Yesterday our office was retained to represent an individual who had just had his house raided and had ultimately been arrested by a member of the DEA. Neil and I are what we like to call “Criminal Offense Attorneys,” so we took the offensive.
I immediately went over to the Police Department where our client was being held. I walked into the department and spoke to the woman at the front desk. I was cordial with her, despite the fact that she was on a personal call and told me to hang on (keep in mind that this was the woman sitting in at the front desk of a police department.) She put her finger up and while on the phone, she mouthed at me “gimme a minute.” I waited patiently. After about two minutes she finally hung up the phone and asked what I wanted. I gave her my client’s name and asked if he was being held there. She made a phone call and said “yes.” I then asked to speak with my client. She told me “No.” I responded that I didn’t understand. I explained that I was his lawyer, that we had been retained, that they were holding my client without charges, without a bond, and without allowing him access to a lawyer. She replied, “I’m not getting in the middle of this. I’ll get the Sergeant.”
A few minutes later, the Sergeant stepped out from a back office. I started from the beginning. I handed him my Bar card, my business card, and my license and told him that I was an attorney, that I was retained to represent the person they were holding, and that I just wanted to speak to my client. He told me “No. You can’t see your client. He’s being held by the DEA and we have nothing to do with him.” I asked him for the name of the DEA agent and he said he would have to find out. He disappeared into his office and closed the door. Several minutes later he came back out, gave me the DEA agent’s name, and told me that the DEA agent was in the field and could not be reached. I responded that I would wait in the lobby until he was able to reach the DEA Agent.
Over the next SEVERAL HOURS I waited patiently in the lobby. Numerous times over those several hours, I asked to speak with the Sergeant so that I could gain more information. I inquired why I was being prevented from seeing my client (“I don’t have permission from the DEA Agent”), I asked for the name of the Assistant US Attorney assigned to the case (“I don’t know that information and I can’t get a hold of the DEA Agent”), I asked for the contact information for the DEA Agent (“I cannot give you that”), I asked for a specific time that the DEA would return (“I don’t know”), and I requested that the DEA Agent call my cell phone (“He’s in the field and can’t call you”). At every turn, the Sergeant attempted to thwart my attempts to talk to my client. Nevertheless, I repeatedly informed him that any questioning that occurred after I had arrived was unlawful, illegal, and coercively conducted, and that any information received was illegally obtained.
Was I being persistent? Definitely. Was I being annoying? Probably. Was I going to leave that Department without seeing my client? Absolutely not.
Eventually, after about 3.5 hours of waiting, I asked the Sergeant for the name and phone number of the DEA Agent’s superior at the Department of Justice. The Sergeant disappeared into his office again and came back out five minutes later. Somehow he had magically been able to get a hold of the DEA Agent and was told that the Agent would be at the Department in 30 minutes. I sat back down, patiently waiting.
A half hour later the DEA Agent walked in. I introduced myself and explained that I simply wanted to talk to my client for a few minutes. He told me that they were still investigating and that I could not see my client. I persisted. I asked him to provide me the legal authority he had that would allow him to prevent me from meeting with my client. He couldn’t give me any. I again asked to see my client. This time he changed his reason: “You can’t because there is nowhere in this building to visit with your client.” I explained that I would meet with him anywhere – I didn’t care which room or which building. He knew he was trapped.
At that point I demanded to see my client. I informed him that he was under arrest, that he was not free to leave, that he was being held indefinitely and that if I was not permitted to see him, I would have to get a judge involved. At that moment he knew that I wasn’t leaving without seeing him – and he got angry. He immediately accused me of being “disorderly” and “harassing” the police officers at the department. I responded that those were serious allegations that he could not back up. I told him that there were several cameras in the lobby and pointed them out, and that I had been 100% cordial with everyone at the Department. He looked up at the cameras and realized that he had made a mistake. I again demanded to see my client and told him that I wasn’t leaving the Department until I was allowed to do so.
A short time later, Neil called me and informed me that the Agent had agreed to let me see my client “in an hour to an hour and a half.” I waited patiently in the lobby. Ninety minutes later, I met with my client (in a room labeled “visitation” – remember when there wasn’t a room in existence for me to meet with my client?).
All of the other lawyers that walked in asking to see their clients were told “no” and they accepted it and left. I wasn’t going to be turned away that easily. It was a small battle, but I persisted and won.
As for the allegations that I was “disorderly” and “harassing”? Lucky for me, all of my interactions in that lobby were recorded. Otherwise, the Agent might have gotten away with those false allegations.