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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Thanksgiving - Tyler Weinman Edition

Unless you live in my neighborhood, you probably don't know the name Tyler Weinman. Yesterday the Miami-Dade State Attorney dropped all 19 charges against him. This happens - prosecutors dropping charges, dismissing cases, setting formerly accused defendants free.

But since last year, when Tyler was 18, he wasn't known as "Tyler," he was referred to as he was in today's headline:

Accused serial cat killer cleared of charges

Police and prosecutors -- who initially relied on the opinions of Miami-Dade's Animal Services department -- built a circumstantial and highly publicized case in the mutilations that terrorized pet owners across the upscale cities of Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay.

Weinman was initially accused of slaying 19 cats in South Miami-Dade, was faced a slew of burglary and cruelty to animal felonies.

Why were charges dismissed? Lost witnesses? Contaminated evidence? Lazy prosecutor?


Two scientific experts determined that an animal, not the teen, was to blame for a string of grisly feline mutilations in South Miami-Dade last year.

Actually, there were 3. Two of them worked for the state.

The important inaccuracy in the the article is the statement - That means Tyler Weinman, 19, is now a free man.

Free, as in no longer under conditions of bond, no longer facing prosecution or jail, but not free like me, or you.

Tyler is the accused serial cat killer. To the many commenters (unemployed illiterate morons who do nothing but type comments all day on newspaper websites) Tyler is guilty.

The lesson is that we live in a society where the government's accusation is paramount. Damn the truth.

If I could have anything today, it would be to be at Tyler Weinman's house tonight.

Other things I'm thankful for:

The prosecutor who this week dropped a charge that would have made my 18 year old client a sex offender for life. My only regret was not asking him to step outside the courtroom to see the half a dozen family members crying uncontrollably. The prosecutor didn't drop the charge because he couldn't prove my client had sex with his underaged neighbor, he dropped it because he thought it was the right thing to do.

To criminal defense lawyers everywhere, that phrase, the right thing to do, has special meaning. We rarely see it.

I'm also thankful:

That Kathleen Williams, the Federal Public Defender of the Southern District of Florida was nominiated to the District Court. I hope she is confirmed soon.

That I don't have to use the word aggressive, or the phrase fight for your rights on my website or anywhere else, because those who call for my services already assume that.

For the young (and older) lawyers who solely based on something I wrote, have decided not to spend a dime with some failed or former lawyer on social media marketing.

For public defenders who go to court everyday and deal with unappreciative clients, impatient judges, impossible case loads, and a salary that is little more than I made doing the same job 13 years ago.

That I do this work because I still love it, not because I find it "easy," or I couldn't make money in some other practice area.

For anyone who reads this blog. Some set up blogs for profit, for the promise of clients. I do it for myself, and that one person every so often who e-mails me and tells me they took something from it.

For the few people left in this country who say they appreciate and understand the importance of the criminal defense lawyer, and actually mean it.

For Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

For Frederick Banting.

For any judge who understands, really understands, that due process is notice and the opportunity to be heard.

That I can call as friends,





every day





affects a persons freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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, November 24, 2010

This Isn't Burger King

Two recent calls to my office contained the same type of client - "this is how we're going to do things.

The first had an employee call and advise that the boss currently had a lawyer but was looking for someone else. The employee refused to disclose the bosses' name because the last (read: one of 12) lawyer contacted his current lawyer and now he thinks his lawyer is upset with him.

I advised that anything the boss told me in contemplation of representation was attorney client privileged, but at some point, if hired, I would need to speak to his current lawyer.

A couple weeks later, boss calls and begins talking to me. I stop him and ask his name. He refuses to tell me. I explain that I cannot determine whether I have a conflict in accepting representation unless I have his name. He says, "ok, here's what I propose..." I responded, "here's what I propose, the next two words out of your mouth are your first and last name." He apologized for "wasting" my time, and hung up.

Potential client two calls and advises she wants to meet with me - "today.". I explained that I didn't know if I could meet with her that day, but if she faxed me her documents, I would read them over and try and call her.

I do this in most cases. If the client has documents I can review before a face-to-face meeting, maybe look up the docket sheet and see who the judge and prosecutor are, maybe do a bit of research, the face-to-face meeting can be more productive.

"I don't feel comfortable faxing you my documents."

This is a potential client that believes my fax machine is in the middle of a shopping mall, next to the candle kiosk.

I explained that my office was small, and the fax actually went right to my assistant's computer and then to me.

"I just don't feel comfortable faxing it to you."

I told her if she wouldn't fax me the documents, there was nothing I could do.

She said thank you and hung up.

Neither of these clients are clients I want. They are people with serious problems, who believe their control of the situation is as important as hiring a good lawyer. Many other lawyers would succomb to their desire to control the representation - anything for a fee, right?

I don't like paranoid clients - the ones who will never answer their cell phoones because they believe the FBI may be calling to discuss their recent possession of marijuana, the ones who take copious notes in my office (I don't allow that) so their Bar complaint against me has sufficient detail ("Mr. Tannebaum guaranteed he would win my case, have the prosecutor fired, and return all my money.")

These clients were more than paranoid, they were ones who would second guess every single thing I did throughout the representation. My experience, knowledge, relationships with people would mean nothing to them, they would have a better way of handling the case, throughout.

Many in our profession say "it's all about the client." Our profession - that of the criminal defense lawyer - is a simple one - we represent clients who are in trouble, may be in trouble, or in rare cases, are trying to avoid trouble. Yes, it's all about the clients.

But just like going to a doctor and seeking advice on a medical condition, it is inappropriate for a patient to say "doc, I'm going to lay on my side while you do this, instead of my back."

Many in our profession are willing to let clients run their lives and tell them how to do their job.

I am not.

If you want to "Have it Your Way," I'm the wrong lawyer.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Now You Want Some Civil Liberties? Now? Too Late.

It's funny watching my fellow Americans bellyache, whine, and express shock over the TSA's new policy of "doing whatever the hell we want to anyone and there's nothing you can do about it."

For a criminal defense lawyer, this is nothing new. Anyone here ever try to tell a judge about something going on in the jail? First reaction: "I have no jurisdiction over (corrections) (Bureau of Prisons). Judges have much power, over a lot of things, except apparently where they send defendants. I'm not sure many are bothered by the fallacy that there's nothing they can do. Makes the job easier.

And so it is we do the same dance here. While TSA Chair Pistole continues his PR campaign of "the (beatings) pat-downs will continue," no one appears to be stepping in to claim jurisdiction over the TSA. We all know it's Congress, but they seem to be doing the "yeah, what he said" thing without any more. Our President supports the "enhanced security measures," which doesn't bode well for any significant change, and the media is doing their media thing where one story has 3 people who are outraged, outraged I say, and another story has 3 people who think everyone should have to fly naked.

Why I find it all funny, is that after 9/11, no one cared about civil rights, or civil liberties. If we needed to search every home in Topeka, Nashville, and Mayberry, (except yours, and his, and his) to find Osama Bin Laden, it was perfectly fine. If we needed to get every piece of personal information from everyone breathing on the planet (except yours of course), fine. If we needed to push aside the warrant requirement for recording phone conversations (I know we can record yours, you don't care, you don't say anything terrorist like), fine.

We drew no line. We accepted that fear was everywhere and anyone that would help subside that fear, even if it meant taking the clothes off our kids, was acceptable in the name of the war on terror.

I'm surprised it took this long for pat-downs at airports. The "Christmas Day" bomber carried explosives in his pants, so off with your pants. Remember, we take off our shoes (and now don't put them in a bin but directly - DIRECTLY I SAID - on the belt- in honor of the shoe bomber. Comedian Bill Maher once said that if someone tried to commit an act of terror on a plane while wearing a blue hat, blue hats would be prohibited.

No, I'm not a communist, and I don't support terrorism, and I don't have the answers. I do know that once we as Americans gave total and complete power to our government to move the line of acceptability when it comes to our civil rights, we lost any credibility in trying to move it back, or even keep it where it is.

By the way, Wednesday's "opt-out" protest, will be a miserable failure. Sorry but everyone's got to get somewhere, no time for taking a stand on anything this week.

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