What Are Top Misconceptions That People Have About Criminal Arrests?
The first mistake they make is to think it can’t get better when it ordinarily can, but other mistakes they make is to think it wise to do what the police tell them to, such as to speak to them without a lawyer present and not invoke their right to remain silent; and to allow police to search their vehicle. Our legal system was created in an environment in which all of the Founding Fathers were indicted criminals, so they were very attuned to maintaining their rights and the police wouldn’t dream of asking the things they ask today. We have come quite far from that day, and most people who aren’t indicted think they should cooperate with police and that there is something wrong with asserting your rights and making the police do their investigative work rather than giving them all they need for a case.
How Public Will The Knowledge of My Criminal Arrest Be?
The first issue we face, and it’s not really an issue of the law, is that a lot of town police provide their police blotter to the local town papers. If you live in Westfield, they used to give it to the Westfield Leader, which could be embarrassing; your mom would walk down the street and the neighbors would be sitting on their porch reading the Westfield Leader and ask her what you did. Thankfully, now the Westfield Leader and all of these local town papers are online.
What happens is, someone Googles your name and the first hit that comes up is that you were arrested or for possession of marijuana or something you’d rather people not know about, especially employers. However, it’s impossible to get rid of that information because the newspaper has to print everything in the blotter or they open themselves up to accusations that they are selectively printing items, which means lawsuits. When you go to apply for a job, your employer will likely run a background check on you because they want to know who they are dealing with and any criminal offense will appear on that background check.
Oftentimes, what we’re looking to do is not just prevent jail time or determine if a person is guilty or not guilty; we’re looking to clear the record. One way we do that is through the deferred disposition program such as PTI or conditional dismissals, which basically means, if you stay out of trouble for a while, the charges get dismissed, if it’s a first offense. We also go through the expungement process.
What Do You Advise Clients Who Consider A Guilty Plea and Rely on “The Mercy of the Court?”
People think that saying the words “not guilty” feels like a lie, because they misunderstand what it means. If someone comes into court and pleads guilty, there is nothing else for the state to do; you have given up all of your rights, but if you don’t plead guilty, you have assigned the responsibility and burden for proving the charges to the state. You are saying that you could make things easier for them, but you’d rather let them do the work and make them show you what they have on you. That’s your right, and it’s as American as George Washington and apple pie.
We are a nation of criminals in a country formed by criminals to protect criminals because they know how out of control the government can be. Often, people ask me how I can defend criminals, and I explain that I’m not defending criminals so much as making sure that the system is working as needed. If no one pled “not guilty,” the police would know that no one was fighting and they would figure they didn’t have to follow the rules. When you plead not guilty and put the police’s work under scrutiny, you’re protecting everyone else from police abusing their power.
I’m not saying anything bad about the police that they are prone to abuse power but anybody who knows their work is going to be checked over is going to do a better job and you can ask any elementary school student if they would do the same work if the teacher didn’t check their homework every night.
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