Drunk & Disorderly

On the Docket of a Colorado Criminal Defense Attorney

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If You Say So

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

Just received a very nice letter from someone with something to sell to every lawyer on the planet. From the letter:

WHAT IS IFTTT?
It’s just what it sounds like.

Hmmm…

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It Will Be a Crime if She Doesn’t Run

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

I think I’m beginning to like the idea of Sarah Palin as Presidential candidate. Sarah looks pretty good in a Photoshopped bikini and AK-47. It’s the kind of thing Barack Obama has never been able to pull off comfortably.

Sarah for sure would make a fine Commander-in-Chief. She knows how to muster and inspire the troops. The other day she attended a “real nice, mellow party” that started slow with drinks, gained a little momentum with more drinks, then turned into a real humdinger with the addition of…more drinks, with twenty people, including a passel of Palins, mightily concentrated in a full-blown brawl. In other words, an Alaskan birthday celebration.

The way I heard the story (I think it was in the New York Times), six or seven drinks into the affair, things were going swimmingly when Sarah spotted across the way some damn young man who once dated one of her daughters. He had spread some nasty rumors about the child, as damn young men like to do. I’m not saying sexting was involved, but you never know.

Anyway, Sarah immediately took charge, having spotted that damn young man, and directed her strongest son — turned out he was the only son — to go over there and have some words with the damn young man.

Words were had. Then before you know it a damn young nose was bashed. When that sort of thing happens in the North to the Future State, events go south real quick and a lot of noses get bashed.

Next thing, Sarah turned to her husband Todd, motioned a finger just the slightest, and said get in there, you big lout. And he did get in there. The New York Times helpfully explained the big lout “also races snowmobiles.” Apparently snowmobilers are like that.

Then Sarah, with a mere raise of an eyebrow over a glowering hawkeye, directed Bristol Palin, a different daughter who I think is just a little girl, to get in there too. And Bristol did get in there too, and “threw several punches at the owner of the house where the party was being held.”

“And he deserved it,” Sarah might have whispered to just about anyone at the party. “How dare he invite that damn young man.”

So, having endured several puny Palin punches (or maybe near hits; the New York Times didn’t specify), the owner told the Palins to get the whole damn clan out of there. And they did get out of there, bruised and bleeding and every one of them piling into their stretch Hummer limousine. But not before Sarah, according to the New York Times, fired “several rounds of profanity” across the bow of the remaining crowd, and somehow persuaded her own, fine, young man to hoist a parting one-finger salute (put me to mind of John-John Kennedy’s salute his mom told him to do, only involving fewer fingers).

And as they motored a little wobbily away, someone in the crowd — I don’t really know who — claimed to hear her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight, “Higher, boy, get that thing up there higher!”

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a President.

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Tinker to Evers to Chance

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

This is a story that comes from Georgia to Colorado via Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer John Macdonald.

The bad news is that a great, great lawyer — who once cross-examined himself during a court hearing — is dead. Herb Shafer, of Atlanta, Georgia, died late last month. The good news is that he was 93, and scared the bejesus out of prosecutors and judges for more than 50 of those years.

So unafraid of either was he, that when a county court judge and a district attorney persisted in unethical private meetings in the judge’s chambers during trial, he told a reporter outside the courtroom exactly what he thought of both. He was overheard, and hauled back into the courtroom for a contempt hearing, against himself.

The transcript of that hearing, edited very slightly because my kids read this blog (one word in particular smacks of euphemy), tells the rest of the story; the district attorney asks the questions, Herb Shafer nails the answers:

Okay. The statement you made to the reporter about “I’m not going to let these popsuckers breathe until this jumps off my ass and onto theirs,” can you just be specific for me and tell me who the people are that you’re referring to as popsuckers?

Well, the judge, definitely. You, definitely.

Are there any other potential popsuckers out there?

Well, I don’t know. It depends on whether I nail them. If I nail them, if I find that they’re doing anything unethical, I’ll do more than call them a popsucker. I’ll institute the necessary proceedings if I see them doing anything unethical. Yeah.

Like who?

I don’t know. Whoever.

Well, I’m just inquiring if we’re the only popsuckers out here in your view or if there are other popsuckers?

So far you’re the only popsuckers out here.

Are there any potential popsuckers or possible or probable popsuckers or people you suspect to be popsuckers, or are we the only confirmed and adjudicated popsuckers in the county?

Well, I don’t know that you’ve been adjudicated a popsucker yet, Mr. District Attorney, but you will be.

And if I understand the story right, Georgia to Rhode Island to Colorado, that district attorney was indeed later so adjudicated.

I suspect Herb Shafer will not soon be forgotten.

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Truth Be Told

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

One thing a criminal defense lawyer is supposed to do, is trust (trust, but verify) that your client is telling you the truth, even when you know they’re not telling you the truth. You develop the understanding that the facts of the case, and the truth of the case, are almost never the same thing. When it’s their story and they’re sticking to it, you go with it.

So you learn to control yourself, and try very hard not to crack a smile when your client tells you something that, on the bare face of the statement, seems absurdly improbable. Or when a witness to what your client supposedly did says something absurdly damnable.

The worst place to fail, of course, is in court.

Leonard Frieling, one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Colorado, and any state within a couple thousand miles of Colorado, told some of his colleagues today a war story of “the good old days” when a cop understood that the people he swore to protect and serve might sometimes include the person he arrested for a minor offense.

Lenny felt the appropriate result for a client accused of speeding would be a deferred sentence, meaning if the client kept his nose clean for a few months he’d be spared a criminal record and skyrocketed car insurance. The Colorado trooper not only agreed that was fair, but also agreed to allow the client to have his chance at trial, and if found guilty still give the deferred sentence.

As I said, Lenny is a very good lawyer.

But on the witness stand, the trooper testified that the motorist blasted by the trooper’s patrol car at an incredible rate of speed.

Why incredible?

Well, the trooper testified, I didn’t believe it myself. I mean, I really didn’t believe it. I had to lean out my own window to look at my own door to make sure I was driving a marked patrol car.

I’m pretty sure Lenny cracked a smile at that.

I’m pretty sure even his client did.

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A Wyoming Lawyer’s Toke on Colorado’s Marijuana Law (A typo may or may not be involved here.)

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[Alex Freeburg was a feisty little cuss who liked to argue, read books like his life depended on it, fight like the devil against unfairness, and be stubborner than a whole team of mules. Naturally he grew up to be a lawyer. He lives in a hole, but before you feel sorry for him, it’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is his first guest post on Drunk & Disorderly.]

What’s happened with marijuana legalization in Colorado?

As a criminal defense attorney who regularly represents persons accused of marijuana possession in Jackson Hole, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, I am watching Colorado’s experience with legalization closely.

I am not alone. Recently, I was at a legal conference where a prominent Casper criminal defense attorney spoke about his experiences defending drug crimes in Wyoming. He said that along the I-80 corridor, prosecutors and law enforcement do not vigorously prosecute marijuana possession. I was surprised by his comments because in my experience these charges are taken seriously. However, I mainly practice in northern Wyoming and Eastern Idaho. According to this defense attorney, the farther you are from Colorado, the more likely the prosecutors and law enforcement vigorously prosecute marijuana possession.

This got me thinking. What exactly is going on in Colorado? What do the people closest to Colorado know that we don’t?

The Colorado Department of Revenue recently released the first study of marijuana use following legalization.

Key findings:

• About 485,000 people, or 9 percent of the State’s population, use marijuana at least once a month in the past year.

• As part of that group, the top 20 percent of users (people who use daily) account for 67 percent (two thirds) of the total demand for marijuana.

• Another 201,000 people, or 4 percent of the State’s population, use marijuana once in the past year.

• These rare users (people who use less than once a month, and about one third of the people that use marijuana at all) account for less than 1 percent of the total demand for marijuana.

• There is significant tourist demand for marijuana. The Department of Revenue estimates that 90 percent of the marijuana sales in tourist-driven mountain towns (think Breckenridge or Telluride) are to visitors. Further, 44 percent of the marijuana sales in the Denver metro area are to visitors.

From a Wyoming criminal defense point of view, here is what jumps out to me:

• If you tell a trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol that you are coming from Telluride or Breckenridge, they’re going to think that you bought marijuana and try to search your vehicle. (Read my post on how to handle traffic stops).

• A lot of people in Colorado are using marijuana. I am surprised by the high numbers. However, it looks like the sky hasn’t fallen.

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