Dear Dog the Bounty Hunter

It appeared you were trying to get some poor girl killed.

Fear Dog's Mullet
http://0.tqn.com/d/menshair/1/0/7/2/-/-/duanechapman.jpg

 

Dear Mr. Dogthebountyhunter,

Last weekend I got a little bored and flipped on the T.V.  As I flipped through the channels I couldn’t help but become mesmerized by your mullet.  It sucked me in and I quickly put down the remote.   Despite my fascination with both your hair and your wife’s clown costumes, I was saddened when it appeared you were trying to get some poor girl killed.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, Dog, it was the episode where it appeared that you were looking for a young lady who might have been using drugs while out on a bond you (or somebody) had posted.  In typical Dog fashion you and your crew “hunted” this girl down.  I was amazed at the creativity it took to find her- waiting around for her to walk by is not something most people would have the “smarts” to try.  Clearly your skills as an investigator have been well honed over the decades you have been doing this.

As these things tend to happen when experts like yourself are involved, you got your “man” (or, in this case, a young, non-threatening, non-violent, non-fleeing, lady).  Congrats on a job well done!  I was worried this one might not turn out well for your crew.  We are all behind you!

Anyhow, Dog, things turned a little weird after that.  See, Dog, I was assuming you were trying to pick her up on a bond violation and going to turn her into the “authorities”.  And, when I say “authorities” what I mean is “real” cops… or jail guards.  You know, folks who have been sworn to actually uphold the law, follow standardized procedures, and keep people safe (even if those people are on bail while using drugs… they’re still people, Dog).  Thankfully you used your best “Dog” judgment and, instead, drove her around town trying to find her drug dealer.

I get what you’re doing.  With you as a the puppet-master, It seems only obvious that this low-level junkie could eradicate the drug trade by confronting her dealer.  Busting a user and forcing her (while restrained) to take you back to her dealer is a genius move.  I’m pretty sure that that’s the same technique that got Tony Montana in Scarface.  I wonder if the FBI has thought of this?

Now, Dog, I’m not nearly as good at these things as you are.  I’m a little worried, though.  See, Dog, in my job I also deal with a lot of drug users.  Drug dealers, too.   It seems we have a lot in common.  Although, my mullet isn’t as sweet as yours. I will work on it.

Knowing what I know from working with the people I work with, the last thing I would do is hog-tie a user, force them to show me who their dealer is and where he hangs out.  I take that back.  The last thing I would do is force them to do that while the T.V. cameras and light are rolling… and then show up at the dealer’s “hangout” with the cameras and lights in-tow.

See, Dog, drug dealers don’t like that stuff.  I would be worried- really worried– that at some point the lights and cameras would be off.  I wouldn’t be around.  My little user friend will have been released from jail.  Even though her life would have been cured (the episode did show a member of your crew engaged in a touching, heart-to-heart “talk” with the girl), the dealer might not have forgotten the whole incident.  He might even hold a grudge.

Dog, I’m worried that the dealer from your show might plan to do that girl harm.  Maybe even kill her.  Drug dealers are known to do that sort of illegal stuff.  Have you seen that poor girl lately?  Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night?  If I didn’t know where that girl was, I would.

I’ve got to be honest, Dog, I’m not a fan of your show.  You’ve made millions of dollars by shining lights and tv cameras on people at the worst moments of their lives.  You’re a felon.  Your daughter was just arrested (again). You should know a bounty hunter’s job is to pick people up on the streets, drop them off at the jail.  You are not a one-man war on drugs.  You shouldn’t put people in harm’s way to boost your ratings.

Next time your wife is asking you to make sure the feathers in your mullet match her tube-top (so that you guys can look good on TV), please consider actually trying to help some of these people.  And, by “help” I mean that you might consider just arresting them and taking them to the jail.  All that other garbage you do is just going to get somebody killed.

With Love,

Matt Haiduk

Reminds me of somebody I know…

The most amusing part of this video isn’t the repeated flippping of the bird.  It’s how he keeps talking right over the objections.

Dealing with the police (video): How did this guy do?

So, you decide.  Was it worth “talking” in an effort to “not look guilty?”

One of my favorite things to do is break down the abstract rules of “the law” into practical, useful information.  For instance, I’ve explained two simple things to consider if you don’t want to be arrested.  I even wrote a little bit on my three favorite things to hear out of people when they are dealing with the police.  If you haven’t read that yet, you might want to check it out.  Otherwise the rest of this post will make (even) less sense.

Earlier today it occurred to me that my ideas on how to act around the police might be difficult to envision.  It’s one thing to hear how my soul warms when reading a “suspect” tell a police officer that they’re not going to speak without first talking to a lawyer.  It’s another to see how that interaction actually unfolds in real life.  After all, no two situations are the same.  This is precisely why nothing on this web page can be considered legal advice as to how you should act in your particular circumstance.  If you really need legal advice, feel free to call.  If you anonymously read this stuff, decide to play amateur lawyer, and put it into action without talking to an attorney first, you are playing a dangerous game.  Just call a lawyer.

Anyhow, a quick review of my three favorite things to hear:

  1. “Am I free to leave?”
  2. “I want to speak with an attorney before I talk to you.”
  3. “No”

Now, suppose you find yourself in an alley one day under police suspicion.  Two police officers are all in your business.  What do you do?  When do you say what?  Assume that you have already been arrested, so asking if you are free to leave isn’t going to get you anywhere- scrap that off the list.  Let’s also pretend you are wearing a green shirt, and your name is Mr. Turner.  Shall we?

Keep in mind, many people say they don’t want to say any of “My Three Favorite Things” because it makes them look guilty.  Did you watch the plight of Mr. Turner?  If you have been able to get over the shock of seeing people wearing short sleeves at 5:00 a.m. in December, think about what just happened in that video.  Would Mr. Turner look more or less guilty if he had done the following:

  • Said “I would like to speak with an attorney” (at about :19) instead of saying (paraphrased to delete expletive) “I understand I was driving under the influence, but I wasn’t driving… I WASN’T driving.”
  • Said “no” when asked to do the balance test (at about :55) instead of rambling, ranting and eventually trying to do it.

That’s only for the first minute and a half of video.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a juror.  Assume that all you have to go on is that video.  Is he guilty of DUI?  Would he look more or less so if he had asked to talk to a lawyer?  I want to know. Seriously.  Send me an email, or let me know in the comments.

From a defense attorney perspective, this guy doesn’t have a bad case.  There is no video of him driving or actually being in the car.  He complicates it entirely with his attitude and most the stuff he says, though (ie. initially saying he knows he was driving drunk).  If he had said nothing, it’s a Not Guilty.  In fact, it’s probably not even going to trial.

With what he said, though, it gets a bit more difficult.  Illinois law doesn’t actually require you to drive in order to be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol- silly as that may be.  Based on what his own statements were, he may have been in actual physical control.  Even though I still like Mr. Turner’s chances (and that is based just on the video alone… who knows what other “real life” evidence was presented for either side), his attitude may scare jurors.

So, you decide.  Was it worth “talking” in an effort to “not look guilty?”

Dirty Laundy

At lunch on Thursday, I penned a little letter.  I did something my girlfriend says I need to do more- I talked about my feelings

Sometimes I can’t help myself.  Sometimes I can’t take it anymore. This is one of those.

October is, apparently, domestic violence awareness month. Or something like that.  Every year the Woodstock courthouse celebrates this with a display of shirts.  Not any shirts, though.  White shirts that are “decorated” for domestic violence awareness month.  And, by “decorated” I mean that very personal, powerful, direct statements are written on them.  Some in Spanish.  Some with illustrations.

They say things like, “violence is not just physical.”  They address “you.”  Many of them tell powerful stories.  The display certainly does meet its goal of giving a “voice” to victims of domestic abuse.

And all of them are suspended from clotheslines spanning 3 stories of open stairway.  The same stairways that jurors walk up.  The same stairways that the criminally accused walk up.  The same stairways that I walk up.

I have had enough.

It’s not fair.

It is not fair that purportedly neutral jurors should be subjected to a display that is aimed at essentially telling “us” that “we” do not understand how serious a problem domestic violence is.  “We” don’t get how it is underreported.  “We” don’t get how “abusers” get off easily.

I don’t think it’s fair.  Not sure what to do, I contemplated my options.  Should I subpoena the names of every person who made a shirt?  I mean, I think the confrontation clause would give me a right to ensure none of them are witnesses against my client.  Witnesses should not be able to “talk” to jurors (even indirectly) without my cross examining them, right?

That seemed a little harsh. I mean, getting these shirts taken down should be easy, right?  So, I set out to do things the “easy” way.  At lunch on Thursday, I penned a little letter.  I did something my girlfriend says I need to do more- I talked about my feelings.( click link for copy of letter).  I told them how I felt about the shirts. It was direct. Maybe a little too direct for some people’s taste.  I asked around the courthouse and was told that I should direct it to the Trial Court Administrator.

Friday afternoon, I got a response from the Trial Court Administrator.  Guess what?  The trial court administrator is not in charge of making sure judicially prejudicial stuff isn’t hanging over the stairs.  I guess the county building administrator has that job!  Thankfully, the Trial Court Administrator forwarded my stuff over.

That was Friday.  Guess what was still hanging up today?  Yeah.  The dirty laundry.

Oddly enough, I was contacted by a newspaper reporter today.  I can’t wait to see what their story says.  Should be fun to see where this goes tomorrow!

Illinois lawmakers want drug dealers at your local schools?

I have a practical take on the law. By that, I mean that laws which don’t produce their intended consequences need to be changed. Or repealed. Laws that don’t have the everyday results that they should are merely useless rules. I hate rules.

What is worse than laws that fail to live to their intended consequences are laws that harm those they are intending to protect. There are a lot of them. Some of the biggest, meanest, most “get tough on crime” laws out there might cause innocent people to become harmed. DUI laws making the roadway more dangerous? Yeah. Narcotics laws encouraging drug transactions near schools? Absolutely. Don’t believe these types of laws are on the books? Nobody ever believes me…

Gangs?  Guns? How close can we get them to the local park?

Except, of course the Illinois General Assembly. Your legislators are contemplating change of what is probably the easiest, most politically safe of these laws. There is a bill in the pipeline that may change the Drug Induced Homicide law. This is long overdue.

For those not in-the-know, the current law punishes just about anybody who provides an illegal narcotic to somebody who subsequently dies from that narcotic.  It doesn’t rise to the level of requiring the “provider” to sell the drugs.  You may just be handing them from one person to the user.  Passing them across the table.

The problem is that this law makes no exceptions.  So, as things go in the drug world, people are splitting drugs- maybe passing a baggie back and forth- and one of them accidentally overdoses.  Does the other user call an ambulance?  Hell no.  If the overdose victim dies, the other guy is looking at spending some quality time caged up like a dog.  The current law encourages the very homicide it is attempting to punish.

The new law provides an incentive to the second user to call the police.  To help.  To do everything possible to prevent the overdose from turning into a homicide.  That makes more sense.

Before anybody chimes in to let me know that drug users get what they have bargained for, I’m making no judgment about the legalization of narcotics, or the character of those who use them.  That is not the issue.  I am saying that if the Illinois General Assemby is going to put money, time, and effort into drafting laws, then they should at least make sense. Or, at least not be circular.

Nevertheless, the criminal code is packed with these circular laws.  Call me crazy, but I think that criminal laws should do everything to keep kids at schools and parks safe.  Places where kids hang out should be sanctuaries free of the stray bullets and shady dealings of drug pushers.

You want people dealing drugs near your kid’s school? You got it! Gangs?  Guns? How close can we get them to the local park?  Don’t believe me?

Illinois law punishes the sale of narcotics near a school as a Class X felony. On the surface, this looks great.  A class X felony is the most severe class a crime can be, unless it’s a murder.  Let’s hammer those drug dealers hanging out on the school playground!

Wait just one minute.

Picture the following: You’re a young, aggressive cop.  You’re 2-3 years past your initial training and starting to get the job figured out. Because you’re young and you look it, the department assigns you to the narcotics task force.  You’re doing exciting undercover work.  The task force is funded in part by grants from the state and feds- and your mission is to get the biggest and baddest dealers of the street. Any patrol cop can pick up a gram of weed or trace amounts of cocaine here and there.  The task force goes after the big fish, and publicizes major busts to show the public it is making a difference.

You work hard on the task force.  You get a petty user to flip and introduce you to his dealer.  You go make some small buys from the dealer.  He has you meet him in a parking lot.  He has you meet him at the mall.  The dealer gets comfortable with you, and now you’ve got his cell phone and deal with him directly.  Time goes on, and your buys are more frequent and a little larger… not large enough to be considered a big deal to the task force, though.

One day you text him telling him you need drugs.  How much?  Whatever he’s got.  He says he can be ready in an hour, and asks if you can meet by the mall.  “I’m on the other side of town… any way you can meet me over here?”  He’s done this before, so he trusts you.

What do you do?  You give him a location near the school.  Why?  Because today is the day that you and the rest of the task force are taking him off the street. And you want to catch him red-handed.  With drugs.  You also want to take him down for as long as possible. You want the class X, and he needs to be near the school for that to happen.

It all sounds reasonable, right?  Get that guy off the street for as long as possible?  Sure.   The aim of the special rule for selling drugs near a school is keep the drugs away from the school, though.  It’s putting those kids it attempts to help in greater harm.  By making it a bigger bust, though, there is incentive to get the dealer, his drugs, and possibly his firearms near that protected sanctuary.

You think it doesn’t happen?  I’m guessing you’re not a criminal defense attorney in Illinois. Or you haven’t been very long.  It happens all the time.

It’s easy to bury the practical realities and support politicians who pound their fists and claim to be “get tough on crime” politicians.  It’s not easy to look at how these laws actually play out in the real world.  Again, I’m not taking a position on drug laws- I’m saying that if you make the punishment uniform across-the-board less dealers (including their drugs, guns, and other problems) would be near schools.

That’s just the start of it, too.  You think DUI laws should get drunks off the road?  Sometimes they do, sometimes they absolutely do not. Maybe it’s not a law, but what about MAAD?  Should they be helping obtain guilty convictions, or not guilty verdicts after trials?

A law that doesn’t do what it is designed to do is just a bad rule. I hate rules.