I’d Rather Be Good Than Lucky.

I once represented a kid who did dumb kid stuff. I still represent kids who do dumb kid stuff, but this kid was different. He did some really dumb kid stuff. Felony dumb.  Like too many of these dumb-kid felony stories, this one involved a kid from a decent home in a decent neighborhood.  He’d clearly watched Scarface after drinking one too many Red Bulls and thought that the only way out of the “mean” suburbs was his balls and his word.

And his drugs, obviously.

He tried to set himself apart in the marketplace with a unique distribution strategy. He was the “Peapod” of narcotics.  He offered a personal delivery Continue reading “I’d Rather Be Good Than Lucky.”

Honoring Columbus Day: Can I get a mug shot?

Light the tree, set off the fireworks and pass out the candy… it’s Columbus Day in America!  Today is more than just the day we get to watch Bears/Lions on Monday Night Football.  In Canada, of course, they mistakenly call today Canadian Thanksgiving.  Although, we don’t really care what they’re doing up in America’s Hat.  As I’ve already explained, Canada is backwards.  I guess this Thanksgiving/Columbus day mix-up is just Exhibit #2 to that effect. Continue reading “Honoring Columbus Day: Can I get a mug shot?”

Three dumb things people say to the police… all the time.

So, you’re sitting in my office and you’re mad that you got a ticket or were arrested for DUI or are charged with murder. You’re going to fight this thing all the way. You’re mad.  They never read your your rights.  They never showed you the radar.  If they didn’t do that, you must be “not” guilty, right?

For whatever reason, there seem to be a large number of people who, between the time they’ve last talked to the cops and the time they walk into my door, have convinced themselves they’re not guilty.  That’s just fine.  If you want to take the best shot at winning at trial, though, there are some things you probably said to the police that you shouldn’t have.  Those things are going to make it really hard for a judge or jury to see just how not guilty you really are:

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When the police first pulled you over or started to talk to you: “Yes”.

Do you know how fast you were going? “Yes.”  Do you know why we’re at your house with this warrant looking for a dead body? “Yes.” Do you have any idea why the neighbor says you were swimming naked in his pool at night and creeping out the entire neighborhood? “Yes.”

When the police ask those initial questions, they obviously know something. They’re not going to tell you what it is, but they’re going to try to get you to talk about it. After all, you may “know things only the killer would know.”  If you answer “yes” to any of these initial questions, it’s going to start a dialogue- a dialogue that’s only going to get harder to stop.

Probably the only worse answer than “yes” would be to lie.  Like, telling an officer at a traffic stop that you were going 47 when his radar says you were going 89.  Lies are either going to frustrate the officer or (in a more serious case) make you look even more guilty when you’re busted.

A better thing might be to say, “I’d like to talk to a lawyer before I answer any of your questions.”  Nobody seems to ever believe me on that, though. It’s sort-of a free country, I suppose.  You go ahead and do what you want.

When they want to search: “Yes”

When it comes to car searches, this is almost always a follow-up to “do you have anything you shouldn’t in the car?”  Of course, if that’s what happened you must have skipped the section above and either lied (hoping he’s not smart enough to know all the drugs are “hidden” in the trunk of your Chevy Vega), or answered “yes”.

So, now he wants to take a look. He’s asking you, and you don’t want to “look guilty” so you’re going to let him search.

Look, I know it seems a bit extreme, but no police officer is ever searching my car, house, body or other property with my consent. I have nothing to hide- just like you (except for those apples you’re illegally smuggling into Canada), but my stuff is nobody’s business and I don’t care how they think that makes me look.  I’d be somewhat offended if they even asked.

Getting sucked into “not wanting to look guilty” is the best way to look absolutely guilty. Nothing says “this guy is probably guilty” like the weed the cop found in your pocket or the headless corpse in your crawl space.

If they ever ask to search, you can always tell them you’d like to talk to a lawyer about it first. Just saying.

When the police are interrogating you: “Yes”

You’re in some small room at the police station. The room is simple, without decor or anything but a small table and some chairs.  There’s one cop- maybe two.  They’ve read you your rights, and they’re asking you questions.  They want to know how long you had “beef” with the guy who was just found stuffed in the back of a burned-out AMC Gremlin down by the river.  “You’ve hated this guy since before that day at the Bieber concert, right?” They ask.

Wait a minute. You’re in custody.  They read you your rights. They just told you that you had a right to an attorney.  They told you that they’d get you one before any questioning.

Now you’e sitting there, without having talked to a lawyer, and you’re about to agree that you didn’t like some guy that they found dead?

Brilliant idea, Einstein.  Especially if you didn’t kill the guy (or if you’re going to tell your lawyer you didn’t, anyway).

Just another crazy thought, but if you’re planning to contest the charges and try to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison, it might make sense to talk to a lawyer first. Probably.

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There you have it. You’re in my office. You want to fight this to the end. You’re mad that your rights have been violated. They can’t prove this case… except, of course, for the fact that you admit you knew why they were looking at you, let them search wherever they wanted and confessed after they read you your rights.

Can’t wait for your trial.

You matter less, Part III

I’m hoping that somebody somewhere steps up soon and explains this stuff to me.  Even as an attorney I’ve never understood, and I still don’t, why normal people- people like you and I- are the least important people in criminal law.  Break my stuff? That’s bad. Break the government’s stuff?  That’s really bad, right?  Steal my stuff? That’s bad. Steal from a corporate retailer, though? That’s somehow worse.

On that note, I came across this little gem the other day.  Like the first link above, it talks about damaging property:

[section_alt background_color=”]
(720 ILCS 5/21-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 21-1)

Sec. 21-1. Criminal damage to property.
(a) A person commits criminal damage to property when he or she: (1) knowingly damages any property of another…
* * *
(d) Sentence.
(1) A violation of subsection (a) shall have the following penalties
* * *
(B) A violation of paragraph (1), (2), (3), (5), or (6) is a Class A misdemeanor when the damage to the property does not exceed $300.
C) A violation of paragraph (1), (2), (3),(5), or (6) is a Class 4 felony when the damage to property does not exceed $300 and the damage occurs to property of a school or place of worship or to farm equipment or immovable items of agricultural production, including but not limited to grain elevators, grain bins, and barns or property which memorializes or honors an individual or group of police officers, fire fighters, members of the United States Armed Forces, National Guard, or veterans…
For those arm-chair attorneys not scoring at home, I went ahead and highlighted the nonsense part: the part where if somebody breaks your stuff it’s a misdemeanor.  Unless your stuff memorializes a cop or group of cops.  Then it’s a felony.

Continue reading “You matter less, Part III”

An amazing “coincidence.” What are the odds?

What are the odds that the police would have an eye on a house because they think a burglar lives there?  That, while they’re keeping an eye on the house, some completely random person comes up and asks them to go into the house for a “well being” check?  That fire and rescue, along with the police, enter the house to find two people they say need medical assistance, but who don’t need it so bad they’re willing (or required) to go to the hospital?  That a subsequent search of the home (the cops are already in, so why not, right?) turned up not only the stolen items but the alleged burglar?  That all this happened on the same day in the same town at the same house?

What are the odds?

Pretty good if you take the Oswego Police department’s version of things.  From today’s Beacon News:

Well-being check leads to burglary arrest in Oswego

BY ERIKA WURST ewurst@stmedianetwork.com November 21, 2013 5:14PM

Updated: November 21, 2013 6:05PM

 An Oswego man is facing burglary charges this week after police allegedly found stolen items in his home during a well-being check on Sunday.
Police entered the home of Zachary Harmon, 21, 800 block of Columbus Drive, to conduct a well-being check, and during a search found items linked to a recent series of burglaries.
Oswego police took two reports from residents who reported having their vehicles broken into between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday on Manhattan Circle.
A laptop computer, a phone, a radar detector and a GPS unit were allegedly taken during the burglaries, police said.
Police received a tip from one of the victims that the items might be located at a home in the 800 block of Columbus Drive. As police were watching the home, a woman showed up, concerned about the well being of someone inside, they said…

How lucky those officers must have been?  Clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time!  If that completely random woman hadn’t happened upon them (completely randomly, I’m sure) and possibly given them an exception to the 4th Amendment’s requirement to get a warrant before going into the home that was, coincidentally, I’m sure, the subject of their surveillance, they may never have been able to go in.  All pure luck, I’m sure!

Or, there’s more going on in this one than the Beacon News was lead to believe.  My money is on option #2.

It know it’s not that much of a concern to you, though.  The police had a hunch, they got their man.  You don’t care about his rights as long as he’s guilty.

I care about his rights. I care about your rights, too.  Mostly because his rights and your rights are my rights.  That’s really what I’m worried about.

So, I read this report and I’m concerned.  Let’s just say I don’t think it was all a coincidence.

Area crime rates: People have no idea.

I just stumbled upon the Tribune’s crime rate listings.  It’s buried in the “Homes” section, but updated through 2009.  There’s some interesting stuff in there.

Interesting, but not surprising, is that crime (or, at least, criminal filings) has dropped substantially from 2003 to 2009.  For instance, St. Charles had a crime rate of 30.4 (per 1,000 residents) in 2003. That number has dropped to 24.2 for St. Charles in 2009.  That’s fairly representative of the types of changes every town has seen.

Even more interesting is where some of the larger Kane County towns land in the rankings.  Most notably, Aurora.  People not from the area think one of two things when they think of Aurora: either that it’s filled with gangs or that it’s like living in Wayne’s World.  Neither of those perceptions is really accurate.

I’m not sure anybody thinks it’s got a lower crime rate than Woodstock, though.  According to those stats, though, it does.  Maybe Woodstock is over-run with gangs?  Hardly.

It’s easy to play games with the numbers.  Woodstock might have a higher crime rate because of they way it reports crime or because it’s more willing to charge and prosecute minor offenses than other towns.  It’s hard to tell.  I’m not worried about going to either place, though.

That guy deserved that sentence.

Earlier this week I accused you of being angry.  Your anger stems from criminals “getting off light” and prosecutors not taking cases to trial and demanding the ultimate punishment.  I thought your anger and outrage was misplaced.

I still do.

And, here’s why: Horrible Plea Bargains Are Your Best Friend. A gift, if you will.

There you go.

St. Charles Crime is Out of Control.

Make sure to lock the door, folks.  Things have gone nuts in St. Charles.  Just when you thought it was a safe, nice, place to raise a family, there’s a crime spree.  This “community alert” has been posted courtesy of our friends at the Kane County Chronicle:

  • Graffiti depicting male genitalia was reported Sunday, March 31, on fences in the 1300 block of Rita Avenue in St. Charles and on an electrical box at the Salvation Army, 1710 S. Seventh Ave., St. Charles. Total estimated damage was $300.

I sure hope the St. Charles Police Department has detectives working overtime on this one.  Look for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release and indictments soon.  Until then, be careful out there.



The police didn’t read me my Miranda rights! Can I have my case dismissed?

Just read me my rights, or drop my case.

T.V. is usually the best way to “learn” everything you need to know about the law.  Before law school, I used the T.V. for my legal knowledge, too.  I think that’s why everybody has a favorite legal show.  Mine was always Miami Vice.   Don’t deny that you have a favorite.  Law & Order, Dog the Bounty Hunter,  Matlock, L.A. Law… whatever.  Everybody has one.

Matt Haiduk is "Mattlock"
I put the “Matt” in “Matlock”.

Thankfully those shows are completely accurate on the law.  If they weren’t, a whole bunch of people might have the wrong idea.  By a “whole bunch” I mean all of us who watch the law shows.  No need to go to law school when you pick up everything you need from an episode of Ally McBeal, right?

One area the legal T.V. shows must not cover is what they call “Miranda” warnings. Too many people seem confused about them.  If you’re not sure what Miranda warnings are, they’re the “rights” people presume the police will read when arresting somebody.  I say “presume” because people are always saying that “the police never read me my rights,” as though the police are required to do so.  The fact that a huge number of people believe this presumption is what leads me to believe  Night Court didn’t adequately teach us about Miranda.  Let’s clear up the issue Night Court was too soft to tackle, shall we?

The first thing you need to know is that your case is not going to be dismissed because the police didn’t read you your rights.  What will happen (what the law calls “your remedy”) is that certain statements might not be allowed to come in at trial.  See, if you said things to the police that they’re trying to use against you, that’s usually called a “confession.”  And if “confessing” to a crime meant the charges would be dropped… well, that would make for a weird world.

So, before we even talk about Miranda warnings, we need to know if you talked to the police.  Did you make any statement to the police? Yes?  This isn’t going to be easy, but I’ll try to forget that you clearly haven’t been listening to me (or this guy, this guy, or this guy).  If you were listening and you didn’t make a statement, though, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  If that applies to you, I’m awarding you a gold star for following my previous posts (and that of this guy, and this guy and this guy <—– all new guys, by the way).

Ok, you talked?  Is the prosecutor going to try and use that statement against you at trial?  If not, it doesn’t really matter, either.  Since the “remedy” would be to keep the statements out of trial, consider a prosecutor’s not intending to bring them up a “mission accomplished.”  Nice work!

Now, have you been “arrested” by the police prior to making the statement?  If not, it also doesn’t really matter.  Cops are allowed to talk to you in the same situations that normal people can.  If they just happen to wander upon your stranded car, they can ask you questions.  The rights only come into play once they start acting like police investigating crimes and use their “police-ness” against you.

Finally, were your statements the result of the police asking you questions or interrogating you?  If not, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  There’s  nothing that requires the police to read you your rights when you’re happily babbling your guilt for no reason- even if it’s the 16 cans of Hamms making you talk.  And, really, think about it for a minute. If talking to the police when they’re asking you questions is a bad idea, what do you think about talking to them when they’re not even asking you questions?  It hurts me to even ponder.  It should hurt you, too.

So, you went ahead and talked to the police?  You talked to them after you were arrested, only because the police were interrogating you, and the prosecutor is going to use your words against you? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Like I said, if the police didn’t read you your rights when they should have, your statements should not come in at trial.  That doesn’t mean the prosecutor will dismiss your case.  Unless, that is, there is no evidence other than your confession– which means there would have been no evidence if you’d have just listened to me in the past (or listened to this guy, this guy or this guy <—– do you really think I can’t find 3 more links?).

So, there you have it.  If the police didn’t read you your rights… Wait.  Why did you talk to the police, again?

Matt Haiduk is a veteran criminal defense lawyer with offices in Kane and McHenry Counties, Illinois.

Defending the Dumbed

Ask yourself, “what is more important… money, or life?”  The answer is simple, really.

When I see something like the video above, I imagine something like what’s written below.

“Ladies and gentleman of the jury, my client is not guilty of stealing Girl Scout cookies from a Girl Scout.  I know you’ve seen the T.V. interview. I know it appears she admit the crime.  I know it sounds horrible.  I know what you think you saw.

You didn’t see what you think you saw.

Did she admit to seeing members of the Girl Scout Gang? Yes. Did she admit to seeing an envelope with money? Yes.  Did she grab that money and run away? Yes.  Does that make her a criminal? No.  Not today. Not this girl.

See, this isn’t really a case about cookies, or green uniforms or merit badges.  This is a case about greed, and about life.

In a normal case, my client’s statements to the reporter might be enough to prove a crime.  This isn’t a normal case, though. My client needed that money.  My client had to have that money. It was necessary that my client take that money to prevent greater harm.  She is not guilty, because her actions were necessary.

Put yourself in her shoes.  You’re 16 years old and your parents have forced you to roll out of bed shortly after 1:00 p.m.  Out on the streets to fend for yourself for an entire afternoon and without means to pay for your daily carmel mocha, you’re getting a little twitchy.  Getting your Starbucks isn’t really a matter of want.  It’s a matter of survival.  Maybe you’re high on weed/meth/whatever at the time, too.  That doesn’t make it any easier.

Do you know how it feels to need that caffeine?  Do you know how it feels to need that caffeine and not have money?

You texted all your friends, and none of them have money to loan you.  You even used your iPhone 3 to message your friends on myspace. No luck.  You don’t have any other options.

It’s not about options, it’s about life and death.

This is what I’m talking about when I say this case is about greed.  Year after year those pesky Girl Scouts, the little beggars that they are, terrorize neighborhoods everywhere trying to pawn their unhealthy vittles.  They should be ashamed, really, trying to liberate money from the paychecks of hard working Americans like yourself.  And, what are they giving you for that money?  Something of worth? Something of value?  Something to make the world better?  No.  Absolutely not.  They are taking your money and giving you sugary death nuggets.  They’re sleeping just fine at night, too.  That organization ought to be ashamed.

Year after year, they make millions, if not billions, while “normal” people like my client struggle to pay for a simple Iced Carmel Mocha Macchiato.  They made millions last year. They made millions this year, and they’re going to make more millions next year.  They are the 1%.  They are about the millions.  Are they about anything else? I doubt it.

You know why their uniforms are green?  Greed.  Clearly, it’s greed.  To them, that envelope of money is just more confirmation that a day of being greedy is a day well spent.

To my client, that wasn’t an envelope of money. That was an envelope of life.  It was an envelope to help her escape the hustle of daily afternoons on those mean streets.  It was money to the Girl Scout Gang, because they are greedy.  The Girl Scout’s didn’t need that money.  To my client, it was life.

Ask yourself, “what is more important… money, or life?”  The answer is simple, really.

And, when asked what she needed the money for, my client was honest in explaining it.  “Just, for anything… we didn’t have any money.”   Do you know what anything can be?  “Anything” can be food so that my poor, starving client can finally eat again.  “Anything” can be shelter so that she doesn’t have to spend another tireless afternoon walking around at the mall.  “Anything” can be prescription drugs to keep my client alive. Again, it’s about life!

You don’t know what “anything” can be.  And, the reason you don’t is because the government never proved that my client didn’t need that money for anything essential.  It’s their burden to prove their case, too. We must prove nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in this case you cannot find my client guilty unless you condone the rhetoric and greed of the Girl Scout Gang.  My client took that money because she claims she believes it might have kinda been necessary for her to buy some Starbucks, maybe.  I ask you now to send a message.  Send the message that you do not condone greed.  Send a message that living is ok.  Find my client not guilty.  Thank you.”

Then I imagine 4 minutes of jury deliberations, and a finding of guilty.