Fight the Man

THE “MAN”: WHO IS HE, AND WHY MUST WE FIGHT HIM?

You may be asking yourself at this point, who is this “the Man” to which we keep referring? And why do we need to fight him?

The “Man,” for broader purposes at least, is government and state authority. When we talk about “the man,” gender is irrelevant. The man is male, and the man is female. In proverbial terms, the man is generally meant to include any authority figure. When I say “the Man,” however, I mean something a little bit different and a tad more specific.

Fighting the man, for me, means fighting authority that seeks to oppress. Today, that authority generally tends to be the government or some state actor; however, that’s not to say it will always be that way. But these days it’s becoming increasingly fair to say that the majority of the oppression the common man faces today emanates from the government. And this is becoming more and more apparent as with each passing day we see the man interfering with more and more aspects of our everyday lives.

In Larimer County, we have the Fort Collins Police Department, the Larimer County Sheriff’s, and CSU police. That’s a whole lot of people employed to “crack down on crime,” so you can bet that regardless of the real crime rate, they’ll all be finding ways to keep themselves busy. As a result, today, we face the man at nearly every turn. If you speed, you’ll get caught and fined. If you don’t get caught, you’ll get a camera speeding ticket in the mail a week later. If you get pulled over, the officer will ask to search your car. If you refuse to let him search your car, he’ll call his buddies for backup and a drug dog. If the man decides you might be drunk, he’ll demand that you provide your BAC. If your BAC isn’t high enough, he’ll say you were under the influence of some other drug instead. If you were swerving, the man will say you were swerving. If you weren’t swerving, the man will say you were swerving.

If you want to get married, pay the man. If you want to get divorced, pay the man twice as much. If your kid gets a bruise, the man will come to your home and ask you why. If the man doesn’t believe you, he will take your child away. If your doctor recommends that you grow medical marijuana to treat your chronic pain, the man will want to know who your doctor is affiliated with and how he arrived at his medical conclusion. If the man isn’t satisfied, he’ll ignore your doctor and tell you what he thinks is best for your health instead. If you grow your own plants, the man will try to take them. If he can’t, then the man will come into your home and count them to see if you violate any local zoning ordinances. And if the man still hasn’t gotten your plants by then, then the federal man can always just stop by and destroy the plants himself.

If you speak Spanish and have darker skin, the man will pull you over for every failure to signal and every broken taillight, every single time, for the duration of your life. If you watch pornography, but use questionable search terms when googling it, the man will find you, and he will throw you in jail. If the law says the man may, in the interest of officer safety, quickly pat citizens down to check for weapons, the man will instead, in the interest of finding illegal drugs, force citizens to endure lengthy pat-downs “for weapons” by checking your every pocket and ordering a strip search. If the law says that the man may seize contraband items in “plain sight,” the man will enter your home, find the things he wants to seize, put them in plain sight, re-enter, and then seize them. And most importantly: If the man arrests you and discovers you may not have committed the crime suspected, he will do whatever it takes to convict you anyway. This is because the man knows that nothing causes more paperwork than making mistakes. Like most humans, the man has trouble ever admitting he made a mistake. And like most humans, the man hates paperwork. The man does not care about you, he cares about numbers and “catching all the bad guys.” The man will be your best friend until you are accused, and then he will turn on you, leave you in the cold, and avoid any hard feelings about it by assuring himself that you “deserve it” and that by doing that to you, he made “everyone else safer.” And then when that day finally comes that you are released from prison, the man will throw you out on your bum and tell you to get a job. And when you can’t get a job because of your criminal record, the man will tell you that was “a choice” you made. And when you finally crack from hunger and steal a loaf of bread to feed yourself one cold winter night, the man will be there, waiting. He will tell you that you are a habitual criminal. He will throw you back in prison and take nearly every dollar you ever earn again. He will tell you that he needs this money in order to “rehabilitate” you.

This is not exaggeration or hyperbole. Every sentence or example alluded to in the above paragraph is based on actual cases. In fact, most of the examples come from cases I’ve handled myself. Believe it or not – it’s what’s going on.

Now, I am not trying to say that we should riot against the government. I am not talking about that kind of “fighting the man.” But I am trying to say that when the man elects to interfere with or oppress upon aspects of our lives, he has to be held accountable for the manner in which he does it. Unchecked discretion in the hands of government authority is one of the scariest things we face as citizens today. And sadly, as it turns out, the man is not particularly good at following the rules unless he thinks he has to. That’s why, every time you sit down with the man without an attorney, the man has unchecked discretion, or at least he thinks he does – and he will behave accordingly. At the end of the day, being a criminal defense attorney has nothing to do with “defending rapists” or “helping drug dealers” as the man would like you to think. Criminal defense is about holding the man accountable. It is only by imposing this accountability that we can ensure that the rules are followed and that the individual rights we were born with are not slowly destroyed.

I like to say I specialize in “fighting the man” for two reasons: (1) it’s fun to call my job that; and (2) it’s what I live to do and take great pride in doing. I’m not advocating anarchy, nor am I demanding smaller government. All I ask, as a citizen of the United States, and of the great State of Colorado, is that when the man undertakes some behavior that is ultimately oppressive upon my or any other citizen’s liberty, that he abide by the rules that he created back in 1791. That is the year we ratified the document now known as the Bill of Rights. As the man has undoubtedly figured out, it takes a lot of self-discipline, and a lot of hard work to have respect for the liberties contained and guaranteed to us in that document while trying to quickly and efficiently arrest and convict “all the criminals.” Like many of us, the man hates hard work and he will do anything to avoid it. Andthat is why, when I talk about “fighting the man,” you need only remember this:

The Bill of Rights is not the greatest obstacle the man faces in his work. The greatest obstacle facing the mancan only be individuals who endeavor to enforce that Bill of Rights at every step of every interference with your life that the man attempts. That’s what criminal defense is truly about. And as your attorney, that is whatI will do for you.