Tuscaloosa Law Blog

Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law

Selecting A Criminal Defense Attorney, Part One: The Dirty Diaper

So, you’ve been arrested? Or maybe it was a close friend, a significant other, a sibling, or your son or daughter. ‘Yes. What do I do now?!?’ It’s fairly common knowledge that most arrests occur in the middle of the night. Makes sense, as most incidents that run afoul of the law happen while most of us are asleep. In turn, law enforcement has a greater street and patrol presence during this time. Same holds true for a large scale event that may lend itself to an ‘excessively good time’. Just walk down the strip right after a big win at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Rarely does someone caught up in the wave of a celebration intend to put themselves in position to be charged with a crime. But things sometimes get out of control. Mix in a little bad luck, and the involvement of a police officer, and somebody is sitting in jail. ‘Again...what now?’ When you’re sitting behind bars, there’s only one thing you want...out. Ok, a hot shower and a cheeseburger too, but you can’t have those in jail. Unless, of course, you plan on staying in jail until the next time they have cheeseburgers on the menu. I’d like to tell you that a lawyer can get you out of jail. But a lawyer can’t get you out. Besides, lawyers work during the day, and are asleep when you’re in jail. When you’re sitting in jail, your first call should be to a ‘bail bondsman’. Bail bondsmen work at night, since that’s when most arrests are made, much like police officers on the street or on patrol. Cops put you in. Bondsmen get you out. ‘So, how do I choose a bondsman?’ This is a good question. Sometimes people contact me, and I can recommend a few bondsmen that clients have used before, with good results. If you are reading this blog post and want more info in this regard, shoot me a text at 205.799.3800. Maybe you want to plan ahead and have a bondsman’s number in your phone ‘just in case’.  As the saying goes, you can never be too prepared. Let me know if I can help. ‘So what’s this about a ‘Dirty Diaper’ in the title?’ Oh, yea. Glad you reminded me. I have teenagers. Was never a fan of the diaper change. Now I have twin toddlers. I buy the super huge box at Wal-Mart just to save a few bucks. The thing about a dirty diaper is this: you don’t have to stick your nose inside to know something stinks. It’s common knowledge in the Tuscaloosa legal community that the owner of a certain bail bonding company has a son that’s a sheriff’s deputy. You’ll never guess where he works...the night shift at the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Hmmm...imagine that. I can’t tell you how many clients have told me they’ve been approached inside the jail by this deputy, offering “assistance” to get them bailed out of jail. So let’s get this straight...a “law enforcement officer”, who’s on the same side of the officer that locked you up, and on the same side of the District Attorney that is going to prosecute you in court, wants to “assist” you. Let me guess...’out of the goodness of his heart’? Oh wait, his family owns a bonding company. Yes, he just wants to help you. Nothing to do with helping out the family business...ha. Let me repeat: you don’t have to stick your nose inside a dirty diaper to know something stinks. So, back to the question...How do I choose a bondsman?’ Choose a bondsman by asking a friend that can give a referral. Choose a bondsman with a ‘Google’ search. But by all means, do not choose a bondsman at the urging of someone with a financial interest in your decision. Stay tuned, we’ll talk more about the dirty diaper in Part Two. Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law 410 20th Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 Text or Call: 205.799.3800 Email: mjulaw@gmail.com

Just Run Daboll.

I liked it better before we knew that the correct pronunciation of Brian Daboll actually rhymes with table.

From an offensive standpoint, Alabama football was built on running the ball. Sure, we had some great passers through the years. Harry Gilmer, Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, & Scott Hunter to name a few, and we won our share of national titles along the way.

But after Coach Bryant secretly installed the wishbone, then unveiled it in a 17-10 upset of Southern Cal to open the 1971 season, Bama went 124-19-1 over the next 12 seasons and won three national championships.

The wishbone attack under Bryant was not conducive to the production of star running backs. Instead, it was a team offense, relying more on execution and less on five star talent.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to substitute the entire second unit on offense during the first half of games, well before the outcome was in hand.

Against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Bama ran the ball a whopping 66 times for a total of 496 yards (including 3 kneel-downs, that pulled it back under 500).

Guess what?

Neither of those numbers get you into the all-time Alabama top 5 for a single game. (Note that 8 of the 10 rushing records listed below took place during the Bryant Era)


Alabama Top 5: Rushing Attempts

#4:  77   10.17.81     38-17 over Tenn.
#4:  77    11.18.72    52-13 over Va. Tech
#3:  79     9.8.79         30-6 over Ga. Tech
#2:  80     9.30.72      48-21 over Vandy
#1    82    9.22.79      45-0 over Baylor

Alabama Top 5: Rushing Yards

#5:  502      9.21.74     52-0 over So. Miss
#4   514*  11.1.86     38-3 over Miss. St.
#3   531    10.2.71     40-6 over Ole Miss
#2   572    11.3.45     60-19 over Kentucky
#1    748    11.3.73     77-6 over Va. Tech

* I witnessed this one from the sideline as a student equipment manager


We live in a different day and age of offensive football.

Not only are defenses are more complicated, as populations everywhere have grown, talented athletes may play defense from the time they start Pop Warner football as a youngster, bred to be a linebacker or a strong safety.

To counter this, the best offenses now focus on balance.  From formations to play calling to execution, the goal is to have the opposing defense not be able to recognize whether any given play is a run or pass.

But running the ball is a constant.

I always look at teams that rely almost exclusively on the pass and know that it’s not a matter of if they’re going to have a bad Saturday, but when.  Not only does the sheer timing involved in the passing game lend itself to too many variables, even factors like wind or rain can throw off the quarterback to receiver mojo.

My favorite part about running the ball against the opposing defense?

It’s downright demoralizing.

Let’s face it, football is a game of manhood.  These days, that manhood is usually exerted on the defensive side of the ball.  There aren’t many things better than watching a wideout tiptoe over the middle and extend the ‘alligator arms’, for fear of being decapitated by a middle linebacker if he were to make an honest effort to catch the ball.

But running the ball...when you can run the ball, against guys with the talent and machismo I alluded to above...you break their will.  The guys that are accustomed to delivering punishment are the ones now being hit in the mouth.

They have no answer. Even when they know it’s coming, they have no answer.

So some of you younger folks now have a little history lesson about why us older guys love the running game so much. Watching Bama run the wishbone as a kid, the passing game was practically a foreign concept.

I watched week after week as Bama not only won games, but demoralized the opposing defense. Took their manhood. Every single week.

Oh...and the Ole Miss coach may want to issue a gag order this week, before one of his players decides to inform Bama that we are “next”...

Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law

Downtown Tuscaloosa


Little Julio Jones

The Colorado State game was a landmark event for me on a personal level.

Ever since my son was born, I've been anxious to take him to his first Bama football game.  Not that I haven't also wanted to take his twin sister, but let's just say that her personality doesn't necessarily lend itself to things like sitting and watching.  The willpower for movement is awfully strong in that one.

So after finally convincing mom that the time had come, LJJ (as I refer to him...short for 'Little Julio Jones') and I set out for the downtown parking deck and trolley ride to the stadium.

Little Julio just turned two in July.

He wears jersey number 16.  Number of nattys, tribute to the scrappy Jake Coker, and although he can't verbalize it yet, I can tell by the look in his eyes that he intends to be twice as good as the #8 responsible for his given nickname.

Once in our seats, and after a few willpower battles of 'no, you can't get down to walk back and forth on our row' and 'no, I'm not gonna stand up the entire game and hold you', we settled in.  (If you don't think standing and holding him for awhile isn't a challenge, then before the next game, run into Publix and buy a 35 pound bag of dog food and carry it into Bryant-Denny.  Sure, people will look at you sorta funny, but I bet it won't require a ticket.  Just make sure you get the 35 pounder that comes in a clear bag, lest you have to park it at the gate...)

He liked the crowd, liked the crowd noise and would yell and clap when everyone else did.  (He especially liked the Dreamland nachos.) Much of the time he was able to see the field action from the vantage point of my right leg.  The goal was to make it to halftime without an absolute meltdown, and he passed that challenge with flying colors.

Every football coach will tell you that each game usually comes down to several plays that determine the outcome.

After making it safely home, I tuned in to watch the second half of the highly anticipated Clemson-Louisville matchup.  If you recall, last year Louisville was literally a foot away from converting a 4th down play that would have given them a 1st down inside the Clemson 10 yard line to win the game, but the receiver was knocked out of bounds just short of the sticks.  We all assumed that this year's game could also be that close, especially since it would be played in Louisville, and with reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson off to an even better start than last season.

Nobody ever knows when these key plays in a game will present themselves.  It's why coaches like Nick Saban drill the mindset into the psyche of every player: 'Forget about the last play.  Play the next play'.

The reason these plays are so crucial is that they usually influence a huge swing in momentum.

Louisville is trailing in the 3rd quarter 19-7.  Jackson broke loose for a 59 yard run, setting up a first down inside the Clemson 10 yard line.  With Clemson on its heels, Louisville was poised to punch it in and pull to within 19-14.

Game on, right?  Wrong.

Back near the line of scrimmage, there's a flag.  For some reason, a wideout decided he'd thow a 'chop block' behind the play.  His block didn't assist the play in any way.  Ok, it assisted Clemson.

So instead of '1st & goal', with a chance to pull to within 5, Louisville has '1st & 25' inside its own 25 yard line.

Two plays later, Jackson throws a pick 6.  Clemson 26 Louisville 7.  Ballgame.

Foster and I headed for the exit in section N-2 just after watching Robert Foster score on a 52 yard catch and run just before the half.  Although not as impactful as the penalty play in the Clemson-Louisville game, this response touchdown pass by Jalen Hurts was huge in terms of preventing a shift in momentum.

After leading 17-0 early, Colorado State clawed back into the game and scored a touchdown to make it 17-10 with a little over two minutes left in the half.  If Alabama doesn't respond, you have a huge underdog on the road against the #1 team in the country going into the locker room only down 7 at half.  Mike Bobo would have taken that every day and 'twice on Sunday' as the saying goes.

That's how upsets happen.

You don't give underdogs hope.  Hope leads to belief.  Belief leads to confidence. Confidence leads to energy and that second wind.  Instead of guys from a drier climate wilting in the oppressive deep south humidity, they regain a sense of purpose they they can actually do this. Then you look up with 5 minutes to go in the game and the underdog is still within a possession, only needing one play, one break, one oblong shaped ball to bounce in their direction.

Their coach would not be intimidated by big time SEC football, having been a standout quarterback at Georgia.  His offense held its own and more all night, against a deep and talented Bama defense.

Let's thank Jalen Hurts and Robert Foster that we came out of the locker room to start the 3rd quarter with a 24-10 advantage instead of only 17-10.  Would Bama have won anyway?  The odds would be overwhelming in that direction.  But the momentum shift created by the two minute drive just before the half can't be understated.

And although I'm not ready to remove the nickname Little Julio, I may need to look at getting him a #1 jersey with FOSTER on the back...

Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law

Downtown Tuscaloosa






Ever heard Nick Saban describe his team as ‘scrappy’?

In his post-game interview on the field with Tom Rinaldi, Coach Saban employed this term to describe his defense.

Scrappy? Scrappy is the three star recruit that has to walk on at Alabama. Scrappy is the overachiever that didn’t get any D-1 offers. Scrappy is ‘Rudy’. Scrappy is nearly every Patriot wide receiver Tom Brady has thrown a ball to except Randy Moss.

A roster loaded with 4 & 5 star recruits doesn’t naturally bring that word to mind. But what is ‘scrappy’, really? When you have it, what do you actually have?

Sometimes to define a term, you first need to look at what it’s not. Scrappy is not entitled. Scrappy is not complacent or comfortable. Scrappy doesn’t assume anything.

What scrappy does do is work. Scrappy brings a lunchpail, so to speak. And a hardhat. Scrappy earns everything and yields nothing. Most importantly, scrappy is hungry.

Some say the past is a good indicator of the future, and Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama has been marked with notable swings of the pendulum between complacency and hunger.

After being ranked #1, then falling to Florida in the 2008 SEC title game, what was the response? The following season, Bama ran the table, avenging the loss to the Gators (and leaving a trail of famous tears on the Georgia Dome bench) on their way to a dominant win over Texas in the Rose Bowl for their first national title since 1992.

That team was on a mission, fueled by disappointment from a year earlier. Probably not so much ‘revenge’, because revenge connotes a particular target. Make no mistake, returning players wanted revenge against Tebow and company.

But you don’t get that opportunity without the hunger to battle a little harder in the offseason, the spring, summer workouts and fall camp.

We’d surely defend our title in 2010, right? Loaded with future NFL all-pro talent like Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Dont'a Hightower, Bama was all set to go back to back.

So what happened? Three losses to teams that really had no business beating us. The last one, a comeback in our backyard, still haunts most Bama fans, especially after fumbling away a chance to go up 31-7 before the half.

Is hunger a switch you can flip on? If the next game is any indicator, the answer would be a resounding yes. If the bowl game against Michigan State were a heavyweight fight, not only would the referee have called it in the 2nd round, an ambulance and a stretcher would have been summoned to ringside. It was only 49-7 due to Saban’s mercy.

The players returning for the 2011 season definitely carried over that fire from Orlando. Shutting out LSU in the title game to avenge a 9-6 overtime defensive clinic during the regular season gave Bama its 14th National Championship.

The period of time between the moments after thrashing LSU 21-0 and the 42-14 demolition of Notre Dame needs to be put under a microscope, studied, written about, bottled & sold.

Because this is the one time period that the pendulum did not swing back. Hunger didn’t fall prey to complacency. There was no comfortable. No fat and happy. You often hear Saban talk about the battle against complacency the year after a natty.

Hey, it’s human nature in any sport.

The formula for success always begins with hunger. But when you’re full, you stop eating...you stop being hungry. What was different about the 2012 team?

But for a blip on the radar named Johnny Football (and the inexplicable decision to run three straight pass plays from the 3 yard line...) the 2012 team, led by guys like A.J. McCarron & Barrett Jones, marched through the season with that same intensity that began in a mid level consolation bowl vs an overrated Big Ten team two seasons earlier. The Orange Bowl vs Notre Dame was Bama’s third consecutive complete mismatch in a bowl game.

And all you need to know about the intensity of the 2012 team took place late in the game. With Alabama up 42-14, McCarron and Jones nearly got into a shoving match on the field. The quarterback and his center were visibly pissed off at each other.


Man...I absolutely loved that moment. That is intensity. That’s not scoreboard watching or patting each other on the back. That’s called finishing. They were wearing blinders, and nothing else mattered until the clock said 00:00.

They were hungry. Despite being minutes away from a second championship in a row, they were still hungry.

Fast forward to the end of 2013. A three-peat was not only in our sights, it was talked about ad nauseum. Lack of intensity? Lack of hunger?

Let’s be objective about one thing. Yes, it was a heads up play that gave Auburn their highlight of a lifetime. But that game should have been a mismatch. That game should never have come down to a hail mary field goal attempt. But it did.

What it also did was fuel yet another swing of the pendulum. Ok, so Bama didn’t win the 2014 title, but everyone agrees that making it to the inaugural College Football Playoff far exceeded the expectations for that season. (And who knows, with Derrick Henry rushing for 27 and 28 yards the only two times we actually ran the toss sweep, maybe if that play is dialed up a few more times, Bama would have been the team running roughshod over Oregon instead of Ohio State.)

In 2015, months removed from the sting of the Ohio State loss, a team still searching for an identity early in the season seemed to flip the hunger switch in the form of a scrappy transfer quarterback named Jake Coker. Losing that early season game to Ole Miss ironically fueled another National Championship in 2015, capped off by an exciting win over Clemson in the desert.

So where does the 2017 team stand? Eight months removed from a heartbreaking loss to Clemson in a title game rematch, will this team continue to be driven by the last second loss?

If the past (2008, 2010, 2013, 2014) is any indication, there is unfinished business from the disappointment that took place in Tampa on January 9. And in the present, our sophomore quarterback has made the Clemson celebration as the screen saver on his phone. There is no shortage of motivation.

After what I would describe as a very ‘Stallings-like’ 24-7 win over a talented Florida State team, the 2017 team has all the makings of a hungry team. A hungry Bama team does not bode well for ‘the field’...especially if this team also plans to be scrappy.

Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law

Downtown Tuscaloosa


“YO! Adrian”...in the age of Google.

An iconic line from one of the most iconic movies ever made. You know those 'security questions' we are invariably required to set up on whatever website / account?  At the risk of getting hacked, when the question asks 'What's your favorite movie?', my answer is always 'Rocky'. Ok, I'll admit it's a lot shorter to type 'Rocky' than 'To Kill a Mockingbird', but it's definitely in my top five.  You won't watch a better story of willpower, perseverance & flat out guts.  Just when Apollo Creed thinks he has Balboa beaten and ready to quit, he crawls back to his feet (yet again!) and with his face battered, his eyes swollen shut, he motions his gloves as if to say 'let's go'.  That moment gets.me.every.time. (Is it getting dusty in here? I'M not crying! YOU'RE crying...) But I'll save the movie reviews for another day... The YO! I'm discussing today is actually 'Y.O.'  Everyone has heard of 'Youthful Offender', but not many folks know exactly what it means and what it entails. More importantly, I'm gonna address a huge problem with our Youthful Offender statutes in Alabama. Y.O. is a status conferred upon a defendant by the Court, and is not connected in any way to the determination of guilt or innocence. In order to be eligible for Y.O, the incident that the defendant is accused of must have occurred prior to his or her 21st birthday. Notice I stressed the word 'incident'.  Many times, defendants aren't arrested until a later date, and if the date of arrest is after age 21, on its face it appears that the defendant is not eligible for Y.O.  The best Criminal Defense Attorneys will be sure to look at this issue in order to determine whether the alleged incident date occurred prior to age 21, making the defendant eligible for Y.O. status. Y.O. status is available in every type of case, not just the less serious charges. Certainly, the Court is going to look at the nature of the allegations when making a decision. I've represented a number of defendants charged with Capital Murder who were eligible for Y.O. The granting of Y.O. status in these cases is extremely rare, but the standard procedure is still followed by the Court. While the granting of Youthful Offender serves an extremely valuable purpose by sealing the court record of the person charged, regardless of the outcome, there is a major flaw in our Y.O. statutes that needs to be addressed and updated. Wanna find out about the new restaurant Downtown?  Maybe Yelp can help. Need to check out the beach forecast for next weekend?  You can consult James Spann's blog at alabamawx.com or maybe look at weather.com. Let's say the Human Resources Director at ‘X Corporation’ in Dallas wants to find out whether a certain job applicant named Adrian got it any trouble in Tuscaloosa while she was a student at The University of Alabama. So he Googles "Adrian Peninno Tuscaloosa". Let's hold that thought for a second. Adrian is a native of Dallas. She came to Alabama on an academic scholarship and graduated with honors, with a 3.89 GPA in Marketing. Adrian is an excellent candidate for the job she's always wanted, in the hometown she loves. But when Adrian was a 20 year old sophomore, she was approached by a friend that wanted to buy a few of her Adderall pills to get through exams.  Adrian didn't think anything of it, and committing a crime was the furthest thing from her mind, especially since she knew the girl has the same prescription. Little did she know her friend had been caught with marijuana a week earlier, and desperately agreed to cooperate with drug agents to 'set someone up' and avoid an arrest for POM2. Her friend was 'wearing a wire' when she gave Adrian $10 for two Adderalls. The day after she returned from Christmas break, Adrian was arrested for Unlawful Distribution of a Controlled Substance, a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  The arrest was published in the Tuscaloosa News and their website, tuscaloosanews.com.  The link to the story and her mugshot were passed around campus, and made their way onto social media sites. Adrian was kicked out of school, and moved back home.  She was allowed to return after serving a one year suspension.  In the meantime, her case made its way through the legal system.  She was eventually granted Y.O. and she reached a settlement whereby she was placed on probation, and given no jail time to serve. As such, the Court sealed the records regarding her case.  In fact, the only two people that can access the information in the future are Adrian and her lawyer. Notice my emphasis on the word 'future'. What about Adrian's past? Now let's return to the Human Resources Director, as he's about to click on the magnifying glass that represents the search icon... In that particular setting, where is the value of Youthful Offender status? The HR director has narrowed his hiring search to five potential candidates, including Adrian.  But what's gonna happen after he enters his Google search of her time in Tuscaloosa?  That's a rhetorical question. He's gonna trim his list down to four candidates. Adrian is out.  Adrian will continue to be 'out' every time someone searches her name online. It's way past time for our legislature to address this issue.  Our Youthful Offender laws were created long before Al Gore invented the internet. Procedures need to be established that automatically grant conditional Y.O. status upon arrest.  By doing so, the arrest information would remain confidential, and would only be transmitted within the arresting agency and court system for purposes necessary to the case. At the appropriate time, the Court could then review whether to Order the Y.O. status be made permanent, or remove its protection.  If Y.O. status is removed, then the case becomes public record, and subject to publication like any other adult case. As it stands now, people like Adrian can legitimately question whether our Youthful Offender laws have kept pace with the changing times. This lawyer says they have not, and that the protection afforded by our Youthful Offender statutes is severely limited by the public's real time access of arrest information.  Trust me, a story on the internet is there forever. Our Youthful Offender laws are stuck in the dark ages, while people like Adrian continue to be unfairly punished in the age of Google. Preventing the release of public information in cases where a defendant is eligible for Youthful Offender status must become a priority to our lawmakers.   Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law Downtown Tuscaloosa http://uptonlawyer.com/blog/ new site header