Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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Though Homo Sapiens, We’re Not Necessarily All Gay

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

Over in Utah, where I’m pretty sure the native language is English, a man who teaches that tongue to nonnative speakers was fired for broaching the delicate topic of homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but mean different things, like read/reed, told/tolled, and raise/raze.

The owner of the Nomen Global Language Center, whose motto is “English Will Take You Higher,” thought the term had something to do with gay sex. That was to/two/too much for him.

It isn’t known if the owner had embraced his school motto a tad literally, but after firing the teacher, he immediately canceled his milk delivery.

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Mars Landing

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I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

My grandfather didn’t want to be the first man on the moon. He didn’t want anybody else to be either. He told me this as we gazed at it together, the time I lived with him after my mother died, and the boy I was wondered what it would be like to walk on the moon, and whether I might somehow be closer to her up there. He was a man of his time: he thought it would be a crime against God. He prayed he would never see that crime committed.

His prayer was answered, and my grandfather went home to his God almost six years before Neil Armstrong took one small step for a man. Quite a stumble had granddaddy lived.

Six years from now, a private Dutch company will be about ready to take a bigger step. A quartet of Earthling emigrants will be launched into space, next stop Mars. I say “emigrants,” because they’re not coming back. Ever. Although the company, Mars One, says it will have the technological capability to get the fab four to Mars, it hasn’t a clue how to get them back, and doesn’t necessarily want to.

The plan is to establish a colony, Like the Mayflower. Those people didn’t plan to go back either. Two years after the first four set up home and hearth, four more will come. By 2033 there will be a whopping twenty settlers. They’ll need a wide skill set, organizers say. One of them is bound to be a maid: all that red dust.

No couples, no spouses. As the man says, Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.

So who in their right mind wants to go to Mars and never come back? Turns out about 200,000 wannabe expatriates applied for first crack. Not all of them were necessarily in their right minds. Some sent nude application videos. This pool has been narrowed already to 705 people itching for the chance to live in a housing development that looks like a string of interconnected extra-large porta-potties. I’m not sure if any of the nudists made the cut. The Final Four will be selected American-Idol-style, with the whole world voting. And yeah, there’s going to be a reality TV show to help the whole world decide.

There’s a helpful FAQ on the Mars One website that explains all this and more. My favorite question by far is, “Is it safe to live on Mars?” And the answer is, “Living on Mars cannot be considered entirely risk-free.”

I don’t know to a certainty that they’re talking about crime, but I know this:

I don’t want to be the first criminal defense lawyer on Mars. I’m not entirely sure I want anybody else to be either.

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No Get Out of Jail Free Cards Here

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

The other day I went with a colleague who specializes in representing the accused at the first stage of court: the arraignment. What they all have in common, is that they are all already in jail. No money to bond, none for a lawyer. For my colleague, it’s the only stage he represents them: unless rearrested for something else, he never sees them again.

He’s very efficient at what he does. But he’s been doing it for a long, long time. This is how it goes at the jail:

We are shuttled into cages: elevators that look like jail cells, with bars and guards to prevent our escape. The attorney who holds the contract for the jail arraignments is bantering with the guards to beat the band, one clever quip tumbling out after another. Does he always engage them like this, or is it for my benefit?

We spill out of the cage into a bigger cage. The prisoners are here, lined against the walls. The attorneys divvy them up, then lead them one at a time to bare wood tables (are they bolted to the floor? I don’t remember). The attorneys do some business with a folded towel, wiping off the tables, purging them of germs left by the previous men and women who sat here bartering for their freedom. Nobody wants to catch a cold. Or whatever.

The prisoner at our table starts to say something. The attorney shuts him up. Wait, the attorney says, I done this a million times, there’s stuff I gotta say, it’ll go easier that way. Then he gives the spiel he’s given 10,000 times before. He’s smooth, he’s fast, he’s clever, don’t interrupt, that’s why they pay him the big bucks. He even says it: “That’s why they pay me the big bucks.” By now he’s memorized it all by heart – 9900 times ago he’d memorized it all by heart – and by now there’s no heart left in it. It’s mill work.

The attorney is advising the prisoner that he might plead guilty, get some credit for time served, even as the guy is saying there’s no way he could have done what they say he did. They say he called his ex-wife, using his girlfriend as an intermediary to make the call and patch him in on a conference call, violating a restraining order. But I couldn’t a done that, he says: I was in jail, I didn’t make no call, they don’t allow no conference calls. If I plead guilty, won’t that affect my probation? I just got outta jail; might as well go right back.

The attorney finally looks at the police report. It never says the prisoner talked with the wife, or said anything at all. It says the wife was called by the girlfriend, who wanted to know how to get in touch with the prisoner. It says the wife “suspected” the prisoner was in on the call. The whole charge is based on this suspicion. It’s bogus.

Still the attorney tells the prisoner he might do better to plead and take his chances with the sentencing. If he pleads not guilty he won’t be able to make bail and he’ll stay in jail through his trial for a crime he didn’t commit. If he pleads guilty he might actually do less time for the crime he didn’t commit. But there’s the probation thing.

It’s a slow day. The attorney actually has the time to call the probation officer, see what effect a guilty plea will have. Turns out it won’t be so good.

The attorney pleads the prisoner not guilty. He makes a fine and effective argument that the police report doesn’t even detail a crime; the accused doesn’t even factor in except for the wife’s belief that he must have been lurking in the background of the phone call.

The judge is clearly impressed, but not so impressed that he reduces bail so the prisoner might fight this charge from somewhere other than a cell.

It’s an agreeable result: the prisoner doesn’t plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit. He thanks the attorney. He is led in his manacles back to the jail.

The wheels of justice grind slowly.

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Self-Deprecating Top Ten List

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I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

A colleague asked me the other day to try to come up with a list of the Top Ten Reasons To Date a Lawyer, to use on his radio show. Strangely enough, I couldn’t come up with a single one.

Fortunately, though, he also asked for a list of the Top Ten Reasons NOT To Date a Lawyer. Here it is:

10. Hands you a pre-nup on the first date.

9. Doesn’t return your phone calls.

8. Every time he tries to get close to you, has the annoying habit of saying “May I approach?”

7. Thinks a three-piece suit is appropriate beachwear.

6. No free consultations for loved ones.

5. Can’t calculate the tip at dinner because the only math he knows is how to divide by 3.

4. When you ask if he loves you, he says, “It depends.”

3. He’s already seen people in restraints.

2. In a fit of jealousy, subpoenas your underwear.

And the Number One Top Ten Reason Not To Date a Lawyer:

1. Are you kidding? He’a a lawyer!!

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An Older But Wiser Judge for Me

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

The legal scholar Jonathan Turley once picked a Dream Team of the nine greatest Supreme Court Justices in history. They were:

John Marshall
Charles Evans Hughes
Earl Warren
Louis Brandeis
William Brennan
Oliver Wendell Holmes
John Marshall Harlan
Hugo Black
Joseph Story

Had the Supreme Court the mandatory retirement age used by three-fifths of the United States, Justice Story would have been all alone on Professor Turley’s dream bench. This country would have been deprived of a collective ninety-nine years of the judicial wisdom of the greatest judges who ever lived.

Among other things that would have been lost if these men were retired at age seventy (generally the mark chosen by thirty states), is the requirement that you be informed about your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney. Before that police would simply beat a confession out of you, and you were good to go to court.

You could not marry the partner of your choice if he or she were a spouse of a different color.

Also lost would have been your right to have a private phone conversation (we’ll pretend for a moment the federal government isn’t listening in now anyway).

It would be okay to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre and enjoy the ensuing panic; the “clear and present danger” exception to free speech would never have been articulated and Tom Clancy would be down one book and movie.

The poor would be flat out of luck if they could not afford to hire a lawyer to defend a criminal charge.

All of these decisions, and hundreds more, were conceived, drafted, and argued by judges who were in their seventies and eighties.

We’ve recognized the value of experience and matured sagacity at the national level: federal judges are appointed for life.

Twenty of our United States have no mandatory retirement ages for their judges. But what of the wasted wisdom of the rest?

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