TPD Drill Sergeants

TPD officers were recently sued by a colleague of mine, Kevin Adams, for forcing an individual to do push ups on the side of the road to avoid receiving a traffic ticket. Many people have commented on this case and have stated that because the individual was a convicted felon that he should keep his mouth shut and be happy he didn’t get a ticket. Now I don’t know if it is because I’m a criminal defense lawyer, I believe in the constitution or that I just simply have a different mind set than some people but I find this behavior by TPD to be completely unacceptable. Making someone do push ups on the side of the road is not only against police policy but it is also completely demeaning. What if this was done to someones daughter or niece or wife, would we read the same kind of comments that they should feel lucky they didn’t get a ticket, or would the public be completely outraged. We cannot look at the person that was treated in this manner, we must simply look at the action by the officer and determine whether those actions were right or wrong. In this case they were absolutely wrong.

War on Drugs: The Siphon

As a criminal defense attorney based out of Tulsa, OK I have seen first hand the money that the War on Drugs siphons away from our schools, healthcare, and other much more important programs. Oklahoma’s archaic drug laws cost this state millions, if not billions, of dollars per year. From the money that we pay officers to arrest non-violent drug offenders to the money we pay public defenders and other court appointed attorneys to represent these individuals to the money that it costs to incarcerate these non-violet offenders… this is the siphon. Most offenders charged with drug crimes are not gang or cartel members they are simply people with a problem yet we continue to incarcerate them at tax payer expense. These individuals are generally guilty of nothing more than simple possession and of making poor life decisions. Yet we lock them up at a staggering cost to the public and provide no treatment to try and battle the addiction that led them to prison. This stance insures that the person will most likely reoffend when they are released into the public in worse shape than when they went into prison.
The war on drugs takes money from education, road work and many other essential programs in the state of Oklahoma and around the country. If we were to decriminalize drugs, or at least make simple possession only a ticket and a fine, the siphon would end and our state would be better off financially than ever before.

DUI: The License Killer

One of the biggest concerns that my clients have when facing a criminal DUI charge is the effect that the charge will have on their drivers license. Most people can deal with a little probation and some fines that come along with the criminal portion of their DUI but they can’t handle not having a drivers license, and th stakes just got even higher. As of November 2011 the revocation periods for licenses of DUI drivers just went up. There are now two sets of penalties for first time offenses:

1) if a person submits to a breathalyzer and blows below a .15 then their license will only be suspended for 6 months.

2) If a person blows above a .15 or refuses then their license is suspended for 6 months and they will have an 18 month restriction on their license that requires them to install an interlock device in their car. This is a total of 24 months that a person would have to have an interlock in their vehicle.

For a second offense it is a 1 year suspension with a 3 year restriction for a total of 4 years that a person would have to have an interlock in their vehicle

For a third offense a person is subject to a three year suspension and a 5 year restriction for a total of 8 years with an interlock device in their vehicle.

The cost of an interlock device ranges from 65-80 dollars per month.

If you are charged with a DUI get an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and your right to drive.

Pick the Right Attorney: The Lowest Price Isn’t Always a Bargain

A person facing criminal charges, whether they are felony or misdemeanor, has a very important decision to make and it is one that they may be betting their life on; picking an attorney to represent them. As a criminal defense attorney in Oklahoma I have seen time and time again where people simply go price shopping for a attorney and go with the lowest bidder, this is not a sound strategy when picking a lawyer. Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for”, well the same is true when picking an attorney. I’m not saying that you need the most expensive attorney in town but I am saying beware of an attorney who sets his prices well below other attorneys in his field. Many time these lawyers who set their prices low do so because they know they are going to sign you up for the first plea deal that the DA offers and it will require very little work on their part. This is not what you want when your life and/or livelihood is on the line. Here are a few tips when looking for a competent criminal defense attorney:

1) Look for an attorney who focuses on criminal defense. A common misconception in the public is that attorneys are competent in all areas of the law and that is simply not true. Most attorneys specialize in one or two fields and become masters of those areas of law in order to represent their clients competently in those areas. You will find attorneys that are jack of all trades but as the saying goes they are jacks of all trades and masters of none. I would want a master of his trade if my life or livelihood was on the line.

2) Don’t go cheap! Would you go out to a used car lot and tell the salesman you want the cheapest car on the lot? Of course not because you know you would get some car that wouldn’t make it around the block with out breaking down. So why on earth would you go cheap when your life depends on it? Go with a reasonably priced criminal defense attorney you’ll thank me for it in the long run.

3) Find a criminal trial lawyer. This is another misconception that the public has about criminal attorneys and that is that all of them can try cases. This is not true, in fact there are very few criminal defense attorneys who try cases and are competent in doing so. But hiring a trial attorney can benefit you even if you don’t want to take the case to trial. Prosecutors are much more likely to give favorable plea offers to trial attorneys because there is a real threat to the prosecutor of having to go to trial and possibly losing. Although a trial lawyer may be a little more expensive it will save you money in the long run.

These are just a few tips to hire a competent criminal defense attorney for your felony or misdemeanor matter but also rely on your instincts, if the lawyer your talking to doesn’t feel right for you then he probably isn’t and you should move on until you find one that you are comfortable working with.

The “Bad Guys”

In the criminal justice system, especially when dealing with felonies, there seems to be a disturbing trend regarding the “bad guys”.  Our system is set up so that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty but this is not the way that most judges view defendants.  As a criminal defense attorney in Tulsa, OK I have seen it over and over again where I have a rightous motion that should be sustained but is overruled by the judge because they don’t want to let the “Bad Guy”, my client, go free.  This puts a slant on our system that is overwhelming to a criminal defendant and I am sick and tired of it. Our criminal justice system was designed to protect the accused from an overbearing government and Judges were put in place as the gate keepers of fairness, but in reality many judges are nothing more than yes men for the government. Until we have Judges that are willing to follow the law and hold those charged with enforcing the law accountable for their actions our system will be forever flawed and criminal defendants, whether guilty or innocent, will continue to pay the price with their lives and freedom.

4th Amendment: Illegal searches and seizures

As a criminal defense attorney in Tulsa, OK I have seen many disturbing actions and trends by local law enforcement but none bother me as much as their blatant disregard for the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The 4th Amendment was designed to protect the citizens from unlawful intrusions by the government and is seen as a fundamental principal of criminal law. The right to be secure in our personal spaces and belongings is crucial to having a fair and impartial justice system, but that is not the way law enforcement seem to see it. Law enforcement, as proven by their actions in hundreds of cases a year, have no regard for the 4th Amendment rights of citizens and will trample on this right any chance they get if they believe the person whose rights they are violating is a “bad person”. The to compound the problem the only remedy that most individuals receive is the suppression of the evidence they obtained illegally and the cops that violated the law escape scott free without so much as a reprimand from the court or their superiors for their blatant violation of the law. Until such times as there are real consequences for officers who break the law and trample on the rights of citizens I fear that this trend will continue and the status quo of the the ends justify the means will remain and our criminal justice system, and individual citizens, will continue to suffer.

Punishment v. Justice


Main Entry: pun·ish·ment
Pronunciation: \ˈpə-nish-mənt\
Function: noun
Date: 15th century

1 : the act of punishing
2 a : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution b : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure
3 : severe, rough, or disastrous treatment

Main Entry: jus·tice
Pronunciation: \ˈjəs-təs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French justise, from Latin justitia, from justus
Date: 12th century

1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : judge c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
2 a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c : the quality of conforming to law
3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness

IN AMERICAN CULTURE punishment and justice are used as interchangeable, and almost synonymous, terms within the context of the criminal “justice” system. Yet, the two terms could not be more different.

Punishment is suffering pain or loss that serves as retribution for some transgression perpetrated by the individual being punished. Where justice is the conformity to truth, fact or reason, or administering the appropriate punishment or reward. The distinct definitions of these two words clearly show that they are not meant to be synonymous. Justice is the horse that is used to drive the cart carrying punishment. Put simply, justice should dictate the punishment dolled out by the American criminal justice system, although it rarely works that way.

The American criminal “justice” system seems to have lost the dichotomy that is punishment and justice. The two words have merged in the politically minded District Attorneys who care more about a headline than they do about doing right and dispensing just sentences. The maximum sentence is not always a just sentence; which is a concept that is severely lacking in today’s criminal “justice” system.

I can only speak from personal experience, from the jurisdiction that I practice in, but it has been my experience that the district attorneys care less about justice than they do about punishment. To the District Attorney’s Office it is a numbers game, how many years in prison can I hand out this year? How many people can I put in prison? These are the principals that drive the very people that our society charges with dispensing justice.

I ask You, is this the type of system that you want to be a part of? A system that has become a game of numbers instead of Justice?

“Just Say No”

“Just Say No”
The Golden Rule

“Just Say No” was a popular ad campaign in the late eighties and early 90’s aimed at keeping children off drugs. Since then “Just Say No” has been applied to many other areas including Domestic Violence, Premarital Sex, and Underage Drinking etc. Well it is time to add one more category to the “Just Say No” campaign, Police Interrogation and Searches.

“Just Say No” is a term that was meant to empower young children to have the courage and resolve to say no to drugs. The slogan continues to be one of empowerment today except when it comes to the Police. When Police are involved people often do not feel that they have the power to ”Just Say No” to a request from the Officer; but there are many instances, especially pertaining to searches, that a citizen has the absolute right to say no to the officer’s request. As a citizen, with constitutionally protected rights, you should absolutely use your right to “Just Say No” to the Police when questioned or asked to consent to a search.

“Just Say No”
To Police Questioning

The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. In plain English, the police cannot force you to talk. Police offers can lie, manipulate and trick a person into talking but they cannot force someone to talk. Police will work very hard to get a subject to talk because, often, the most damaging evidence against a person is their own statement. Here are some tactics that the Police will employ to try and obtain a statement from a subject. Police will often tell a suspect that:

  1. It will be better for you if you cooperate.
  2. We can help you if you cooperate.
  3. We have all the evidence that we need to convict you already so this is your opportunity to help yourself.
  4. We have your DNA, fingerprints, hair etc. so we know you were there, just tell us what happened.
  5. We understand why you did it we just need to here it from you.
  6. We only have one side of the story and this is your opportunity to tell us yours.
  7. There is a chance that this case could go away if you just tell us what happened.

These are all LIES!!!! The Police are not there to help a suspect out they are there to make an arrest that will lead to a conviction. The use of any of these statements by the Police indicates that they suspect that the person they are talking to has committed a crime. Do not help them make their case; “Just Say No” and ask for an attorney.

A person has the absolute right to request an attorney when interrogated by the Police. In fact, upon arrest, or prior to a custodial interrogation the Police are required to read Miranda Warnings to the person being questioned. Miranda Warnings inform the individual in question that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them, and that they have a right to an attorney. USE THESE RIGHTS. “Just Say No” to any further questioning until an attorney is present; and always remember to use the magic words “I Want an Attorney”.

The situations that have been discussed above generally apply to more serious crimes, such as felonies, but the “Just Say No” attitude should be used in any dealing with Police. For example, when a person is stopped for speeding the officer will almost always ask, “do you know why I pulled you over”? Once again, “Just Say No”. The reason the officer asks this question is because the prosecution can use the driver’s answer against them. Put simply, if the driver makes the comment that they were “probably going a little to fast” the prosecution can use this as an admission of guilt or in other terms a confession. Talking to the Police never pays off, “Just Say No”

“Just Say No”
To Request to Search

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”. Police will attempt to bypass this clause by gaining consent to search. A person’s 4th amendment rights can be waived if they consent to a search. If the Police ask to search it is usually because they do not have grounds to obtain a search warrant and are looking for a way around the law. Do not help the Police build a case by consenting to a search, “Just Say No”.

Police will attempt to manipulate a person into giving consent to search; be aware of these manipulative tactics. If a person does not immediately consent the Police will often engage that person in the following conversation.

  • Officer: Do you mind if I take a look (look is code for search) around your vehicle.
  • Driver: I don’t know? Why do you want to search my car?
  • Officer: You don’t have anything to hide do you?
  • Driver: No
  • Officer: Then what is the harm in letting take a look around?
  • Driver: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you looking in my car.
  • Officer: You said you have nothing to hide. If that’s true then there shouldn’t be a problem. It will only take a minute.

This is textbook manipulation, the officer is attempting to insinuate that only guilty people, or people with something to hide, refuse to give consent to search. The fact is that the officer did not have a valid reason to search and was attempting an end around by asking for consent. An easy response to the officer when he asks why the person wont allow consent is “I think all people should exercise their constitutional rights so I am going to have to “Just Say No”.

Search and Seizure law in the United States is very complicated and often misunderstood, even by attorneys. The facts are, that there are very limited circumstances in which the Police are allowed to search, that searches generally, not always, require a warrant signed by a judge, and that consent can waive a persons constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure. Bottom line, all that a non-attorney needs to know about search an seizure law; don’t consent, “Just Say No”.