Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ithaca Lawyer The Triple Play of Bad Decision Making

People fascinate and amaze me. Where do we get the Beerita (a combo of a margarita and a beer)? Did two people in a bar fall into each other?

Actually I have always been interested in the psychology of human behavior. What makes people tick? What are their motivations? How do they make decisions?

If you look hard enough at any problem you will eventually see a pattern or patterns. I love to discover things. I have noticed a pattern that I often see play out within my criminal defense, and DWI practice. A coming together of three things prior to a bad decision being made.

They are: 

1. lateness of night or day
2. emotional stress or stressor
3. under the influence of a drug or substance whether illegal or legal

Seeing this pattern occur over and over led me to ask the following questions:

Why do these three things lead people to poor judgment? 
Why do very bright and intelligent people find themselves in horrible situations when this pattern emerges?

"GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR, YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE"

The above quote is engraved on the Statute of Liberty. It is the symbol of salvation and of hope. It brings to together three things often found in College parties on a Saturday night: tired, poor (probably hungry as well), and unable to breathe (lack of oxygen from drinking).

We are always at our best when fully charged, fed, and rested. As they say, make your choices in the clear light of day. Your physical batteries will be running low if you are hungry and/or tired. Car dealerships use this to their advantage when taking your keys prior to negotiating. They wear you down, and keep you captive for hours. Tired people tend to make bad or poor decisions because they don't have the energy to fully engage, to think, or to focus. This is how the person you thought was prince charming (beautiful, smart, funny) at 3:00am turns out to be a toad at 10:00am.

LOVE, FEAR, OR ANGER,
WHETHER THEY ARE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE,
YOUR EMOTIONS CLOUD YOUR JUDGMENT

In the heat of passion, blinded by love, these phrases speak to the fact that when we are polarized, whether up or down, you are out of balance. Your best decisions will not be made if you are emotionally worked up.
I can't even begin to tell you the number of people I have represented for crimes that occurred soon after a fight or break up. You want a bad idea, have a serious relationship discussion late, and after drinking. 

THE LOSS OF WILLPOWER AND IMPULSE CONTROL

Many preferred drugs (including alcohol) will first alter our state of mind. They tend to loosen us up. This relaxation effect feels good in our bodies but it also lets down our mental guard. You see our natural state is one with controls. We control what we do and say. This requires energy and effort. This is also requires consciousness. As we slip into oxygen debt (how alcohol works), our brains work less, and our impulses (urges) are released. This is how the guy that normally can't talk to women has a few too many drinks, and is now being aggressive and saying inappropriate things. 

THE RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Take one relatively stable, intelligent, and well adjusted person
Bring them to party after a full day of work and/or school
Mix in some marijuana and alcohol (the more the better)
Get them either riled up or depressed (relationship breakups work best here)

Now get into an argument with them or have them try to make an important decision

Guaranteed this will not turn out well. Have you ever tried to argue or reason with a drunk, stoned, emotionally charged, and tired person at 2:00am? Not fun or funny (well maybe)!

PREPARATION TRUMPS ALL

So the lesson here is to always prepare yourself in advance. Do not place yourself in a weak position. Much like chess, you must play the game in your head before engaging the real game. This is the best way to win.

Have the phone numbers of taxis, people, & car services on your phone.
Arrange rides prior to making any plans.
Arrange safety nets, places you can go to crash, rest, and sleep.
Leave your car, and your car keys home.
Limit the number of bar, and party hops (the more nightly movement the higher the chances of issues)
Many DWIs come as a result of people going from one location to another location to drink and then another.
Nothing takes the place of food, and rest.
Generally, drugs make you weak and vulnerable, don't assume you are above this.
If drinking, stay with safe company, with people you know and trust.

Law Offices of Lawrence Newman
504 N. Aurora St.
Ithaca, NY 14850

607-229-5184