Asking For A Friend: Criminal Law with Zack Tumlin (Featuring Biker Mike)

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Transcript

Jeb Butler:

Today on Asking for a Friend, we’ll talk with Zack Tumlin, who’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He runs a practice called Tumlin Law in Dahlonega, Georgia, which is a relatively small community, just north of Atlanta as you get to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Zack and I graduated law school together many years ago, and we each have our own firms, but we do different things. I do personal injury and civil work, and Zack does a lot of stuff, but mainly criminal work. So our practices might go together at times, but they’re different. They can go together if there’s been a crash or a wrong done or a crime and someone is being charged. Well, there could be a civil case with the victim, and that’s where we would work. And it could be a criminal case, and that’s the sector in which Zack works.

We’re also joined on today’s episode of Asking for a Friend, the locally famous Biker Mike. Now this is Biker Mike. He’s a famous motorcycle rider. He’s done a whole lot of racing and he’s won two purple hearts in the service of his country and he has his own day, Biker Mike Day in Dahlonega, Georgia. So we’re excited to see Biker Mike and to talk with he and Zack.

Well, Zack, thanks for joining me today for Asking For A Friend. Your practice and mine have been going about the same amount of time, but yours is quite different. I know you do some personal injury work, but you do some criminal defense, which I don’t do any of. So we’re excited to hear about that. Tell us a little bit about your law practice, what it’s called, where you are and what you do.

Zack Tumlin:

Very good. So Zack Tumlin, Tumlin Law Group out of Dahlonega, Georgia, Dawsonville, Georgia, and Gainesville, Georgia. And those are the three cities where I feel closest to home. Gainesville is where I grew up. Dahlonega is where I’ve planted my flag, and Dawsonville is right next door. So those are kind of my tri-part counties and that’s the base of my practice. But we do a lot of work in White County, Forsyth County, Union County, Towns County, Habersham County, and that’s about it. We typically stay to those areas. I guess for the right fee we will travel and for the right kind of case we will travel, but mostly refer out matters outside of those individual areas. Predominantly we do criminal defense work and probation issues, light transactional things.

I serve as general counsel to a lot of local businesses in my communities and do some light lifting personal injury work that we feel comfortable handling in-house. But when major cases come across our desk, it is a whole lot more fun to tag in folks like my good friend Jed Butler here and others with whom I went to school who are succeeding in their various areas of specialty and injury law.

Jeb Butler:

So I’ve been living in Georgia almost all my life. I don’t think I could locate on a map all those counties that you named. Is it fair to say North Georgia?

Zack Tumlin:

Northeast Georgia.

Jeb Butler:

Northeast Georgia. You’re the man to see in Northeast Georgia?

Zack Tumlin:

I’ll take it.

Jeb Butler:

Okay, cool. So let me ask you some stuff, some situations where I might need to call you so that we can talk about what you do at a more granular level. So let’s say I’m cruising through, I’m on 985. I’m in a hurry. I’m going too fast. Cops pull me over. I got a speeding ticket, I don’t want to deal with it. Can I call you?

Zack Tumlin:

Sure, you can call me. That is not our bread and butter type case, but it’s something I’ll certainly hear you out on. If you’re calling me on a speeding case to have me get you out of it, don’t call me, call somebody else. If you’re calling me to-

Jeb Butler:

You can’t do the impossible. I’m doing 85. You can’t retroactively slow me down.

Zack Tumlin:

Well, I get lucky every now and then, but typically what we’re looking to do on speeding cases is see where it occurred, the jurisdiction in which it occurred, who we’re dealing with, whether we have a relationship in that particular prosecutor’s office and whether the case can be resolved in your favor with a reduction or something like that. Oftentimes requiring you to settle it early and not come to court, which is valuable.

Jeb Butler:

Right, for sure.

Zack Tumlin:

So there are certain type of reductions on speeding charges that are not reported to the DDS, which is obviously favorable to you for a number of reasons, and that would be a reason why you would want to call. So it does take time though, and our time is worth money. It’s our stock and trade, so there’s a fee for it. We don’t take charity calls on speeding cases and whatnot, but if you’re serious and you have a traffic citation that you need dealt with and handled, if we have the relationships and the time to do it, we’d certainly love to hear from you.

Jeb Butler:

So what is your bread and butter?

Zack Tumlin:

Right now we’re doing a lot of DUI cases. We do a lot of VGCSA, Georgia Controlled Substance Act cases.

Jeb Butler:

Drugs.

Zack Tumlin:

And we do a lot of, yeah, I really don’t know how to describe it, but folks are charged with theft crimes, party to other people’s crimes, charged with probation violations for whatever reason, things like that. What we don’t do is divorce and child custody and we typically do not take on sex crimes and do not take on murder cases, although we’re happy to hear about them and see if it’s something that we might be interested in. But you mentioned something a moment ago, Jeb, about the man to see. I believe I’ve been blessed with a skillset of people. I love talking to people. I love hearing from people and I love lawyers too and know a lot of them.

Jeb Butler:

Well lawyers are people, theoretically.

Zack Tumlin:

Lawyers are theoretically people and I know a good bit of them, especially in my area. And I typically know who does what the best. And so if my firm can come onto a case and analyze if we can handle it in house, we’ll take it on. If not, it’s nice to put folks with the right person and connect the right dots.

Jeb Butler:

Yeah, I feel like what happens a lot with folks that call our office, and I bet it’s true for you too, is someone knows something’s wrong. Either somebody been hurt, somebody been killed, somebody’s in jail, they don’t quite know how to diagnose the case. Is this something that is what you’re talking about as you say man to see?

Zack Tumlin:

That is what I’m talking about. Essentially the ER doctor practicing legal triage. When you have a problem, you call us and if we can handle it, we handle it. If not, we know who to refer you to.

Jeb Butler:

Legal triage, I’m going steal your phrase. I like that a lot. All right, so DUIs and drug cases, that’s your bread and butter. Talk to me about how that looks from the perspective of the person who calls you. So the person who calls you about one of those two things, what are they dealing with? Have they just been arrested? Are they called because a family member has, are they calling because they think they’re going to get arrested?

Zack Tumlin:

So typically in the DUI case, unless it’s multiple DUIs or there’s some type of homicide or something involved with it, you’re typically going to bond out six hours or so after you’ve been arrested. And so typically my DUI clients, I get calls from the client themselves, although mama has been known to call plenty of times and that that’s okay. But typically I get a call from the person saying, “I’ve been arrested for DUI.” And it’s super important in a DUI case to call a lawyer.

Jeb Butler:

Why?

Zack Tumlin:

Because in many cases in which you’ve been arrested for DUI, you could be served with an administrative license suspension notice if you refuse to take the state administered test or if you have your blood alcohol content is over the legal limit and your license could be administratively suspended. And that is a serious issue because if you don’t file an administrative appeal within the time period permitted by law, then your license will automatically suspend for 12 months and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. There are some avenues to get an appeal of that issue through the Superior Court in either the county in which you live or the Fulton County Superior Court as an end all type place. But very rarely are those mechanisms utilized. So if you’re arrested for DUI, you need to call a lawyer ASAP to see whether or not you have administrative issues at stake with your license in addition to the criminal aspect of the case.

Jeb Butler:

So those are different. Losing the license is different than the sort of criminal conviction and probation or jail time or whatever.

Zack Tumlin:

Correct. I like to describe it as there’s two trains.

Jeb Butler:

Coming at you?

Zack Tumlin:

They’re both coming at you. One’s about your license and essentially the issue is, was their probable cause to make the arrest and by preponderance did the police officers follow protocol in reading you implied consent cards and informing you of your and your rights so as to give you the legitimate chance to take a test or deny a test, which you have a right to do. That’s the administrative side, that’s one train. The other one is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And that is something to be determined by a jury in some cases a judge, but most oftentimes a jury. And there will be lots of pre-trial issues to work through before you ever even get to that trial stage. And those are super important. The law of DUI is ever evolving, especially now.

Jeb Butler:

This brings to mind a question that I probably should have thought to ask you right out the gate, because I imagine a lot of people want to know. I mean, the title of our podcast is Asking For a Friend. So let me ask you this. Let’s say I’m driving and there’s reasons to suspect might be some alcohol or something else in my blood and I’ll look in the rear view mirror and damn if there’s not some blue lights, what do I need to do?

Zack Tumlin:

Well, that’s a problem and you have to make a personal decision. And this is why drinking responsibly is encouraged because you’ll know whether you have drunk too much or may have drunk too much to drive, or you’ll know whether you have only drank a minimal amount and would be fine to pass a test. So the reason I say that is you always hear folks saying, if you’re pulled over, never blow. Well, that’s a good way to get your license suspended and that’s a good way to have a less safe prosecution initiated against you, which you very well may win. However, if-

Jeb Butler:

Sounds like a pain though, I’m going to pay somebody like you deal with it.

Zack Tumlin:

It’s an expensive pain too. But I think addressing your hypothetical here, if I’ve gone to visit my friend and drunk one beer at his house and I know that I have alcohol in my system and I’m pulled over because I’ve touched the white line or the yellow line, the mustard and the mayonnaise as they call it, and the officer says, “I smell alcohol in your breath, will you take a portable breath test for me?” Jed, I’m probably going to take a portable breath test because I’ve had one beer, I’m allowed to drink and drive a car so long as I’m not impaired by alcohol and when my breath test comes back under the legal limit, they’re going to have a hard time arresting you, right?

So if you’re in a situation where you are going to be under the legal limit significantly under the legal limit, yes you do have a right to refuse these tests. Even the portable breath test, not admissible against you, the number from it. In that situation, I’d rather not be arrested than arrested. I think in your hypothetical situation though, you may have had some alcohol to drink, you don’t know what your blood is going to show, you just have a personal judgment call to make at that point. Do you want to engage in this process because you’re giving incriminating information against yourself if you are impaired or if you have had too much to drink, whether you know it or not, it’s a difficult situation.

Jeb Butler:

So you got to make a judgment call. So let’s say it’s not alcohol, it’s something else. I mean, more and more there’s marijuana stuff in Georgia from states where it’s legal or from maybe, I don’t know where it used to come from, but someone’s driving, blue lights and there’s something else that might be in the blood even though they hadn’t had a drink. What’s the rational thing for someone to do who’s gotten into that situation?

Zack Tumlin:

Well, so there’s two different types of drugs. Legal and illegal. Illegal drugs in your system is not a good thing. But the legal issue in terms of DUI is are you impaired by the substance? So there’s two types of DUI in Georgia, DUI per se, meaning you’re over the legal limit that pertains to alcohol or DUI less safe, meaning that you are under the influence of a substance, legal or illegal to the extent that you are a less safe driver. And you can be charged with DUI in that circumstance as well. So as a lawyer, most folks pulled over for DUI, are not looking 30 steps down the road as I am in this podcast right here. So when you’re looking down the road, if you have something like methamphetamine in your system or whatever, you name it, juries could look at that and be biased from the get-go just on the nature of the substance.

And it’s probably not a good look for you at trial. If you have committed some less safe acts, you’re pulled over, you’re suspected of DUI, you give a blood test, this illegal substance is in your blood, you’re not going to have a lot of people cheering for you on that jury. But there are certain circumstances, and this happens often where you’re prescribed legal medication that you’re taking and even within the therapeutic level, but it affects you and has caused you to be a less safe driver. You could be charged for DUI with that, for driving on a substance. And the legal issue is are you impaired by the substance or not? And that’s why it’s important to read those labels and whatnot or all of it. So I guess back to your question then, if you have a substance in your blood, I think you have to make the judgment call if you believe you are impaired by it. In other words, you may have consumed more than the therapeutic level, or if you are consuming at the therapeutic level and you still feel impaired, you don’t have to incriminate yourself.

Jeb Butler:

So a driver in that situation could, if a driver so chose, refuse the blood test and test I guess, and say, “I’m going to remain silent.”

Zack Tumlin:

You have a fundamental right to refuse to take any blood test. You have a pursuant to the implied consent notices, and this is in the scope of DUI. We have a fundamental right to refuse to take any state administered test for the purpose of gathering evidence to be used against you in a criminal trial.

Jeb Butler:

Okay. All right, so I’m going to ask you something else. And this came up in a call to our office recently. Someone called and said that, let’s see, what was it? They had been in a car wreck and maybe there had been some drinking. They left their information with the other driver, name, stuff on the driver’s license and insurance information then left. And they say, all right, well now I’m being charged with fleeing the scene even though I left my information and with DUI.

Zack Tumlin:

Okay.

Jeb Butler:

Can that happen? Is that legitimate? What should a person like this?

Zack Tumlin:

I would be shocked to hear someone’s charged with DUI if an officer has never observed the person driving, nor has any information whatsoever about being under the influence of alcohol or another substance.

Jeb Butler:

Well, that makes sense.

Zack Tumlin:

To be charged with DUI. Fleeing? Let me say, I’ve seen some weird charges in my day. And always remember, it takes very little to charge someone. To charge someone a statement is made to a magistrate judge and the warrant context and the magistrate decides whether there’s probable cause, meaning a set of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime may have occurred. That’s all it takes for a warrant. It’s a one-sided story that would lead someone to believe that a crime may have occurred. Very, very, very small evidentiary standard to clear to have a warrant. Citations can just issue on the written word of an officer. But in that situation, if someone had been presented with those facts, I would say, “Call me, because I want to call whoever is telling you that and clarify a few things.”

Jeb Butler:

All right. I got a couple more questions for you. One of them I just thought of, but we’ll start with this. This is another call, someone called our office about it and we do personal injury but not criminal law as you know. So we didn’t really know what to say exactly, but sometimes we’ll have someone call and say, okay, my ex-significant other is pissed off of me now. And he or she is claiming they’re going to press charges against something they claim I did and I didn’t do it. I hadn’t been charged yet. But they’re saying they’re going to go to the police. Now, should that person call you or should they wait?

Zack Tumlin:

I would say, go ahead and give me a call. Because I would want to know the facts and circumstances and what we might anticipate that person saying to the police. If there’s something I might be concerned about or something that you may want to have a lawyer on retainer to deal with as it relates to the situation it would be wise to have a lawyer engaged up to speed on the facts so that in the event that this person made good on their word and pursued a charge, and a charge was taken and an arrest was made, you would want a lawyer to know the facts and circumstances quick so that he or she or I could get to work fast.

And Jed, now that we mentioned this, I would say part of what I do these days, I think that maybe, I guess the part of my practice of which I’m most proud is the speed at which I can work in the criminal context. Because if you think about it, knowing which court to approach, knowing which prosecutor to approach, knowing which judge is going to be assigned, knowing practices and procedures in certain jurisdictions, because they’re all different. So in other words, it’s-

Jeb Butler:

People, like you said earlier.

Zack Tumlin:

Yeah, it’s people. And so different people have different ways of doing things. So in a situation like this that you’ve presented me in that hypothetical, if you call me, I’m up to speed on the case. If I think it’s something that you would want to retain me on to be able to act fast in your interest in the event something happened, I could do it. If you called me and you told me the situation, I didn’t think there was a whole lot to it, I might advise you, see what they do, retain me if you want. There’s a fee associated with it. If you don’t see what they do, give me a call. I’ll at least have some notes to refer back on. And we don’t have to go through the fee agreement process and whatnot to get me engaged to act. But in a situation where you are arrested on this situation that could be easily explained or defended, you would want your attorney acting fast because-

Jeb Butler:

Nobody likes to sit in jail.

Zack Tumlin:

Nobody likes to sit in jail. Right. And quite frankly, if you don’t deserve to be there, keep in mind, and I deal with this all the time, someone gets arrested, they’re brought to the jailhouse, the officer, if you’re arrested with a warrant, then there’s 72 hours before you have a first appearance hearing. That’s the rule. They can do it promptly. They can wait up to 72 hours. If you have a preset bond, you can call somebody to bail bond to bail you out. If you don’t, you can get stuck in jail waiting for this first appearance hearing. If you have a lawyer who’s up to speed on your case, then you could speed that up significantly, if it can be done. And you would want that.

Jeb Butler:

Yeah.

Zack Tumlin:

You would want that. And if you’re arrested without a warrant, typically they have 48 hours in most cases to hold a first appearance hearing. But you don’t want to wait 48 hours in jail if you’re arrested for a simple, simple, minor offense. And it’s silly and it happens every day. So speed in the criminal context is valuable.

Jeb Butler:

Especially if you’re sitting in the clink.

Zack Tumlin:

Yes.

Jeb Butler:

First appearance hearing, is that where they set bond?

Zack Tumlin:

So typically yes. First appearance hearing is where the magistrate judge is reading to you the charge so that you know why you’re in the hooch.

Jeb Butler:

Okay, I gotcha.

Zack Tumlin:

Informing you of your right to an attorney and addressing bond if it’s an offense bondable by a court other than the superior court, there are several offenses in Georgia where only the superior court can set bond.

Jeb Butler:

Okay. I’m going to ask you about two other kind of legal things and they ask you about one. So the first of those two legal things, I feel like this is probably the same situation you just talked about, but sometimes we’ll get calls from folks who say, look like I’ve been called in by the police to give a statement. I’m not accused of anything yet. I don’t think I did anything wrong, but do I need a lawyer for this?

Zack Tumlin:

So I can’t say whether you need or don’t need because it-

Jeb Butler:

Depends on the facts, obviously.

Zack Tumlin:

It just depends. It’s all about the facts and circumstances. However, if it’s to a point where the government is calling you, you probably want to have a lawyer to hear from you in advance, to prepare you for the process and what to expect to appear with you and give a statement. But to moderate the session and make sure that it is civil and that there are no threats made and there’s no coercion and whatnot, it’s a lot easier to do something like that if you’re going to do it with a lawyer. If not, then you politely decline and either have a lawyer on a retainer to deal with it or have a lawyer on speed dial if something becomes of it.

Jeb Butler:

Yeah. Okay. Early on in our conversation just now, you talked about party to a crime. I dimly remember that from the hot minute I spent in a prosecutor’s office, but I don’t know that near as well as you do, I bet. I do recall that a lot of people got in a lot of trouble through party to a crime. Can you tell us what that is?

Zack Tumlin:

Yes.

Jeb Butler:

If you deal with it.

Zack Tumlin:

Happy to do it. And I deal with it. In fact, I typically prefer to defend party liability to drug crimes than I do actual drug crimes. And the reason being is, for example, someone is rolling up Georgia 400 through Dawson County or Lumpkin County. A traffic stop is made, marijuana in the car by smell. A search ensues and contraband is found and no one claims the marijuana. So the officer has a judgment call to make, do I arrest the driver? Do I arrest the person who I think it may belong to based on where the contraband is located in the car? Or do I arrest everybody? And quite frankly, the way I see it in my practice, if you only arrest one person and there’s four in the cars, then the criminal defense attorney for who is arrested has a great defense, wasn’t me, it was them.

Jeb Butler:

[inaudible 00:24:55]Zack Tumlin:

And they’re not charged. And they’re identifiable witnesses, and it’s reasonable to believe that they may be responsible for the crime. So what I see in my practice, and I get an awful lot of calls about is, “I was in the passenger of the car with my boyfriend. We were arrested for drugs. They’re not my drugs. What do I do?” Call me, come in and see me. Because you need a lawyer, because party to the crime is the same penalty as possession.

Jeb Butler:

So what does party to the crime mean? If I’m in the car with someone who has the drugs, I can be charged with having the drugs too?

Zack Tumlin:

So essentially, yes. You’re both charged with possession. It’s not charged with party, but you’re both charged with possession because you theoretically have the opportunity to exercise dominion or control over the contraband in the car. The way I look at that is a party liability offense might not be yours, but you’re party to it because you’re in the car and privy to it. And so it’s very similar to a situation where somebody breaks into the store to steal candy bars or cold beer or whatever it is, and you have driven them there. You didn’t do, it might not have been your intent for that to happen, but if you’ve driven them to the store and this type of thing happens, and I have a case, this is why I’m talking about it, you’re charged as party to the substantive crime because you took a small step to help effectuate the crime.

Jeb Butler:

And that’s all the law requires. One step to help with the crime, and you can be one to be charged with the whole thing.

Zack Tumlin:

You can be charged with the whole thing. One, you didn’t do it, you took a step to help it. You can be charged with the whole thing. It’s a very serious situation. So yeah, you’ll need a lawyer to deal with those cases.

Jeb Butler:

And hopefully that’s the kind of case where you can really do something. If it’s a kind of a trumped up BS kind of thing.

Zack Tumlin:

A lot can be done oftentimes. But I always like to say this, I’m not the judge. I’m not the prosecutor. I don’t have the crystal ball. I’m not that lawyer that makes guarantees on the outcome of the case. What I guarantee is to represent you in a very zealous fashion to present your defense within the balance of law, of course. But you do need an effective advocate in those situations. Because things can snowball super fast.

Jeb Butler:

Let’s talk about money. Do you work for free?

Zack Tumlin:

I do not, in most cases. I have been known to do some charitable work here and there, but no, I do not work for free as a general rule.

Jeb Butler:

Okay. Tell me what you charge.

Zack Tumlin:

It depends. It depends on the facts and circumstances. It depends on your criminal history. In other words, if this is your first time DUI, it’s very different than a charge for your third DUI. If you are charged in a certain county, and I know that the process is going to take significantly longer, then I would probably have a fee built in to account for all that additional time I’m anticipating. It really is, I mean, I don’t have a set fee rate. I have ranges. I would say on misdemeanor cases, it could be anywhere between, let’s say, $1,500 to $7,500, depending on the situation for misdemeanor offenses. And on felony cases, I typically have a $5,000 floor just to put my name on the case, and that is to be counsel of record, enter the case, investigate the case, gather reports, conduct some interviews, get an idea of what we’re doing, and then there are different fees if we’re going to litigate the case with pretrial motion hearings and different fees if we’re going to try the case to a jury.

Jeb Butler:

Okay. You charge a retainer?

Zack Tumlin:

I do. Yes. Yes. Always get paid up front in the criminal context. It’s just not worth chasing fees down the road.

Jeb Butler:

Sure.

Zack Tumlin:

So personal injury type work, it’s typical to have a contingency. You retain a percentage of what you’re able to recover. A lot of lawyers and divorce and transactional type work, they bill by the hour trusting that they will get paid or they take a retainer up front and bill against it and have it replenished. But in the criminal context, it’s mostly a flat fee type thing based on the nature of the case and the service required.

So for example, you could call me and you could say, “Tumlin, I got busted for weed and it’s mine and I don’t want to go to trial. I don’t want to go to jail. Can you help negotiate a plea on this case?” In that situation, would’ve a different fee structure than someone walks in saying, “This happened to me. I want out of it. If I can get out of it, I want to litigate this. I want to look at fourth amendment issues. I want to look at fifth Amendment issues. I want to have a jury review my case.” That’s going to be a significantly higher fee than me picking up the phone and calling the prosecutor in the county wherein the offense occur, giving an account of the situation and requesting a plea deal, and then calling the judge to get a court date executing the paperwork and moving these matters on. So that would just be a different type of service.

Jeb Butler:

It depends on how much time you have spent.

Zack Tumlin:

Yes.

Jeb Butler:

All right. Are you able to give a, I feel like you said your bread and butter is in part, the DUI cases. Are you able to give a rough price range on DUIs?

Zack Tumlin:

Yes. They just vary, yes. I typically charge $5,000 to enter onto a first in lifetime DUI case and $6,000 on a second and $10,000 on a third if there’s been some type of homicide involved or whatnot minimum $10,000, depends on the facts of the case and what’s going on.

Jeb Butler:

Well, Zack, before we had technical difficulties with the camera, we were starting to talk about trial. And I’m going to do something unusual for me in the context of these videos and podcasts and get on my soapbox for a little bit and make this point so that you don’t have to. And that is that knowing how to try a case matters. And it matters even if your client never wants to go to court. I mean, in my world, in order to get a good settlement for a client, then the defense and the insurer has to know that you’re willing to go to trial. And only then are they motivated to pay.

And I feel like in your world, if you’re going to get a good plea deal or get something worked out, maybe even with no plea deal, it has to be because the prosecutor knows that Zack Tumlin’s on the other side of this case, he knows how to try a case. He’s done it a bunch and he’s won a bunch. So I guess react to that a little bit and tell us a little bit about your trial experience, where you done it, and how often?

Zack Tumlin:

Truer words have never been spoken, Jed. Lawyers in the personal injury context and in the criminal defense context, just simply have to be battle tested for trial. They need to know how to do it, and they need to be unafraid to go to trial on a case, because as you’ve said, it’s the difference in a payout in a civil case. It’s the difference in a fair plea deal in a criminal case or sometimes an outright dismissal. And we’ve seen that many a times in several of my cases, and I’ve tried dozens of cases, but I’ve prepared for hundreds of cases. And I can’t tell you, especially early in my career, how many cases that I was just very well prepared to take to trial because either you believe in the case or you believe the case has been overcharged, and there needs to be a different outcome to a lesser included charge or something like that.

But being trial ready and unafraid to go to trial can oftentimes get you to the end result without having to risk the trial itself. So in the criminal context, having a lawyer who everyone knows will not try a case, you might imagine you’re never going to get the plea deal that you want or would probably deserve in several cases. Or if you have a case where you’re truly believing that you’re not guilty, you need a lawyer who’s battle tested at trial and who’s willing to try your case, because that oftentimes can result in a null process on the morning of trial. In other words, sometimes prosecutors are seeing how serious you are about your case.

Jeb Butler:

So you show up for court and they say, you know what, Zack, why don’t you just go home? Going to null process one.

Zack Tumlin:

Sometimes state versus Jed Butler, your Honor. We’re going to null process in that case. Okay, no objection. And that happens sometimes. So yes, trial work is awesome. It’s very rewarding. It’s very exhausting, quite frankly, as you know, because your brain is on fire every second of the day when you’re in trial. But it’s also just an awesome, awesome thing. And I mean, I love a good trial.

Jeb Butler:

And you’ve done it all across Northeast Georgia, I think.

Zack Tumlin:

Yeah. I have from Rabun County to Forsyth County and Hall County up to Blue Ridge. I guess northeast Georgia is the footprint. Northeast Georgia is the footprint. Now I’ve admitted to practice in Florida too. And when I retire, I keep that bar license up because I may get involved in semi retirement down in Florida in the panhandle on the Florida, Alabama state line.

Jeb Butler:

Yeah. Yeah, just don’t wear black socks with your sandals.

Zack Tumlin:

I won’t. That’s something you would do.

Jeb Butler:

That’ll be your last invitation to my podcast. All right. So the last thing I wanted to ask you about, I’ve been knowing you a long time. I feel like one of the things that makes you special is relationships. My sort of subject of impression is that that is a big part of what you’re able to do for your clients.

Zack Tumlin:

That’s right.

Jeb Butler:

In your footprint. Tell us about that.

Zack Tumlin:

That’s right. Relationships are so critically important because if your lawyer is super abrasive and despised by the state or other lawyers in civil matters, there’s very little chance of effective resolution early on. And so a lot of what I’ve done as I’ve been practicing for about 15 years now, is develop great relationships with judges on the bench, credibility with judges on the bench, relationships with prosecutors who determine the order in which cases go and which cases to prosecute and not. And those relationships for me, I think can result in speed. And I would say that’s the thing I’m most proud about my practice is the speed in which I’m able to work through the relationships that I have with the prosecutors all throughout Northeast Georgia. And so for example, if someone is stuck in the hooch and they don’t have a bond or they have a bond they can’t make, then the typical process is to get a hearing with the court, set it down, show up.

That typically can take up to 30 days or more. And that’s an awful long time to be waiting on an opportunity to present your case to a judge. If you have credibility with a DA’s office or a solicitor’s office or whoever’s in the prosecutorial capacity on a case and you can make your arguments in advance and you have a long history of trust with these folks, then oftentimes you can get consent orders. And that’s where Biker Mike and I jump on the trail, is to go prepare these orders, chase a judge down, get a signature, file it with the clerk, get it to the sheriff’s office and have you home, if it can be done. And speed matters in that context.

Jeb Butler:

Yeah. Now I got to chase this. You mentioned a man, it’s just a legend. I don’t really know. You mentioned somebody called Biker Mike.

Zack Tumlin:

Yeah.

Jeb Butler:

Who the hell is Biker Mike?

Zack Tumlin:

Mike, come over here. Biker Mike.

Jeb Butler:

So Zack, you were sharing a story. We were off camera about pounding the pavement and sitting in the front row at a hearing and saying this to the judge and helping out a client. Tell us about that if you would.

Zack Tumlin:

I will, ladies and gentlemen, Biker Mike. Biker Mike is a hero in my book. He drives. And he is so effective in what he does because I can’t work if I’m driving and focusing on the road. So I’m on the phone, literally, all day, every day I think in my practice. And oftentimes we don’t even know where we’re going.

Biker Mike:

True.

Zack Tumlin:

But we are on the road, to different courthouses on the daily it seems like, but certainly every week. And Mike is just so such an important part of my practice, because he drives and he gets me there. So that I can work on the laptop, I can work on the phones, I can draft orders and documents, and it’s a very efficient way of work by having somebody like Biker Mike, my right-hand man. Anything to add?

Biker Mike:

I drive.

Jeb Butler:

You’d think that with enough lawyers, you learned sometimes to be a man of few words, when the occasion calls for it.

Zack Tumlin:

Right.

Jeb Butler:

We were talking about that. But tell me about a consent order, getting a judge’s attention fast, where it might take me, I’m a PI lawyer, person injury, I don’t do criminal work, it might take me three weeks.

Zack Tumlin:

We’ll just start with this hypothetical. Let’s say you’ve been arrested, you’re sitting in the jail, you’re charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana because you had a chance for it with some weed in it and $500, and they charge you with intent to distribute because you had a large sum of money next to your personal stash of marijuana. A bond is not set for you. In that situation I would want to figure out the county where it occurred, the prosecutor who has jurisdiction over the offense call and say, “This is my client’s criminal history. According to him, check it if you want. We’re going to let you know that they’re not a flight risk. They’re not on probation somewhere, they’re not a threat to witnesses. We need a bond. Will you sign a $5,000 bond if I prepare it?” “Yes, I will.” Okay.

Jeb Butler:

And then the judge has to sign it.

Zack Tumlin:

Then the judge has to sign it. Okay. So what I would do is prep up a consent order, meaning the lawyers agree that a bond should be set and I prepare it, sign the prosecutor’s name with his express permission, figure out where the judge is having jurisdiction over the offense.

Jeb Butler:

Because the judge can write a circuit in Northeast Georgia.

Zack Tumlin:

In northeast Georgia, judges write circuits. So the superior courts are multiple counties in a circuit. So for example, the Enotah Judicial Circuit is Lumpkin, White, Towns and Union County. In the Northeastern Circuit it’s Hall and Dawson County, the Mountain circuit is Habersham, Rabun and Stephens County. So knowing where you’re going, knowing which judges are going to be over a case, and knowing who can sign the order is important. And then it’s a game of figuring out where they are. And rather than waiting on a judge to come to the county where you’re stuck in jail, Biker Mike and I will go find this judge and sit in the courtroom and wait for an opportunity to get the consent order signed. And that’s service, right? And that’s the fun part of this is delivering lightning fast service.

Now, I can’t say that a consent bond is granted and offered in every single case, but if it can be done, you need a lawyer with relationships, with the prosecutors having jurisdiction over the offense. And you need to have the respect of the judges who you are chasing in hopes of getting their signature. And then it’s a matter of getting it filed with the clerk of court, served on the sheriff and getting you home.

Jeb Butler:

And you need Biker Mike.

Zack Tumlin:

Yeah, you have to have Biker Mike.

Jeb Butler:

Thank y’all for coming in.

Zack Tumlin:

Thank you very much. Thank you guys for listening.

Jeb Butler:

Thanks man. All right.

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