Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Privilege of being able to occasionally Help Kids is a Collateral Benefit of time spent Answering Questions on ~ Call Michael A. Haber, Esq. @ **ARRESTED

The Privilege of being able to occasionally Help Kids is a Collateral Benefit of time spent Answering Questions on

Yesterday I received an emailed request from a 6th grade student to answer questions about my profession for a school project.  (The emailed request is below):

This morning I received a follow-up email with the questions.  I am answering them here, on my blog, and will send the student a link, with an invitation to contact me anytime.  Having a 4th grade son myself I am elated to be doing this (just as I am whenever I am invited and offered the privilege to speak to kids at school), so here goes (a happy lawyer...):

Q:    What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?

A:    My aapproach or philosophy to winning a case boils down to two (2) words:  1) Knowledge and 2) Preparation.  Each case, and every client, is /are different, and every case is also a fluid experience - meaning that whatever you think that you know about the case you always have to remember that things can, and oftentimes do, change, sometimes radically, at any moment.   Knowing this I go into a case armed with as much information as possible.  I need to know what my client is accused of, who her/his accuser(s) is/are, who the Judge is, who the prosecutor is, what facts the police claim gave them "probable cause" to make an arrest in that case, what my client and her/his witness say happened, what, if any, evidence exists, who my client is, what my client's history involves (or does not involve), my client's family, employment, education, medical (physical and mental health) history, her/his ties and contributions to society, etc.  Knowing as much as I can (and again, remembering that there is always more to learn and keeping in mind that some things do not prove to be true), and armed with as much information as possible, I lay out the possibilities as I see them and then the client and I agree to what I call a "litigation objective" - meaning a goal which I believe, given the totality of the facts and circumstances, is reasonably achievable.  If we either make or exceed that goal then we "won".  

Q:     What  experiences occurred that made you want to become an attorney?

A:     My uncle (my father's brother) was a lawyer and my father is a forensic psychologist.  Forensic psychologists apply the science of psychology to the law in a variety of ways, and in my father's case his specialty was criminal law, helping lawyers to develop strategy, to pick jurors who were likely to be suited to a given case, determining matters such as "competence" (the requisite mental ability) to stand trial or testifying as to a person's "sanity" (ability to distinguish right from wrong) at the time of an offense.  Anyhow, the more that my father worked with the court system, with Judges and lawyers and juries, the more he wished that he himself had been an attorney.  As his first born son he shared that with me (not so subtlety all the time) often.  My uncle was my God-father as well, and as my dad and he were extremely close, as long ago as I can remember I was groomed to be, and wanted to be a lawyer.  (Truth be told, I also wanted to be a cop - a homicide detective actually - but, thankfully, I was insightful enough to know that arming me with a gun and a badge was not a good idea for anyone.)

Q:     How many years of dedication did it take you to get to where you are now?

A:     The "short answer" is that I graduated the nineteenth (19) grade.  Elementary, Middle and High school were the first (1st) twelve (12) years, then another four (4) in college and finally three (3) more for law school (12 + 4 + 3 = 19); but the real answer is that the "dedication" (and schooling / learning) never stops - and this is true regardless of what you choose to do as life has a constant learning curve.  Apart from learning on the job (i.e. continuing to develop daily to be a more knowledgeable and experienced - a "better" - lawyer) and reading cases to stay current on the status of the law, as a lawyer I am also required to complete "continuing legal education" classes to keep my license to practice law active. No matter what you choose to do with your life hopefully you will always seek to learn, to improve, to be "better" than you were the day before.

Q:     What type of cases do you generally handle?

A:     I am a criminal defense lawyer.  I represent people who are accused of committing a variety of crimes.  Over the course of my 23+ years I have served as counsel in many hundreds (if not thousands) of cases.  I have practiced law in both State (Florida) and Federal (in Florida and New York) Courts, for both adults and juveniles and on a wide variety of cases from misdemeanors to felonies.  I have represented people accused of matters ranging from Trespassing (i.e. being somewhere that they were not permitted to be) to First (1st) degree Murder (i.e. a planned execution of another person).  I have represented young people (my youngest client was eleven (11) and old people (my oldest client was ninety-two (92) and had served in World War II), children and parents, husbands and wives, folks of all color, race, gender and religion.  Crime and arrests do not discriminate and neither do I (although there are some cases which, as a matter of personal ethics. I will not take...).   When I was a younger lawyer I handled much more violent crimes cases than I do presently, and while I do still handle some violent crimes most of my cases nowadays tend to be "simpler" criminal matters (things like DUI, shoplifting, domestic violence, drug possession... all crimes but not robberies, carjackings, burglaries, home invasions, murders, etc.)  Please note that the term "simpler" is somewhat misleading as any criminal case is serious - or should be - to the person charged.  Even a "simple" matter like stealing $10.00 worth of merchandise from K-Mart can have a life-long effect on the person accused, so I treat every case as if it were a capital offense.

Q:     What are your attorney fees and costs?

A:     As a criminal defense lawyer I charge what are called "flat fees".  As I discussed above, once the client and I agree upon a "litigation objective" then I quote a dollar amount which is both fair to the client and to myself.  I do not quote fees based upon charges, rather I base my fees on the amount of time that I expect to invest in a given case.  Again, that calculus requires a thorough examination of the State's evidence and a comprehensive discussion with the client, and any potential witnesses, as to the facts and circumstances surrounding both the arrest and the client. On the low end (where there is little work for me to do) I could charge as little as $2,500 or, if the case is complicated then the sky is the limit. (I don't expect that every attorney does things exactly as I do, but if a lawyer quotes fees without first knowing something about the case, then the client should probably run, not walk, for the door.)  In short, I effort to "custom tailor" fees to meet the litigation objective in each and every case so, by way of example, one person's DUI case could be much more, or less, expensive than the next person's case.  It all depends upon the facts and circumstances, what we hope / plan to achieve and how much time and effort I believe that I will have to expend on the client's behalf.  But, to be completely honest, there are some other factors which can effect fees, such as what I call a "client tax".  One of the things that you learn as you practice is that some clients require more attention than others.  If I have to serve as a therapist as well as a lawyer, constantly fielding calls and emails and having to not only represent but also coddle a client then that person is getting charged a whole heck of a lot more than if s/he permits me to do my job without all the extra "hand-holding".  Still, this is part of the discussion that the client and I will have before I quote fees in a given case.

Q:     What do you like most about your job?  Least?

A:     I most like the feeling of helping someone who has either been mistreated or railroaded by either the system or by life.  Believe it or not, for a variety of reasons plenty of otherwise "good" folks get accused of doing "bad" things, and helping those people is super rewarding.  (I also like being able to do helpful and nice things for folks, especially kids, like this... :-).  As for what I like "least" (or "dislike most") it would be the system itself.  As "good" as our (the United States) system of criminal justice is there are a lot - a whole heck of a lot - of injustices which occur each and every day, and, sadly, and frustratingly, there is little that can be done about it.  I like to explain the criminal justice system by using an analogy:  It is like a rip-tide.  (If you don't know what a rip-tide or "rip current" is then it is a natural phenomenon which occurs near beaches.  As waves break they sometimes cause a reverse movement of seawater, usually quite strong, which "pulls" swimmers out, away from shore, until it ultimately dissipates.  If you fight it by swimming against it toward shore - which is the natural tendency - then you are not likely to be stronger than the rip-tide, will probably tire out quickly as you expend energy fighting and you could easily drown.  However, if you recognize your "bad" situation for what is, let loose and simply "go with it" then you will be released, you can swim parallel to shore for just a little bit, past the rip-current, and then swim safely to shore.)  Just as it is scary (and potentially deadly) to fight a rip-tide, it is similarly frustrating - and potentially perilous - to fight an inflexible "system".  Anyone who has ever been "herded" though the booking process in a jail can tell you all about the brutal nature of the system.

Q:     What was the most time consuming case you've ever had to deal with?

A:     Time can be measured in many ways, and in my industry I measure it on two (2) scales.  The first is the number of hours that I have to expend on a given matter and the other is how long (i.e. weeks, months, years) a case takes to resolve.  On the first scale some case take a great deal of time because they are complicated on any of a number of levels (i.e. sometimes the client needs constant coddling and other times the pressure to resolve a given case quickly is of paramount concern) and on the other scale some cases just seem to never come to an end.  I will give you examples of each.  Not too long ago I represented a doctor from out of state who had been arrested on extremely serious charges here in Miami.  He was being held without bond and faced a minimum 21 day hold before his initial court appearance, and then required a "special" bond hearing for cases which care otherwise non-bondable.  In the span of three (3) days (and with little rest, a lot of help from my private investigator and using up some "good will" that I have developed with the State Attorney's Office) we were able to get the doctor out of jail, back to his home state and to the practice of medicine, permitting us the luxury of quite favorably resolving his case over time.  That case was very time consuming up front, requiring me to drop everything else that I was doing and focus exclusively and with great passion and zeal on that client.  On the other scale I am presently involved  in a complicated RICO ("racketeering" case - that is too big a subject to explain  now, suffice it to say that it is extremely difficult and involves a lot of issues) case which involves a serious of cargo (semi-tractor trailer / "18-wheelers") thefts, a murder and ten (10) co-defendants (meaning ten (10) different clients and ten (10) different defense lawyers) which was filed / started in 2011.  We are still (quite pathetically - although through no fault of my own and entirely attributable to "the system") no where near getting this case resolved, and in the meantime one defendant (not mine) has been detained in jail since his 2011 arrest - rotting in jail for nearly four (4) years now, awaiting resolution of his case.  

Q:     Can you give any advice to upcoming lawyers?

A:     Absolutely.  Go to medical school.  :-)   Unlike (or like, depending upon how you look at it) my own father, I tell my nine (9) year old son that he can be anything in the whole wide world that he chooses to be, so long as it is a veterinarian.  :-)  But if you are committed to becoming a lawyer then the best advise that I can offer is to make sure that you truly, passionately want that life.  There are many areas of law, but there are also many lawyers.  Where I practice (primarily in Miami), and what I do (criminal defense litigation), sadly, very sadly in fact, has made me come to realize that this business (and it is in fact a "business") is no longer the "noble profession" that it once was.  Today the practice of law (again, qualifying my statement to my experience, a 23+ year veteran South Florida criminal defense lawyer) is more of a "rat race" than anything else, and I hope that my son finds something more consistently rewarding and less frustrating to do with his life.

Q:     Lastly, have you ever given up on a client?

A:     I am not sure what you mean by "given up on a client".  I have withdrawn from cases - effectively refusing to further represent clients - in the past.  When this has happened it was because the client either failed to live up to her/his contractual obligations to me (i.e. maybe s/he didn't pay me as agreed), or maybe s/he refused to follow my advise, or maybe s/he asked me to do something unethical (like to fabricate evidence or to put forth false testimony), or maybe s/he engaged in a pattern of conduct which was contrary to her/his case (like getting rearrested or escaping or fleeing / "bail-jumping" or failing drug or alcohol testing), but in those case I view it as not so much as me giving up on the client as I do the client giving up on herself, himself or me.  One of the nice things ("perks") of being a private criminal defense lawyer is that I get to pick and choose my clients just as much as they get to pick and choose me as their lawyer.  Unlike a Public Defender (who is "assigned" cases and has no alternative but to serve as the lawyer) as a private defense attorney I enjoy the luxury of being able to decline representation.  If I do not like either the charges or the facts or even the client then I can (and sometimes do) say "no thank you" to the case, and in that way I suppose that one could argue that I've given up on the client, albeit before I ever began.  But to answer your question as best that I can it is not my job to judge my clients; rather it is my sworn duty to defend them, and in doing so I have two simple (2) rules (incidentally I "use" these same two (2) rules at home all the time with my son):  If you 1) do what I tell you to do and 2) if you do NOT do what you are NOT supposed to do, then I will continue to serve your interests to the best of my ability and everything will work out as best as it possibly can.  

I hope that I have been helpful in answering your questions for your school project.  Please feel free to contact me at anytime if I may be of further assistance.

Since 1991 Michael A. Haber, P.A. has been creatively, effectively and zealously representing clients, both juvenile and adult, in both State and Federal Courts, in criminal cases ranging from DUI to drug trafficking and from misdemeanors to first degree murder.

At Michael A. Haber, P.A. "Its all about reasonable doubt"! 

Michael A. Haber, Esq. is prepared to speak with you about your case!


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love that you responded to this and how thoroughly you did so. You are an amazing person and lawyer.

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