Articles Posted in driving while license suspended (DWLS)

math-300x195For a moment now, I want you to conjure up your best Carl Sagan sense of wonder.  Remember his awe at the ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in science’?

Physics uses math in an attempt to model the world, and models predict things.   For example, the right mathematical models can reveal how billiard balls or motors or planets will behave.  It seems complicated because these equations can fill entire blackboards.  But it is easy.

Now, with even greater awe, imagine how useless mathematics is in biology.   Yes, you heard me.  Math is useless.  As Noson Yanofsky notes in his book The Outer Limits of Reason, math isn’t good at predicting “how a crowd [will] react to a certain event, or how a human [will] react to a relationship” because that “is far too complicated for our mathematics.  Mathematics does not predict all phenomena.  It only helps with predictable phenomena.  Or, as it is slightly humorously phrased, ‘God gave the easy problems to the physicists‘.”

I have a rule in my office: No Math.

I don’t do math.

So, it should come as no surprise that when someone wants me to compute their chances of success at trial or at a hearing or what-have-you, I won’t do it because attaching numbers to such unpredictable events is useless.  Basically, the outcome of a criminal case can often be “far too complicated for our mathematics”.

Sure, you must ask an attorney “How many times have you defended this type of case, and what kind of results are you seeing?”  I get that.  But, any answer from an attorney that says something to the effect of: “Your chances of winning this Motion to Suppress is 79.3%”.  They’re lying.  Or at the very least, their quantification of past results into a predictive model of future success needs to be scrapped.  Quantifying the situation gives a potential client a false sense of security.

I started my defense attorney career as an assistant public defender.  My first day in court, ever, was my first day of work.  It was a trial day.  I won my first trial.  But, I really knew very little about defending criminal cases.  My stats remained great, but my actual knowledge was minimal.  As I’ve gotten better at this (and 26 years in, I’m still learning…), I’ve also taken more losses.  My stats are worse as I get better at this.

No defense attorney has a crystal ball.  No one cannot predict every outcome of every criminal case.  If an attorney guarantees you an outcome–get it in writing.  Even physicists, with all their fancy equations, can only predict so much before resorting to uncertainty principles.  We can’t even trust the weatherman to tell us the weather next Thursday, can we?

That being said, we attorneys use our experience to make very accurate predictions about how a case will go, from start to finish.  Even without math, humans are fairly predictable, judges are fairly predictable, and we can prepare our clients accordingly.   No matter what you’re charged with, we attorneys must be able to tell you what range of punishments are available to the judge.  We must be able to answer the simple question “What Am I Facing?”    Continue Reading

cof-300x225There’s an art to giving a good apology.

It is said that for an apology to be effective, it has to be costly.  No, we’re not (necessarily) talking about money.  A good apology doesn’t require the restaurant manager to wipe out your tab and fork over a $50 gift card.  The cost for an effective apology can be to your reputation (for example: “I want everyone to know what a bad attorney I’ve been”).  Or, the cost can come in the form of a future commitment to do better (“We’re changing our corporate structure to include more training”).

Apologies are not only the right thing to do, but they can be good for business.  Doctors who apologize to their patients for screwing up are significantly less likely to be sued by that patient.  As such, we now have “I’m sorry” laws that don’t permit folks to use an apology later in court.

All of this brings me to my own apology, of sorts.

I passed the bar in 1993 and my first job was as a public defender (PD).  My first day on the job as a PD was a trial day.  Not just any trial day, but the first day of a very busy trial period.  I had over 50 clients set for trial–and I had never stepped foot in a courtroom.  Like I said, this was my first day as a lawyer, first job, first everything.  When the elevator doors opened in Orange County’s old courthouse, there were so many people set for trial that you could barely get to the courtroom.

So, if you were my client back in 1993 on my first day as a public defender–I’m sorry.  Yes, I did the best I could.   But, you folks did not get my best work.  Not even close.  Actually, I’m a better lawyer after 25 years of defending cases than I was last year, 24 years in.  I wish I could apologize to all the folks who didn’t get my best work while I was a public defender.  That being said, I loved my time as a PD, it was a training camp of sorts, and it is a mandatory experience for all aspiring criminal defense attorneys.   Continue Reading

Mark-Twain-Quote-e1525719777428-300x270Know thy past and you’ll know thy future.

This is what makes history so valuable.  If we presume that history repeats itself, knowledge of the past will help us brace for what comes next (Yes, there are lots of problems with this theory, but that’s a discussion for another day).

The problem is, how do we really know what is true from the past, and what isn’t?

There will always be some skeptic out there that will keep repeating the most intellectually lazy show stopper of all — “I’m not convinced.”  I heard a physicist recently claim that he’s not sure “causation” exists, that we cannot know causes.  He thinks the best we can hope for is correlation.  Hum.

Speaking of real life skeptics, a friend of mine has been a judge for a couple of terms and he believes that he is the only conscious being on Earth.   To him, it cannot be proven, ever,  that beings other than himself are actually conscious.  He only knows for certain that there is one conscious being; himself.  Yes, he probably plucked his position straight out of a first year philosophy class, but for whatever reason, its stuck.

As a defense attorney, I absolutely love-love-love a good skeptic.

Remember when R & B singer R. Kelly was accused of making (staring in) 21 counts child pornography for a video showing him, allegedly, having sex and urinating all over a teenage girl?  This sort of accusation brought out the best in comedians like Dave Chappelle.  Chappelle did a sketch where the prosecutors were trying to pick R. Kelly’s jury, and after seeing the video, Chappelle still wasn’t convinced.  You must see this sketch, it is priceless, but here’s the exchange:

PROSECUTOR: Mr. Chappelle, what would it take to convince you that R. Kelly is guilty?

DAVE CHAPPELLE: Okay, I’d have to see a video of him singing “Pee On You,” two forms of government ID, a police officer there to verify the whole thing, four or five of my buddies and Neal taking notes, and R. Kelly’s grandma to confirm his identity. Continue Reading