IMG_4236-e1530542832691-225x300We Americans can be a rebellious group.

I’ll go out on a limb here and claim that we’re more rambunctious than most countries.  To prove my point, take the following example.

Think back to the 1970’s.  The whole world is converting to the metric system.  Two north american governments decide to make a big change.    You know, Kilometers instead of Miles.  The whole nine yards.    Canada and the United States agree that its time for North America to catch up with the rest of the world, so both countries pass a law making the metric system “official”.

Now, if you travel to Canada, their signs will say “Ontario — 10 Kilometers”.

If you travel here in the US, you’ll see “Miami — 10 Miles”.

Both countries passed the law.  Both countries agreed to convert.  Why did Canadians follow their law, and we ignored it?

Because, we’re Americans.  We don’t like being told by some Supreme Authority how to measure things.  We don’t like being told what to do.  And this brings me to the topic of the day.

When a letter comes in the mail telling you to show up for court, must we citizens drop everything, fly back into town from our vacation,  and appear in court?  All because a piece of paper lands in our mailbox?

More importantly, what happens if you don’t show up to court?

Continue Reading

IMG_5029-e1529527687928-300x73Everybody who leaves their hometown has left a few favorite restaurants behind.  I left St. Louis almost three decades ago, but I still miss Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drews Frozen Custard.  Every time I visit my hometown, I’m having Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drews (in that order, and probably White Castle later that night).

Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t have a Ted Drews (there’s only one, and as I said, it’s a 1,000 miles away).   The good news is, I have found a substitute.  I really really like Dairy Queen’s Blizzard.  Blizzards are the next best thing.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Dairy Queen menu, a Blizzard is soft serve ice cream with sweets mixed in.  Depending upon my mood, I may mix in cookie dough and peanut butter cups, or bananas, chocolate, and peanut butter.  It’s just tough to say.

Full disclosure:  I have not been compensated in any way to endorse DQ’s blizzard, Ted Drews, or Imo’s.  If I had any sort of inkling that mentioning products would get me some freebies, I would launch into a rant about my love of Porsche and various all-inclusive resorts.

Anyway, back to Dairy Queen.

What do you think the average net worth is of the folks eating at DQ?

Let’s think about how many customers the average DQ can seat.  Maybe 30 or 40 dessert goers, max?  Dairy Queens are typically small.   Could you, possibly, get a good feel for the net worth of the customers inside without ever stepping foot inside?

I have a friend looking for an apartment, and he won’t even tour an apartment inside if the complex doesn’t pass his “parking lot test.”  In other words, if there are crappy cars parked everywhere–he doesn’t want to live there.  Doesn’t matter what the place looks like on the inside.  Same goes for a DQ parking lot, you may be able to gauge the net worth of the folks inside just by looking at the parking lot, right?

Wrong. It is really hard to establish net worth based upon car alone.  After all, the average income of a BMW owner is the price of the BMW.  So, we’re not going to be able to establish an average net worth based upon the parking lot (does knowing the average income of a BMW owner really tell us anything meaningful? Hold that thought).

The good news is, we can still establish the net worth of Dairy Queen customers at a particular store, on a particular day.  Let’s take a look at a Dairy Queen in Nebraska, on Monday, June 11th, 2018.  Continue Reading

Why are some defense attorneys so expensive?IMG_2925-e1508532095556-300x239

Willie Nelson has a great answer to a similar question: Why is divorce so expensive?

Because it’s worth it.

Several decades ago, my friend was the best criminal defense attorney in Orlando–charging $15,000 down on a misdemeanor.  In today’s dollars, that would be $43,447.  Yikes.

Who throws around that kind of money on a misdemeanor?

And, who has the balls to charge that much for a misdemeanor?

That being said, a Hermes Birka bag will set you back $65,000.  Yes, a purse for $65,000.  If you were to try to go buy one now–you can’t.  Sorry to get your hopes up.  As the story goes, Hermes pretends to be sold out even though the store always has a couple new Birka bags in the back.  Hermes purse pricing strategy is similar to my friend’s pricing strategy–except that my friend was worth every penny.

Ok, back to my very expensive defense attorney friend.  He “had it all.”  A house in Windermere? Check.   An expensive boat? Check. An airplane? Check.  No, he wasn’t secretly some closet personal injury lawyer (that’s where all the money is–for those of you who know anything about criminal defense work, this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme).

So, after years of commanding top dollar, my friend’s fees dropped dramatically.

A first time misdemeanor DUI that may have cost $20,000 was now running $7,500.  And a year later, that same first time DUI fee plunged to $2,500.  I’ve been charging about $2,500 for a first time DUI for over 15 years, go figure…. Continue Reading

earth-moonWe live in an absolutely huge universe.  I don’t want to get too Carl Sagan on you, but let’s face it, the more we know about the universe—the bigger it gets.

We’ve known for a while that our universe is full of stars.  And these stars form galaxies.  There are billions and billions of galaxies that each contain billions and billions of stars.

Add to that a boat load of planets orbiting all those stars.  That’s right, we’ve now discovered planets everywhere.

The funny thing about all of this is that Earth is the only place we know of where atoms are observing atoms.  Amazing, right?  All this stuff in the universe, but only one place where the “stuff” is observing the other “stuff.” (If we had all the time in the world, I would launch into a short quantum physics discussion, in particular, how “conscious observation” effects physics.  Or, we could discuss Fermi’s Paradox.  Now, my web people tell me I’ve got to get to a legal discussion eventually–but they don’t really read what I write–so let’s dig deeper with the knowledge that my web people aren’t reading this.  Anyway, the physicist Ernico Fermi was at a science conference where the white coats were giddy over their predictions as to just how much extraterrestrial life must be out there besides us—given how big the universe is.  He was the Debbie Downer of that physics conference, posing the simple question: “Where is everybody?”)

Observation is a funny thing.  Even when it comes to criminal law, observation is just as important as it is in science.  The police cannot just go off to search a home based upon a hunch, they have to observe some bad stuff and report it to a judge who may then issue a warrant.  If you’ve seen as many criminal cases as I have in my 25 years of defending, one thing is for certain:

The police are watching. Continue Reading

conference-pic-e1526767430499-300x208Awww, come on guys, it’s so simple maybe you need a refresher course.  It’s all ball bearings nowadays.  Now you prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads, and I’m gonna need ’bout ten quarts of anti-freeze, preferably Prestone“.  — Fletch (film, Chevy Chase)

Have you ever met someone who thinks they know what they’re talking about, yet something in your gut (your BS detector) tells you they don’t really have it all figured out?

Scientists are notorious for this sort of thing.  They throw around a few equations, add a few big words, and we all assume they’ve figured something out.  Cops are as bad as scientists when it comes to acting like they’ve got it all figured out—but more on that later.

There are several scientific fields that can trigger a reasonable person’s BS detectors.  For example, evolutionary psychologists claim that people love golf because the open spaces make humans feel safe.  Hum.  People get paid to come up with this stuff?  How do I get in on this?

Neuroscience has jumped into the pure speculation game, as they now claim that everything is reducable to brain activity.  Hey, you fell in love and finally engaged in that special first kiss?  Well, it really isn’t that special, neurologists will tell you that they’ve found the “first kiss” neurons located in the bottom right corner of the frontal cortex.    Oh, you had a religious experience?  No you didn’t.  In the most condecending tone imaginable, some neurologist will pat you on the head like you’re their pet doggy, and explain that this life changing experience was just temporal lobe epilepsy.

But when you dig deeper into these so-called scientific explanations, they’re really not explanations at all.  They label things, sure enough, much like an engineer can label the data transmissions of your home modem.  But they’re not really telling you anything about what’s really happening.

Recently, I saw a neuroscientist “explain” how they’ve figured out what is going on during a psychedelic experience.  Psychedelic drug research is super interesting, and it utilizes drugs like psilocybin (mushrooms), MDMA (extasy), and DMT/Ayahuasca.

Anyway,  the “breakthrough” discovery is this: all of these drugs react on our brain’s 5-HT2B receptor.  Amazing, right?  That’s an impressive word, 5-HT2B receptor.

But there’s only one problem with this discovery.

Once a psychedelic drug hits the brain’s 5-HT2B receptor—we know absolutely nothing about what happens next.  It’s like some doctor “discovering” that once I drink some water that same water will eventually come out another orface.  Ok.  But what happens in between?  Does the water go to a kidney or two?  Is there any sort of processing?  The only thing we know about the brain’s reaction to psychedelics is that they hit the 5-HT2B receptor.  All knowledge ceases right there.

Still, its impressive to listen to neurologists toss around the term “5-HT2B receptor”.  Just saying this word increases your perceived IQ by several points, but fundamentally, this “discovery” sounds only slightly more credible than Fletch’s explanation of the Fetzer valve.  Continue Reading

Mark-Twain-Quote-e1525719777428-300x270

My DVR at home is packed full of science shows, physics and cosmology in particular.

Science shows have a  predictable format: “Interview a few geniuses who have it all figured out.  Theory XYZ explains that the universe started like this, or gravity works like that, or subatomic particles behave like this, or humans evolved like that.”

Hum.

Does science really have it all figured out?  Here are some gentle reminders that geniuses are not as smart as we think they are:

There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.” – Albert Einstein, 1932

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” – Thomas Watson, IBM Chairman, 1943

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin, 1895

“... my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” – HG Wells, 1901

[all of the above, plus the picture, were taken from an excellent lecture by Paul Werbos at the 2018 Science of Consciousness Conference, put on by the Medical School at the University of Arizona]

Maybe we don’t know everything, but are there any major revolutions left for scientists to uncover?

Scientific American author John Horgan wrote an excellent book called “The End of Science“, claiming that we’ve had all the great scientific revolutions we’re going to have.  Science egos have a hard time swallowing Horgan’s position, and he rubs salt into the wound by explaining that science will never solve the really important questions, like  “Where did the universe come from?  How did life begin? How, exactly, does a chuck of meat make a mind?”  Continue Reading

IMG_0476-e1456765765191-300x225True confession.   I “secretly” hope is that you read these articles and say “Hey, John knows all about my situation, I’m going to hire him.”   The opposite is also true: why write an article that would hurt business?  Well, I’m in a generous mood.

Here’s the situation:  Every criminal defense attorney has received the panicked mom call.  My heart goes out to mom’s, they bare the brunt of their children’s shenanigans.  Anyway, the call goes something like this: “My son’s on probation, he’s at school.  His probation officer just called to say he is coming by the house to search our home.  I’ve searched first, and found drugs.  What should I do with these drugs?

Moms being moms, they want to be the good Samaritan and hand over the drugs to the police when they arrive.   Hum.

Bad idea.

That’s what happened in the real life case of Stanton v. State746 So. 2d 1229 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).  Stanton was a recovering addict, and his former drug dealer gave Stanton some cocaine to get him hooked again.  Nice guy, this dealer, right?  It would be like Marlboro offering free cigarettes for those who have quit.  Chantix users get two free packs while supplies last.

Anyway, Stanton’s old drug dealer was offering free cocaine samples to his recovering ex-junkies.  Pure evil.  And, what is the world coming to that coke dealers are begging recovering addicts to come back like my old cell phone company?  Continue Reading

IMG_4918-e1520960263223-225x300You have to look at criminal charges closely.  Drill down deep.  In a criminal case, don’t get thrown off the scent by taking the arrest report as the Gospel Truth.  It’s not.  An arrest report isn’t even admissible in court.  The important document is called “The Information”.  It’s what the prosecutor files after they’ve reviewed the police report and (supposedly) spoken with the witnesses in the case.  The Information contains what the defendant is charged with, regardless of what the police may have arrested the person for.

Now, this all important document–the “Information”–contains lots of words.  Words have meaning.  That being said, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that we lawyers like argue over what things mean.

We’re going to take a close look today at credit card crimes.  Let’s briefly review the evolution of a typical fraudulent use of a credit card arrest.

Our journey often begins with surveillance cameras.  Someone takes a stolen credit card, and uses it at a gas pump.  Guess what?  There’s video cameras everywhere you use a credit card.  No need to dig out CSI Miami spy satellite imaging to solve this case.  A credit card swipe has a time code attached to it, and this is matched up to the store’s surveillance video.  So, how long does it take to get a picture of the “suspect”?  Like, five seconds.  Just rewind the tape.  Continue Reading

IMG_0179-e1519940395141-300x142Some of you “Dear Readers” are locals, so you’ve survived driving I-4.  For those of you visiting Orlando and driving I-4 for the first time, your passengers will be exclaiming “Did you see that?” several times per mile.  Yes, I-4 is the most dangerous road in the United States.  It’s official, Google it.  Unfortunately, I drive the most dangerous road in America at least twice a day.

It should be no surprise that America’s Most Dangerous Highway also contains its most insane drivers.  I try not to get too angry at these folks, as they’re going to need my help defending the three most common reasons for insane driving: (1) drunk driving, (2) reckless driving, or (3) a fleeing charge.   Fleeing and attempting to elude is often the most serious of these three crazy driving scenarios.  Fleeing the cops is never a good idea, as no one can “out run a dispatch radio”.

Many a rap song has advised against fleeing.  Yes, rap music contains wisdom.  I’ve verified this.  When it comes to fleeing charges, Pharrell Williams and Snoop imparted this wisdom upon the masses back in 2004: “when the pigs try to get at you, park it like it’s hot, park it like it’s hot, park it like it’s hot.”  You would think that after repeating this three times, it must be true.  Things that rhyme are more true than those that don’t, right?  If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.

For those of you who panic and flee the cops, how can you beat the rap? (bad pun, I know)

Today’s real life example of an aggravated fleeing charge comes to us in Canidate v. State, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 2268 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018).   To give you an idea of how serious a fleeing and attempting to elude charge really is, Canidate lost his jury trial and was sentenced to five years in prison.  Here’s what happened: Continue Reading

IMG_3136-300x225I hired a “friend” (yes, air quotes) to do my kitchen cabinets a few years ago.  I overpaid for the entire project because it was helping a friend that needed the money.  Unfortunately, I got screwed toward the end of the job.  I could have sued.  It was so bad, I could have pressed criminal charges.   As my significant other will attest, I still harbor anger over this situation.  Yes, forgiveness would help me out some, but when it comes to getting ripped off by someone you thought was your friend, its easier said than done.

There are entire books written on “How To Forgive”, and these books make forgiveness seem like some sort of science.  Just follow the charts and checklists, and you’ll be healed.  But it’s not a science and I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation as to what happens inside of me when I forgive.    When people say “I need you to forgive ME”, they’re just looking to gain the outward effects of forgiveness.  Let’s say a wife cheats on her husband–and consequently gets the angry cold shoulder forever–the wife’s hope of forgiveness is just that her husband will bring back the love and warmth he once had for his wife.

I get it.  The world would be a better place if we all forgave each other–but how do you do that?  Most importantly, what happens on the inside?

I don’t know.

I didn’t press charges on the contractor “friend” that did my kitchen.  Our real life example case for today involved a similar situation where charges were pressed over a kitchen deal gone bad.  In Leggett v. State, a homeowner hired a carpenter Carl Leggett to remodel her kitchen.  2018 Fla.App.LEXIS 701 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018).  The homeowner gave Leggett a $2,250 check as a deposit to start the work, and they had an agreement that this work was to be completed within 2 weeks.  So far, so good, right? Continue Reading