Authors: Dale C. Carson,Wes Denham
Tags: #Political Freedom & Security, #Law Enforcement, #General, #Arrest, #Political Science, #Self-Help, #Law, #Practical Guides, #Detention of persons
HEADLINE FROM PLANET EARTH
The criminal justice system is not “as seen on TV” in one crucial aspect—money. On TV, every defendant gets a great (and usually great-looking) attorney who works day and night on the case. TV lawyers work miracles. They persuade judges to free the accused with astoundingly clever arguments and never-before-contemplated motions.
On TV nobody ever discusses who pays for all this. In real life, public defenders are overworked and undercompensated. Except in capital cases, a public defender generally can give you only a perfunctory defense. If you want to fight charges with a top-flight attorney, expect to pay heavy bucks—five- and six-figure bucks—to beat the rap. It’s far more economical not to get arrested in the first place. That’s what this book is about. The price of this little package of paper is less than the cost of
a few minutes
of a top attorney’s time. What a deal!
WHO AM I TO TELL YOU JACK?
I’m a criminal defense attorney. I’m the guy you call at midnight when you’re in the can, when your mother’s not taking your telephone calls and when the bail bondsman is in your face screaming for cash you don’t have. I’m the guy you call when the state’s attorney is declaring that what you thought was casual sex is actually capital rape and is recommending 25 years in prison. I’m the guy who gets the midnight ting-a-ling after you gave the cops some attitude that the cops characterized as resisting arrest.
I got my law degree late in life, after three (or was it four?) wives. The jail and the courthouse are my beat. I find getting people out of jail strangely relaxing compared to a bad marriage. Most of my life, however, I spent putting people
jail, as an FBI agent and before that as a Miami cop. I’ve arrested hundreds of people, from millionaires to bums. I’ve busted white guys, black guys, brown guys, yellow guys, every kind of guy. I was an equal opportunity, bad-guy-busting machine when Miami was one of the most dangerous cities in America. For a period of time I held records for felony arrests.
As a cop and FBI agent, I never thought much about the people I arrested. After they were booked, they became the prosecutor’s problem.
That’s me on the right, Dale Carson, during the arrest of convicted murderer Wendy Zabel. Desperate to have a child, Zabel faked a pregnancy and abducted a newborn from the obstetrical unit of a Florida hospital. During the abduction she shot the baby’s mother and grandmother. The mother died of her wounds. As an FBI instructor, I taught classes on serial killers and sex criminals. I also participated in the arrest and interrogation of Wayne Williams, the Atlanta boy murderer. Photo courtesy of the
Now, as a criminal defense attorney, I see the other side. I see people rolled over by a gigantic and impersonal criminal justice system. This book is about how the criminal justice system works today in the real world. It’s about how you ought to think and act when confronted by police so you can live free and stay out of trouble. Of course, if you insist on being a crook, it’s not a complete tragedy, especially if you’re a crook in Florida. I need the work.
Here I am in 1978 as a lean, mean, arresting machine, and not as I am today, a warm and fuzzy defense attorney oozing empathy from every pore. The FBI gave me the opportunity to investigate and arrest some horrendously evil people—serial killers, child rapists, and millionaire con men. Most of these perps remain today where they belong, in jail or dead. Note: These credentials have been altered graphically to prevent copying and forgery. Photo courtesy of the FBI
CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLAYERS: COPS, BAD GUYS, THE CLUELESS HORDE
NEW PLANTATIONS FOR NEW GENERATIONS
verybody knows about the big parts of the system—cops, judges, and state prisons. This chapter is about the parts of the system you don’t know about. I call them the plantations, because these hidden parts of the system will keep you in the perpetual servitude of low-wage jobs and constant trouble with police and authorities. Remember, if you’re not really a bad guy, just someone who is clueless or has bad judgment, you’re not going to spend time in a state penitentiary. You’ll land in the local lockup, then shortly be released on probation or placed in the drug-court system. What no one will tell you is that, once the arrest clerk puts your name in the computer, you have just entered the twilight hell of the plantations. Below I explain how it works.
IT STARTS WITH THE ARREST
Most arrests are logged
into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Even if the prosecutor declines the case or you are quickly released or you are ultimately judged innocent and acquitted, you’ve got an arrest record. This arrest record will
go away. It will stay with you and haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s your entry to the plantations.
In addition to arrest records, there are criminal court records (local, state, or federal records), corrections records (prison records), and state criminal repository records (statewide records composed of arrest records, criminal court records, and correction records). Certain misdemeanor arrests are not recorded; others are. In addition, there is a second national database of criminal information called the National Criminal File (NCF). But let’s keep this simple. Assume that when you get arrested and fingerprinted, your records are going into the computers and they’re never coming out. The short version: when you’re printed, you’re toast.
It doesn’t matter that you’re a juvenile and that your state arrest record at some point is sealed by a judge (federal arrest records cannot be sealed). You hear all the time on TV about records being “sealed.” Have you ever wondered how this is done? What do judges seal them
? Tape? Wax? Staples? Chewing gum? Heck, everything is on computers. Do you think a clerk for some local judge whose authority doesn’t run past the state line can call the government of the United States of America and tell them to seal your arrest records? Think again.
It gets worse. Here’s an actual case that illustrates what happens with arrests and computers. I represented a client who was arrested while driving a vehicle in which police found weapons and narcotics during a traffic stop. None of it belonged to my client, and the state’s attorney (prosecutor) dropped all charges. However, for the rest of this guy’s life, every time he’s stopped for a traffic violation, the police officers will run his license number through the NCIC. When his arrest record appears, it will have a heading that says “armed trafficking.” Any cops seeing this will thoroughly search him and his car. They may handcuff him and draw their weapons because they will suspect that he could be armed and dangerous. For the rest of his life, every routine traffic stop will turn into a nightmarish confrontation with police.
The fact that arrest records are computerized, maintained by the federal government, and accessible to local law enforcement, state agencies, and far too many private employers is the reason you need to arrest-proof yourself. To keep from ruining your life at a young age, you need to avoid cops like the plague and never, ever get arrested for anything, no matter how trivial.
Still not worried? Of course not! This is America. You have rights! A good lawyer can get adjudication withheld and the records expunged. The whole thing will be as if it never happened. Right? That
right—30 years ago. Prior to the invention of the copying machine, the fax, and the computer, criminal records existed only on paper and only in the jurisdiction in which the person was arrested. When records were expunged, a clerk tore a page out of a book or tossed out a file folder, and the records were gone forever.
Even when records remained, anyone wanting to discover whether a person had arrests and convictions had to contact each city or state in which the arrests occurred. To make copies, clerks literally had to photograph paper records, an expensive and tedious procedure. All anyone had to do to escape youthful indiscretions was blow town. Nowadays, that doesn’t work. Once you’re in the ’puter, my friend, you’re there for life.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANTATION
Guess what? The system
you. It’s huge. It’s no small chore keeping the jails filled; government employees at work; and those tax dollars, fines, and court costs rolling in. The problem nowadays is that, in many cities, serious crime is way down. The cops are great at arresting the really bad guys, and state legislatures have passed stiff sentencing guidelines that put felons away for decades. What you’ll never see, however, is a headline like this:
Crime Down—Judges Laid Off, Cops Furloughed, Jails to Close.
So what to do? If murderers, armed robbers, rapists, and drug dealers are in short supply, the system fills itself with graffiti writers, jaywalkers, petty drug users, drivers with suspended licenses, and clueless types who mouth off to cops. The criminal justice system needs inmates to survive. This bureaucratic imperative to make ever more arrests is never absent from the decisions of cops and judges, and it’s never discussed.
You’re worth real money when you’re busted. For example, if you’re arrested for a petty federal offense like making phony IDs (yes, computer-buying moms and dads, Junior can be arrested on a federal charge, as was one of my stepsons, by the Homeland Security Agency and the Secret Service for using the
puter to make phony IDs to buy beer), the state gets paid more than $150 per day by the federal government for every day you’re in custody, since the federal government does not have pretrial detention facilities, i.e., jails. One of my clients was tossed into a cell with 10 other federal inmates. That’s 11 inmates at $150 per day, or $1,650 per cell per day. That’s as much as the toniest resorts get for presidential suites. Understandably, officials think of jails as hotels that can be profitably filled. All the people around you—cops, guards, clerks, bailiffs, judges, lawyers, probation officers, social workers—are making a good living off
Once arrested, you enter the criminal justice plantation. You’re there to work, or more accurately, to ensure that state and city employees work. All you get is a place to flop and crummy food. Like a slave, you’re branded with your owner’s mark. Your fingerprints, case number, social security number, photograph, and description (and, soon, DNA) are filed.
Even when you’re released on probation, you’re still on the plantation. You and your home can be searched at any time. You have to sign away the right to a warrant and judicial review of searches as a condition of probation. If probation officers so decide, they can administer drug tests and strip-search and body-cavity search you at any time. Probation officers are not, repeat
, social workers. They’re outdoor jailers. And you’re paying them! Big dollars monthly in probation charges! Try paying that bill flipping burgers, sweeping floors in a warehouse, or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
JUVIE HALL AIN’T NO MALL
Kids, here’s a bit of advice from your Uncle Dale:
Stay out of juvenile detention!
You’ve heard it called cute names like juvie hall. You’ve heard it’s not so bad, sort of a cross between a dormitory and a cheap motel. Forget everything you’ve heard. Juvenile detention is kid jail—period. It’s the criminal justice plantation for kids.
Worse, in many states there’re no bail bonds for kids, no notices to appear in lieu of arrest, and no release into your parents’ custody. Get busted, and you’re going in.
Inside there’s generally no rehabilitation, no work, nothing except jail cells and jailers. When you go in, you’ll be strip-searched. If the corrections officers think you’re carrying drugs, they will force open your mouth and poke around in there. The officers will not be concerned about you as a person. Their job is to process your body through the system. They care only about getting food in, waste out, grunge showered off, and jumpsuits changed as per regulation. Mostly they care about keeping you locked up until a judge decides what to do with you. If you become sufficiently annoying, they will strap you into a detention chair and lock you in a soundproof cell so you can scream your head off without bothering anyone else.