blawg Review #199, Mark Bennett Flexes His Top Rated Blawg

After reading the Texas Tornado Mark Bennett's Blawg Review #199, I cannot even muster up a post today.

Just read it.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Free Guide For Former BigLaw Now Criminal Defense Lawyers

Over at the second best law blog in the country, Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield muses about the laid off BigLaw's coming over to slum it in the criminal courthouses of America. In short, he hits the nail on the head:

"With law firms laying off lawyers indiscriminately, and lawyers having bills to pay and mouths to feed, one can reasonably expect them to take their framed Law Review Certificates off the wall, put on some comfortable shoes and make a clean start of it in the trenches. Why? Because their options are limited.

Most will try their hand at some variation of the law they experienced in the wood paneled libraries of their former homes, but when they find that large corporations don't frequently shop for counsel in the back alleys off Main Street, they will come to realize that they need to adapt. The first adaptation will be that they will take any client who walks through the door. The second is that they will take whatever fee the client can afford. Hey, the ability to buy a cup-o-noodles is better than going hungry."

This certain move from the mahogany desk and ice bucket filled conference rooms filled also with irrelevant white shirted pale associates hoping one day to depose a witness or even talk to a client turn into a search for space (if not the home den) and trips into courtrooms to help real people (that's why you went to law school, no?) without announcing the 7 named partners when stating your appearance.

This is tough. This is like watching the guy at the gate bitching that he's supposed to be seated in first class and being told that only coach is available. People like me laugh.

So former BigLaw, here's your free guide to practicing criminal defense:

[1] We don't bill by the hour, send confirmatory letters, put 2 associates on every case, give opposing counsel ridiculous deadlines by when to respond, or threaten to "go to court."

[2] Now that 80% of you are crying, throwing up, or headed for the roof, here's some more.

[3] You have no idea what you are doing, so act like you have no idea what you are doing when you are around defense lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and especially clerks.

We experienced criminal lawyers act like this often, as it gets us more than busting in and playing the genius. Trust me, you'll figure it out soon.

[4] See those people sitting at tables drinking coffee and reading the paper?

Go sit with them, It's OK, they shower, have kids, mortgages, like good restaurants and watch TV. Talk to them. Tell them who you are and make a friend or two. We know you criticized us for years (except at cocktail parties where you said that you "respect" what we do). Say hello, buy the coffee, and cry for help. You'll get it.

[5] Watch the briefcase.

Those rolling trial bags are great. A briefcase with a few scratches is perfect. That brand new black leather thing, not so much. I have one and hardly use it, but I've been around for a while so it's OK. Yours will stick out like you do.

[6] Join the criminal defense association and show up to something.

No, the local charities for which you are a member but have never done anything won't care, your neighbors won't stop talking to you, and cops won't stalk you as you drive down the street.

[7] Unless you are going to speak negatively of BigLaw, don't bring it up.

Think of it as talking about a former boyfriend/girlfriend. "She was such a bitch" sounds much better than "Oh, I still love her so much."

[8] Understand that you have spent years doing nothing of any importance.

What you are doing now, is important. Do not take cases that are over your head. It takes about 4 words for the criminal defense bar, prosecutors, and judges to know that you are a fish out of water. So before you go into court and demand a hearing that everyone else waives and has waived for 30 years, talk to someone.

[9] Speaking of talking to someone, public defenders.

Yes, those people you said "couldn't hack it at BigLaw" or wanted an "easy government job," those public defenders. You don't need to apologize to them, although I don't discourage it. You do need to understand this: they are the most knowledgeable people in the courtroom.

When an experienced criminal defense lawyer gets a case before a judge he's never been before, the first call is to the public defender. They know the "mood" of the courtroom. I know this will be hard for you to absorb, but when you do, your life will be much easier. Talk to them, a lot. Don't bother them though, they are very busy and can smell you coming from far, far away.

[10] Get over your anti-solo practitioner bullshit.

I've spoken with 2 former BigLaws recently who are horrified at the notion of solo practice. I've heard "it's just the perception."

Listen, real people with real problems don't hire firms, they hire lawyers. Up to now, you weren't a lawyer, you were a tool in a firm. Now you're trying to be a lawyer. You go to a hospital when you're sick, or a doctor? You think you're going to a hospital, but you are actually seeing a doctor. The hospital is merely a place where the doctor practices. Get over this crap, look where it got you.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear Blake Nordstrom, As Pink Floyd Says "Leave Those Kids Alone"

February 11, 2009

Blake Nordstrom
1700 Seventh Avenue, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98101

Dear Blake:

If you have some intranet-type search feature, type the word "Tannebaum" and "children's shoes," and you'll see that my wife spends quite a great deal of money in your store.

It is with this background, in addition to my own frequent shopping in your store at both Dadeland and Merrick Park in Miami that I write to express serious concern over your efforts to destroy the owners of the trademark “Beckons.”

"Beckons?" Listen, I can't compete with your marketing people, but that doesn't sound as good as "John W. Nordstrom," or "Tommy Bahama," or "Facconable."

You know what happened here, the Patent and Trademark Office made a mistake, kind of like when I have my turn signal on to park in a space and someone doesn't see me and pulls into the space instead. I just go look for another space. Others commit road rage and wind up in a bad place.

Can you think of another name? I don't like what I see here, and I already don't shop at Neiman Marcus. Know why? One of my clients (I'm a criminal defense lawyer) with a little mental problem walked out of there with some shoes. The shoes were recovered immediately, but Neiman's wouldn't agree to let my client go into a diversion program. After that bullying by Neiman's, I stopped shopping there. Haven't shopped there in 5 years, and have told everyone why. I know it's cost Neiman's more than the few bucks the shoes cost. I predict the amount is in the tens of thousands.

So do me a favor, please, these people have spent $70,000 on legal fees fighting your huge corporation. Leave them be, come up with another name, and keep me and my family as customers, please?

Very truly yours,

Brian Tannebaum

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Taking On Corrections: "They Just Think The Law Stops At Their Door"

The most important rule of practicing criminal law, a rule never taught in Criminal Procedure in law school, is to be nice to court staff.

Clerks that don't like you can conveniently forget to bring your client's file, the bailiff who thinks you're a jerk can decline to give the judge a message for you that you have to go and want to be called first, and corrections can, "oh sorry," not bring your client to court because he "didn't make the list."

In recent years, and understandably so, security has become tighter in courtrooms. A hug between family members and a defendant, passing discovery, talking to the client in custody in court, is now often a major issue, or denied. Judges have completely abdicated their right to run their courtroom to corrections, and corrections knows this.

"I'm sorry counsel, but I defer to corrections on whether crying mom can hug her sentenced-to-life-in-prison son goodbye."

So I was thrilled to see that a lawyer took a case of strip searching inmates arrested for minor offenses to a federal judge who said "nope, unconstitutional," or something to that effect.

According to this story, "More than 10,000 people arrested for minor crimes have been strip-searched at the facilities since 2003, a practice that could end up costing the counties millions of dollars, said Susan Chana Lask, a New York lawyer suing the jails.

"They just think the law stops at their doors, and they can do whatever they want," Lask said.

Oh Susan, they must love you now. Are you meeting with your clients at the jail, or is it now always "closed" or on "lock down" when you arrive?

Susan began her lawsuit over her client who was arrested while driving and had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a court fine, even though he produced documentation to show the fine had been paid.

Documentation? What, like a receipt? Go to jail you terrorist.

He was held in the Burlington County jail for six days before being transferred to the Essex County jail, and strip searched, twice.

Here comes that canned "public safety" argument from corrections: "They said the inspection of the nude inmates was necessary to ensure they were not smuggling contraband, to identify gang members through tattoos, and to detect health issues, such as evidence of the MRSA virus."

The federal judge put it into perspective: "Thus, a hypothetical priest or minister arrested for allegedly skimming the Sunday collection would be subjected to the same degrading procedure as a gang member arrested on an allegation of drug charges."

Corrections, through their lawyer, obviously understood the ruling and responded in kind: "The county fully intends on appealing and defending the case vigorously."

Nice use of money you don't have.

Congrats Susan, or as they refer to you now, Susan "don't touch my client" Lask.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

California's Prison Problem: Canned Talking Points

State Legislatures are a curious bunch.

States have education problems, health care problems, environment problems, budget problems, and yet it is rare to find a state legislature that does not tout "public safety" as their highest priority.

With all these problems, the hook is to create fear among the masses. We must live in fear and react by putting people in jail. This somehow helps us stupid citizens forget about everything else. I rarely see a legislator coming forward with a comprehensive plan on health care, education, or taxes, but when it comes to "public safety, it's easy. More criminal offenses, more people in prison, more talk about how they're "keeping us safe." Remember that at the end of the Bush Presidency the loudest support was "he kept us safe."

So now those liberal California federal judges have ordered that the California prison system must reduce overcrowding by as many as 55,000 inmates within three years to provide a constitutional level of medical and mental health care.

For all you angry conservatives out there, let me anger you more by linking to the New York Times Story.

Here's where the legislators cry foul (this can't be!):

"Relying on expert testimony, the court ruled that the California prison system, the nation’s largest with more than 150,000 inmates, could reduce its population by shortening sentences, diverting nonviolent felons to county programs, giving inmates good behavior credits toward early release, and reforming parole, which they said would have no adverse impact on public safety. (Shhhhhhhhh).

"The panel said that without such a plan, conditions would continue to deteriorate and inmates might regularly die of suicide or lack of proper care."

Prisoners dying and committing suicide due to overcrowding and lack of medical care? I haven't read any of the usual local fare comments on California newspaper websites, but I bet there's those "so what?" and "let them die" comments all over the websites.

And here comes the politicians to protect us:

"The California attorney general, Jerry Brown, vowed to appeal the ruling:"

“This order, the latest intrusion by the federal judiciary into California’s prison system, is a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed,” Mr. Brown said in a statement.

“The court’s tentative ruling is not constitutionally justified,” he said. “Therefore, the state will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court when the final order is issued.” (i.e., be scared, they're all dangerous, even the non-violent drug offenders).

In the LA Times Story California Corrections Secretary Matt Cate: The ruling "poses a significant threat to public safety because it could prevent the state from incarcerating as many criminals as it now keeps in seven to 10 prisons."

Good job Matt, stating the obvious. Way to go.

"The court supported its argument by citing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s own support for prison reforms, which he has said would reduce the population by about 40,000 inmates." Oh Arnold, you bad, bad Republican.

By the way, not that the California Legislature cares, (the state is broke),
the court "estimated the state could save $803 million to $906 million annually if it were to reduce its prison population."

But who needs a billion dollars in this day?

This is all canned talking points. Any reform to criminal justice affects public safety. There's no new thinking, no brilliant ideas accepted or advanced by those wanting to stay in office.

Just a bunch of fear mongering to protect us from ourselves.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Federal Practice: Government-Please Call Again, Defense-Piss Off

After 15 years of practice, I'm not one of those lawyers who constantly bitch about the "unfairness of it all" (I just write about it).

The case law is against us, the Government is pounding on us, the politicians, unable to work on any other social issue, create more silly laws to "protect" us, or actually, protect their seat.

But lately I've noticed this trend in federal cases. Note: we bloggers tend not to write much about the bad shit in federal court for fear of, well, I don't know.

Here's 4 examples of what I entitle "Government, please call again, defense, piss off:


Client re-indicted.

Government CALLS magistrate judge chambers to place on calendar the new first appearance (a complete waste of time at that, but I digress).

Notice issued.

Date conflicts with oh-my-dear, out of town hearing for defense counsel.

Defense counsel CALLS magistrate judge chambers and asks to re-set it not for next month, or next year, or even next week. but for the next day.

"File a motion for continuance." (and wait).


Hearing set.

Government contacts defense counsel to say that hearing conflicts with another trial.

Defense and Government agree on possible new dates for hearing.

Government CALLS judge's chambers and has hearing reset.

No motion needed.


Government and Defense agree on date for first appearance.

Government CALLS magistrate judge chambers.

Hearing set.

Date needs to be changed.

Government and defense counsel agree on new date.

Defense counsel CALLS magistrate judge chambers.

"File a motion for continuance and (this is the best part) don't assume it's been continued until you receive an order."


Law Clerk (don't talk to the law clerk) e-mails all counsel to request (via return email) available AND unavailable dates for a phone conference.

Order issued for telephone conference.

Date for telephone conference conflicts with another federal trial (yes there are other federal judges and they have cases as well).

Defense counsel e-mails Law Clerk to advise that date on order FOR PHONE CONFERENCE conflicts with other federal TRIAL and can't be there.

Judge calls defense counsel and tears him a new one for contacting law clerk via e-mail about the order.

So it appears the rule is "Government, please call again, defense, piss off."

Of course I hope one of my faithful federal judge readers (yeah, that's a joke, laugh) doesn't respond "you know, you're right Brian, now everyone can file motions, no more calls."

I just wonder what is the fear of efficiency, a quick phone call? Is the assumption that we cannot be trusted that we actually spoke with the Government? Is it that we need to do much more work to get the same thing accomplished as the Government? Why do I have to write a motion, convert it to .pdf, and electronically file it instead of just making a call so someone can move a line on a calendar to another line?

There is no doubt that in federal court a lot of it is form over substance. The purposefully intimidating courtrooms, the "gotcha" every time you make a silly unintentional mistake, the filing of motions for things the Government can just call about. I was doing a Friday wrap up with a fellow defense lawyer about his ongoing federal trial and most of the conversations was about the judge yelling at the lawyers about, well, everything. There was very little about the actual case.

Those that practice in federal court know that vacations are taken by permission, schedules belong to the court, not to the lawyers, and life often takes a back seat to the proceedings.

So, like at the end of a date, my question is, "Can I call you, please?"

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Prosecution Of Michael Phelps

I knew it.

The minute I saw this picture:

I said, "when's the arrest?"

Now, I'm not advocating the arrest of Michael Phelps. In fact, I think the arrest and prosecution of Michael Phelps is a great example of what's wrong with America.

One thing first. Lawyers for Michael Phelps, what were you thinking? Sorry for assuming you were thinking, but why did you allow your client to say ANYTHING?

I trust the lawyers on board Michael's team wear white shirts and rep ties and saw a courtroom last when they were sworn in to the Bar, so allow me to offer some advice: When you are presented with a photo of your client possibly committing a crime, you and your client, say nothing.

Now I know the first thought was "how do we protect Michael's endorsements and his boy scout image?" That was stupid, but I trust you all didn't think to even speak to a yucky criminal defense lawyer.

So now we have a photo and a modified confession. "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," said Phelps. The regrettable behavior and bad judgment being opening his big mouth after opening it to cover the bong.

Cue today's story that the Sheriff is contemplating criminal charges.

"Authorities will file criminal charges if the investigation determines that they are warranted, a spokesman said Tuesday."

Well that's good to know.

Here's my favorite quote: "The Richland County Sheriff's Department is making an effort to determine if Mr. Phelps broke the law. If he did, he will be charged in the same manner as anyone else. The sheriff has a responsibility to be fair, to enforce the law and to not turn a blind eye because someone is a celebrity."

I wonder what would happen if people just started sending in photos of people smoking pot in Richland County?

No, actually, I don't.

Here's the mission of the Richland County Sheriff's Office:

"It is the mission of the Richland County Sheriff's Department to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Richland County by:

Maintaining a high standard of professional accountability, reducing the fear of crime, and reducing the fear of retaliation from those persons who constitute the criminal element within the county."

So if Michael Phelps is arrested for possession of marijuana that "reduces the fear of crime or "reduces the fear of retaliation from those persons who constitute the criminal element within the county?"

No, but what the hell. Pot is bad, illegal, and as the Sheriff said "If someone breaks the law in Richland County, we have an obligation as law enforcement to investigate and to bring charges."

I hate to use legal reasoning here, but c'mon!

Have you seen the news Sheriff? Is your department, your county, facing severe budget cuts? Are the residents crying out for pot smokers to be prosecuted? It is a college town you know.

I say so what, who cares. This is the message we send? That if a photo surfaces of misdemeanor conduct (by the way "misdemeanor" means "mistake in demeanor," not "murder") and someone apologizes, we initiate an investigation and prosecute?

Move on already. America, and especially Richland County are no safer by the arrest or prosecution of Michael Phelps.

I think he will be arrested - not for the photo, but for the photo and for opening his big mouth.

Michael asked for forgiveness from the public. Unfortunately, that public probably does not include the resourceful law enforcement in Richland County South Carolina.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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