Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amusements, Irritants and Head-Shakers

When you've practiced criminal law over a long enough period, you start to see the same things over and over and over again. Some are amusing; some are irritating; some just make you shake your head. A partial list:

Amusement: the mindset that leads a person to believe that it's okay to drive a rider mower home from a bar while drunk and with a suspended license, since a rider mower isn't a car. Or to believe that being caught with a whole bunch of loot under one's coat before leaving the store is a defense to a theft charge, since one has not succeeded in actually leaving the premises with the swag. (The answer to both of these is a resounding "HUH-UH!")

Irritant: clients who lie to their attorneys. Folks, if you lie to your counsel, you are your own worst enemy, and you deserve whatever comes of it.

Head-shaker: the term "fiance(e)" as applied to one's shackmouse boyfriend/girlfriend. Has there been an exchange of promises to marry (before the three kids)? Is she wearing an engagement ring? Have you set a date? If the answer to these questions is "no," then that is not your fiance(e).

Amusement: everybody who gets pulled over for drunk driving had "a couple of beers." Everybody who gets caught with marijuana last smoked the stuff "two weeks ago."

Irritant: people who can't seem to make it all the way to the end of a sentence without dropping at least five F-bombs. I have to admit this bothers me more the older I get.

Head-shaker: people who give their kids ridiculous names, like Kanyone, or ordinary names with ridiculous spellings, like "Eyezik" instead of "Isaac." I'm convinced the latter is mainly the product of illiteracy. Nine times out of ten, children with these kinds of goofy names live at an address that includes the phrase "Space Number."

Amusement: three things people invariably rate themselves highly on: (1) how well they perform in bed; (2) how well they drive; (3) how well they performed on the field sobriety tests.

Irritant: raunchy B.O. and buffalo breath.

Head-shaker: the invalid mother that remains unseen and unheard of at all times except when the child -- the only person on the whole planet who can take care of her -- is under arrest. Who was taking care of her while you were on that three-day drug run?

Amusement: people who, at court, ask me if I'm somebody's secretary. I tell them secretarial work is too hard for me (which is the truth), and I don't deserve such a promotion (also the truth).

Irritant: the following question, most commonly asked of the court at arraignment: "Should I go with the public defender, or should I get a real lawyer?"

Head-shaker: people who bring their little kids to court. Why would you want your child to see you in trouble? I know some people do this in the hopes that they won't go to jail that day; however, this is not always an effective strategy. Years ago, I used to appear regularly in front of a judge who, when a parent brought his kids to his sentencing, would take the parent to jail and put the kids in foster care.

Amusement: people with a rap sheet stretching from here to the moon and back who tell me they don't understand the system.

Irritant: people who haven't worked in years, or who have had about fifty jobs in the last six months, telling me how to do my job.

Head-shaker: women who will move heaven and earth to get rid of the no-contact order that is protecting them from the men who are beating the tar out of them.

Amusement: people who have obscenities tattooed on their faces, then (a) demand to know what the hell you're looking at, and (b) blame the recession for their inability to find work.

Irritant: the relatively new custom of calling a person by his first and last names. "Anita Moore, this is your client, Joe Sixpack." "Anita Moore, this is what happened." "Anita Moore, call me back as soon as you get this message." To the ear of someone who was raised during a time when there was still a speck of gentility in the world, and we used titles like "Mr.," "Miss" or "Mrs.," this sounds rude and crass. I'd almost rather go back to the days when people were calling total strangers by their Christian names.

Head-shaker: people who discuss their cases and other (hitherto) uncharged criminal activity on the phone from jail, or who violate no contact orders from jail by phoning the protected party, despite repeated warnings that the jail records all inmate phone conversations and keeps a log of all numbers called. Why do you think you have to use a PIN to make a phone call?

Amusement: opposing counsel who think intimidation tactics or psychological games supply for a weak case.

Irritant: opposing counsel who, irritated that my client will not accept a plea offer, demand that I divulge privileged communications.

Head-shaker: opposing counsel who refuse my client's plea offer in the belief that they can get more out of my client after a trial, then go to the trouble of trying the case, only to end up with exactly what I had previously offered, or -- worse for them -- nothing at all.

Amusement: the whole criminal justice system.

Irritant: the whole criminal justice system.

Head-shaker: the whole criminal justice system.


  1. Ooh! Pick me! Pick me! Can I add a couple?

    On Amusement: When I was a cop, we pulled over a car that could NOT have gotten stuck accidentally. It was an icy Thanksgiving night, but because most locals negotiating that hard left knew it was a hard left and weren't dumb enough to take it at speed. Thus, any joker 30 feet into the ditch HAD to be drunk.

    It was actually my first DUI stop, and there were 4 guys in the car. When I walked up they all had their windows open and jovially told me and my FTO that they were fine, a tow had been called, etc. Acting on a hunch, I played their game that were were only stopping to "help" and asked, "how was the party at Champp's tonight?" (a local chain restaurant, don't know if it's national or not).

    Idiot in the back said, "Oh, it was great!"

    Thank you! I said to the driver: can you step out of the car please/

    He got out saying, "I only had a couple!"

    I thought to myself "a couple kegs or a couple bottles o' whiskey?"

    He blew over a .20 (at that time MN was .10, is now .08) and his betrayers in the back seat were charged with open bottle. That was a fun night.


    Head Shaker: As I was later a Claims Investigator, it was my great unprivilege to deal with incompetent backwater attorneys.

    One day I got a call from a blustery guy from the stix demanding the file and forensic findings on x case and threatening to litigate if I did not provide said documents IMMEDIATELY.

    My calm response was to ask 1. who he was, and 2., if I could have a letter of representation so that I would not be sued for a violation of privacy rights and 3. a refusal to provide much of the information demanded on the grounds that the law actually prohibited me from providing x information.

    About a month later I received a very unprofessional letter apologizing for not having sent an earlier response because of many personal issues that were none of my business. (Pray for this guy's wife, though, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Seriously tragic, but a really unprofessional way of revealing it!)

    Um...eventually those people went away. They were trying to commit fraud by using a vehicle they didn't own to start their garbage trailer on fire, and they took advantage of a special needs guy who happened to be my customer. Bad, bad mistake. Don't mess with the disabled or you'll find yourself homeless with an incompetent attorney who can't even save himself.

  2. Rudeness never pays!

    (Being dishonest isn't a very good policy, either.)