Cleary Law handles a variety of common criminal cases, including misdemeanors to felonies. Our primary focus, however, is on DUIs and charges that are common in college towns, including minor in possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and simple possession of marijuana. We particularly enjoy helping college students and other young people keep their records clean for their future.
What Are The Top Misconceptions That People Have About A Criminal Arrest?
When it comes to minor charges, many people think they do not necessarily need to hire a lawyer. What they do not realize is that there are harsh consequences for many convictions, including those for disorderly conduct and minor in possession. For example, there was a young girl whose application to grad school was flagged because she had a ticket for driving with an expired license tag. Graduate schools, colleges and jobs are highly competitive these days and these types of charges are getting in the way of people’s futures.
Some people think they cannot afford a lawyer. In reality, they cannot afford not to hire a lawyer. Many times people come back years after a conviction. At the time, they did not think they needed a lawyer and just pled guilty to either get out of going to jail or to have the issue resolved quickly. They come to realize they made a terrible mistake and any criminal defense lawyer would have been able to mitigate the damages and consequences. Now, with a decrease in earning potential they find they were pennywise and a pound foolish. They would have been a lot better off financially in the long run had they hired a lawyer in the first place.
Another misconception people have when it comes to minor criminal charges is they assume they will go to jail. Now, initially they may be arrested and go to jail but the individual is generally released the next day.
Some people have a fear they will be sentenced to time in jail for minor offenses though usually that is not really something to be concerned about if you hire a criminal defense lawyer. Jail time is not common for what we call a summary court charge, which is a minor charge heard in either a magistrate’s court or in a municipal court, like a town or a city.
Though there may not be actual jail time, there will likely be fines. But more importantly, there are going to be consequences later on that could keep someone from getting certain licenses, going to graduate school or being hired for a specific job. The military is rejecting people for very minor offenses. People must consider the long term potential collateral consequences of even a minor charge for a crime.
Should People Answer Any Questions From Law Enforcement Without An Attorney?
People hurt themselves everyday by answering questions posed by law enforcement. It happens all of the time. It is what we call “good manners syndrome”. People think if an officer asks a question, they have to answer it. When someone is pulled over in a vehicle, the only thing by law a person is required to do, is provide your license, registration and proof of insurance.
You don’t have to answer the question, “Do you know how fast you were going?”
You don’t have to answer the question, “How much have you had to drink?”
You don’t have to answer the question, “Did you know you ran that red light back there?”
Do not answer these questions. A lot of people feel that because they are asked questions like this by law enforcement they are obliged to answer them. Instead I tell people if you are pulled over tell the officer, “I would like to invoke my right to remain silent” and then hand over my business card. Anything that is said is going to be used against you. Throughout the process be as polite as possible while still protecting your rights.
The other thing that people mistakenly do is they believe it when the officers say, “It will be better if you go ahead and tell me now how much you’ve had to drink.”
That is rarely the case. It is not going to be any better no matter what. People have to realize that and as much as I respect law enforcement officers for what they do to protect us on a daily basis, the reality is, they are not truly a friend in this situation. They are not there trying to help you. They are trying to make arrests. They think you have done something wrong and that everyone is the bad guy.
For more information on Criminal Offenses in South Carolina, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling today.