[Yes, I’ve mentioned this bit of history before, but you love it so much it bears repeating]

Two thousand years ago, there was a great Rabbi named Akiva.  Akiva was heading home late one night, when the darkness and fog caused him to make a wrong turn.  Rabbi Akiva ends up at this massive Roman outpost.  As Akiva approaches, he hears a wrestling on top of the wall, and a soldier yells down “who are you, and what are you doing here?IMG_2821-e1505081404727-241x300

Akiva responds, “Excuse Me?”

The guard yells, again, “Who are you?  What are you doing here?”

Akiva pauses, and then asks: “How much are they paying you?”

The guard says “What?”

Akiva repeats,  “How much are they paying you?”

The guard states, “20 denarius a week.”

Akiva says: “I’ll pay you twice that to come to my house every morning and ask me those two questions.”

[This tidbit is from Rob Bell’s podcast, which can be found here, Robcast episode #128, and I wrote about this seven months ago in another article]

We do have to ask ourselves from time to time, who we are, and what the heck we’re doing on earth.  After all, when I woke up this morning I’m pretty sure I didn’t “deserve” another day on earth.  It happened, and I’m grateful for it–but there are plenty of people out there that didn’t make it through the night.  Why did I get another day, and they didn’t?  Most mornings I simply pop out of bed, a victim of my alarm clock and tight schedule–without appreciating the fact that I’ve been given another (undeserved) day on earth.

Roger Hodgson of the band Supertramp said it best their classic The Logical Song:

There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep

for such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am?

There are problems with answering the question “Who am I?”  First, we are tempted to tell our story.  Second, we are tempted to give our biography. The problem is, we are not our biography. We are not the the story we tell.

You are not your biography. Continue Reading

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When I was in middle school, my friends and I had some important debates.  Middle school is that age when you’re not quite ready (nor qualified) to talk about girls and cars, so our discussions centered around BMX bikes, video games, and Bruce Lee.  We loved Bruce Lee almost as much as we loved Star Wars.  The debates were simple, and  started something like this: “I wonder if Bruce Lee could kill someone with a piece of paper.  I bet he could take you out with a paper clip.”  We were in such awe of Lee, that we assumed just about any household item would qualify as a deadly weapon in the hands of this master of martial artist.

By the same reasoning, there are drug addicts out there that could take these same household items and transform them into smoking devices.  You haven’t seen creativity until you’ve witnessed an addict scramble to find something to smoke with.  The genius buried deep inside of most folks comes out to play as the drug cravings intensify.   Some studies have shown that drugs can aid in the creative process.  How many Pink Floyd albums would we have without psychedelics?  All sorts of books, albums and movies have been conceived and written under the influence of something.

That being said, I’m talking about just the opposite–folks who are creative before they consume drugs.  This kind of creativity only comes when there’s a deep perceived problem (not having a smoking device, for example) that has no immediate solution.  Either way, it seems as though drugs are fostering creativity both before consumption, and after.

Anyway, when someone creates something to smoke a drug, we call this item “drug paraphernalia.”  Anything that is used to smoke or ingest an illegal drug constitutes drug paraphernalia.   This is a crime in Florida, and carries a maximum of one year in jail (harsh, I know).  Back when crack cocaine was popular, we’d see tons of cases involving coke cans, pinched in the middle with a hole in them–used as a makeshift crack smoking device.  Yes, it was a crime to possess that modified soda can.  Back then, you had to be careful what you picked up to recycle. Continue Reading

Have you been to Key West?IMG_44731-e1503938818653-300x188

At times, I’ve found this place to be magical.  Other times, its just another crowded, over priced tourist trap.  Back in the 1990’s, I was in Key West and had the opportunity to meet Mel Fisher.  He was just sitting there, drinking at Rick’s off Duval St.  Within minutes, my (now ex) wife was buying treasure jewelry.  What is treasure jewelry, you ask?

Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter in Key West.  He was ridiculed by most folks because he came up empty handed for 16 years.  Maybe “treasure hunting” was just an excuse to get out on the ocean every day with investor money, right?  Every day for 16 years, he told his crew “Today’s the Day!!”.

Once you’ve failed to find treasure after five solid years of combing the ocean, isn’t it time to give up?  What about the eighth year?  The eleventh year can’t be an easy sell, can it?  Surely after fifteen years of searching, who’s going to believe you know what the heck you’re doing.

In year 16, Mel Fisher struck gold, $400,000,000 worth.  Mel’s tenacity is the stuff of legends.  Truly inspirational.

Now, some of the stuff Mel dredged up wasn’t worth much, but they are artifacts of sorts, so folks transform these items into what is known as treasure jewelry.  Basically, all the worthless little coins are transformed into earrings, or necklaces.  You’re not buying gold, per se, you’re buying the story.  And, its an expensive story.

In Seth Godin’s excellent book “All Marketers Are Liars”, there’s a story of how home stereo speakers were sold to Harvard students each year.   When the college dorms are teeming with life, a crappy van pulls up to the dorms.  The back door of this “shady” van opens wide to reveal speakers packed in like sardines.   These “smart” college kids were told a story about how these speakers just, somehow, fell off the back of a truck–so they were quite a bargain.

Sure, the shady van folks implied that the speakers were stolen.  And yes, these speakers sold like hot cakes.

Actually, the speakers were not stolen–they were clearance items bought from big box stores.  Actually, these smart kids paid more for these speakers out of the back of a van, than they would have paid down the street at Best Buy.  Why did they pay more?  Because, they bought the story.

The legal lesson for today involves telling the right story.   Today, we’re going to review what happens when you tell a judge the wrong story.  The case for today involves the prosecution asking for a continuance because their star witness has a pre-paid vacation lined up to watch the solar eclipse.  Now, I never would have told a judge this story–but to each their own.

Do you think a judge will grant a continuance so that someone can go watch the solar eclipse?

Do you think any judge, ever, has quoted a Carly Simon song?

Here’s Judge Steven Merryday’s response.  Enjoy. Continue Reading

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When I was growing up, all kinds of kids got picked on.  Middle school was a hotbed of harassment.  Fat kids.  Skinny kids.  Freckles.  Any last names that rhymed with a dirty word.  Anything, really.  Back in the day there were no fancy terms for it, bullying just existed without a label.

Cops can be bullies as well, and no where is this more evident than their treatment of the drug addicted masses.

Public Service Announcement: if you have a disease that causes your brain to crave a particular chemical–law enforcement will transform this addiction into a prison sentence.   Just close your eyes, and imagine the addicted kids in the movie “Trainspotting.”  There wasn’t much these kids wouldn’t do to get their next fix, and the cops know it.

One of my favorite anti-drug commercials goes something like this.  Picture a public toilet seat.  Now, it won’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that toilet seat has not been cleaned in months.  It hasn’t been flushed in months.  The tag line reads “No One Thinks They Will Lose Their Virginity Here.  Meth Will Change That.” (the Montana Meth Project has some pretty compelling ads, FYI)

Yes, addiction will cause you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.   So, leave it to our government to take full advantage of these folks who are down on their luck.  Our case for today examines just how far the police can go.  In State v. Johnson, the defendant was convicted of six felony drug deals which scored him several years in  prison. 2017 Fla.App.LEXIS 11687 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017).   We’re going to explore whether or not Johnson can be sentenced on the full weight of these six transactions, under suspicious police circumstances. Continue Reading

Here are some facts, straight from CNN:theft-300x225

“At the World Trade Center (WTC) site in Lower Manhattan, 2,753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers or as a result of the crashed.  Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority.  The victims ranged in age from two to 85 years.  Approximately 75-80% of the victims were men.”  (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11-anniversary-fast-facts/index.html, accessed August 13, 2017).

So, now you know some facts.   Do the words above give you any sense of the meaning of 9/11?   You can memorize the “facts” about 9/11, but completely miss the meaning of 9/11.

Having accurate facts won’t guarantee any sort of understanding.  Often, words have more power as they move away from factual descriptions.  For example, the words found in your favorite song may remind you more of an event than any factual description.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a song from the 80’s, and the song instantly transports me back, in a way that words on a page just can’t. Often, words in a song can convey more meaning than the words alone.

Songs work, in part, because we believe a phrase more if it rhymes. Kind of silly, right?  It is said that “a man armed with a rhyming dictionary is a dangerous man.” (Bruce Springsteen).  Rhyme works in criminal defense trials as well.  Who can forget this classic: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  Or, how about this one: “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Words may not hurt you–but words can get you arrested, among other things.   (I’m going somewhere with this, so please tolerate the cliches for a another three sentences)  Here are some dangerous words: telling a TSA agent that you’ve got a bomb, or asking a 16 year old girl to have sex (unless, of course, you’re 16 years old, but even then, its a tad young, don’t ya think?).  Our focus today will be the all too common threat to kill.

Now, if you do threaten to kill someone (hire me…), any threat to do harm is called an assault (a battery charge is physical, assaults are just words or actions).  A basic threat gets upgraded to “aggravated” when the person is using a gun or weapon to make the threat more believable.

The question is, can you be convicted of assaulting someone who doesn’t understand what a gun is, or even understand the English language?   To see how an assault plays out with a victim who does not understand what the heck is going on, we’re going to examine the real life case of Davis v. State, 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 9415 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017). Continue Reading

IMG_4434-e1502116891803-225x300Sometimes, less is more.

It is said that, when comparing business cards, having only a few words on a business card signals that the person is mighty important.  For example, the business card of the old Cuban dictator Fidel Castro just says “Fidel Castro Ruz.  Primer Secretario Del Partido Cumunista De Cuba”.  That’s it.  No phone number.  No email.  No fax line.  No web address.  No “find me on Facebook”.  No Instagram.  No Snapchat.  Definitely no Snapchat.   My card, on the other hand, gives away the fact that I’m not that important of a guy.  I list twenty ways to contact me.  My office number.  Another office number.  My fax number.  My web address.  My email.   You name it, I list it.  I’m an attorney–and I’m just not as important as other folks.  But, this brief moment of humility reminds me of a recent news story.

I don’t live near the beach, unless living an hour away from the closest beach qualifies as living “near the beach”.  I grew up in St. Louis and to a Midwestern kid, driving one hour to the beach is, like, walking-distance to the beach (remember that song, “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…”,  St. Louis is kinda like that song).

doggy-in-jail-298x300Its time for some shocking news, so brace yourself.

People lie.   People make accusations that aren’t true, or they make accusations that cannot be backed up by real evidence.  If you’ve ever been the victim of such dishonesty, your case was probably dismissed–but the scars remain.

At this point, its worth mentioning that dishonesty or false eyewitness accusations are not the only path to a bogus criminal arrest.  The fact is, people make mistakes on the job.  If you’re a cop, a mistake on the job leads to a whole lot of trouble for an arrestee.

For those of you who have been falsely accused, is there ever an apology?  No.  Are you given two tickets to Sea World for the inconvenience?   No.

The good news is, while the government rarely admits to the mistakes they make, we can remove some of the scorn that lingers after a wrongful arrest.  It’s called a seal, or an expunge.   In other words, a bogus charge doesn’t have to be a life sentence of humiliation.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of folks out there who cannot seal or expunge their record, even though the case was dropped.  Why?  Because they don’t qualify.   A prior conviction, even for something as small as a reckless driving charge, will prevent a sealing or expunge of any future criminal accusation.

Here’s an example of how a prior case can mess things up later: In January of 2017, client gets arrested for armed home invasion.  Very serious charge.  Very bogus arrest.  Charges dropped.  Client cannot get an apartment.  Cannot get a job.  Cannot do a darn thing, all because of a dropped charge. We attempt to expunge the home invasion case, but are denied because of a criminal driving while license suspended ticket for which he paid a $50.00 fine back in 1999.  Yikes!   Continue Reading

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Dear Mr. Guidry,

The police won’t really do that on a theft case, will they?  After all, its only theft charge!

Dear Potential Customer,

Yes, the police may end up doing that.  Yes, that would be a waste of tax payer money, but that doesn’t stop them (ever).  And, law enforcement sometimes surprises us with their good old fashioned police work.  Bottom line is: don’t be surprised when the police use technology you only see on TV Shows.  

So, for all you folks wondering just how hard the police are going to work at a petit theft case, or a shoplifting case, or a grand theft case — I have some (potentially) bad news for you.  The advent of “new” technologies enables law enforcement to arrest more shoplifters at Kohl’s, Macys, Wal-Mart and Target than previously thought possible.   What is this crazy “new tech” and why did I put it in air quotes?   Unfortunately, we’re getting more shoplifting arrests due to cheap data storage.  Hard drives, basically.  I know, you’re disappointed because you thought we’d be discussing the laser-guided ear lobe analysis used on the latest iteration of Law & Order.  Sorry.

Store surveillance video isn’t new, but what’s new is the fact that these stores can (and do) rewind months and months of footage to see if a recently caught shoplifter had stolen from the store previously.   Back in the day of VCR’s, stores would write over their tapes within a day or two.   Even five years ago, it was pretty expensive to keep a few days of footage, when you’re saving data from  30+ cameras recording 24/7.   Today, hard drives are cheaper.  They’re bigger.  So, how does this impact a shoplifting case?

Well, it is “possible” that folks who get arrested for shoplifting may have stolen at that store before, and everything that’s happened in the store for the last four or five months in on a hard drive somewhere.  Loss prevention will dig through old video surveillance to find out if the recent arrestee had prior theft shenanigans.  If the old footage reveals the person stealing on previous visits (and they have, that’s why we’re talking about it), there’s going to be a new arrest for an old charge.  Sure, we have ways of beating these petit theft allegations derived from old video footage, but who would have thought that cheap hard drives would lead to more shoplifting cases? Continue Reading

Can you “know” the truth by reading a few words?  think-300x224

Often, truth cannot be reduced to words, its just something you feel deep down (Are we talking about feelings already?  And you thought you were going to learn some legal stuff?  Patience, Dear Reader).

For example, I truly knew my beloved youngest brother.  And, I could write a book containing everything about him, all of our good times, his heart felt laughter, his date of birth.  This book could describe every moment we shared, but those words on a page will not, ever, adequately describe who he was.  What he meant to me.  Words just don’t cut it.

Without getting too fuzzy here (too late?), the good news is that the truth can be conveyed without words.  Maybe a kiss.  Maybe just the touch of a hand (Yes, I stole that from a song).   Think about spiritual practices, for example.  Many people have experienced profound truths that cannot be reduced to symbols on a page.  My pastor always says that you get things in church that you just don’t get anywhere else.

The same goes for music, it can deliver truth where mere words would fail.  Have you ever heard a song a thousand times, only to have it jump out and reveal a truth you hadn’t heard before?  My youngest brother, for example, was a big Grateful Dead fan.  Yes, concerts and everything (that’s what I mean by a “big” Grateful Dead fan, he followed them around).  I never got it.   Then, a few years ago, “Scarlet Begonias” came on the radio.  I’ve heard this song a thousand times.  I like Sublime’s cover better (blasphemy?), but I’ve listened to this Dead song for, like, thirty years.  The song came out in 1975.  In 2016 the lyrics just jumped out at me.  I got it.  After all these years.  Odd, right? Continue Reading

[Dear Reader, if you’re trying to seal a criminal traffic ticket like DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, IMG_4366-e1499627407392-225x300reckless driving, or driving while license suspended–this article doesn’t apply, we’re only talking about sealing non-criminal traffic tickets]

 

It’s official.

There is way too much personal information online.

So much so, in fact, that all this “freedom of information” and “transparency” simply makes it easier for criminals to steal your identity.  No, I’m not about to launch into a Life Lock commercial, it only sounds that way.   For example, there was a  large identity theft ring that stole millions by pulling personal info from traffic citations.

Here’s how it works (no, I’m not going to tell you how to steal). Continue Reading