Criminal Law Advice
Attorney Lauren Thomas from Sinsheimer & Associates provides her weekly Criminal Law Advice.
A little work on your part might just keep you out of jail. Read here to find out how.
Once you get arrested and a court case starts you can feel a little helpless because you don’t know what is going on and you desperately want to feel like you are doing something to help out.
In addition to the standard “MUSTs” (show up to Court on time and do whatever your lawyer asks you to do) here are a couple things that you can do to take a pro-active approach to your case:
If you did not graduate High School, enroll in a GED program. If you have graduated High School and work in a trade, see if you can get additional training. If you always thought about culinary school, or automotive school, or some other kind of school; now is the time to sign up. If nothing else, try to sign up for some continuing education courses in an area you find interesting.
Judges like to see that people are stepping up and trying to better themselves. Judges see this type of initiative as a possible new step—away from being a repeat offender in their courtroom.
If you do not have a job, do anything you can to get one before there is a resolution in your case and keep it! If you do have a job, make sure you hang onto it.
People who are employed are (a) paying taxes which pay for the courthouses and the judge’s salaries; (b) less likely to commit crime; and (c) appear more responsible. Judges are sick and tired of hearing that someone is hanging on the couch “trying to get a job.” Unless you can make a real showing to the judge that you have been busting your butt to get a job and can’t; the judge will assume that you are a dead beat and that they will likely see you again—you may even become a regular customer of the judicial system.
3. Substance Abuse Programs
If your crime involved drugs or alcohol in any way (ie: you were using, selling, possessing…), get into a substance abuse program. This does not mean you should sign up for an in-patient facility the day before you are supposed to be arraigned—judges are sick of this trick. Work with your lawyer, the court and the prosecutor to get into a real program that you can succeed in. This is the key. If you can not succeed in a program, don’t start it—this will only make matters worse. But, if you can get into a program, take it seriously and complete it successfully, this could go a long way to getting a disposition without jail time.
At a minimum start attending regular AA or NA meetings and bring the court proof.
Most crime is in some way connected to drugs and alcohol. Judges know this. If you can convince the judge that you have changed your ways, they may give you an opportunity to prove to them without jail time that sober you stays out of trouble.
3. Volunteer Work
Find a way to try to give back to the community. This could be working a soup kitchen. It could be babysitting at church on Sunday. It could be coaching an afterschool baseball team. Anything you can do that donates your time to improving the community is a positive thing your lawyer can press when negotiating with the prosecutor or pleading your case to a judge.
You, as many do in this economy, may not be able to afford to sign up for classes, get in rehab and just can’t find a job—there is no excuse why you can’t do volunteer work. Even if you are disabled and collecting money from the government, there is some type of volunteering you can do. Go to a nursing home and read to old people. SOMETHING!!
4. Pay Assessed Costs
If you read my article “You Have The Right To An Attorney…”; you know that often times there is a fee associated with getting a court appointed lawyer. If you can find a way to pay any part of that fee between your first court date and your next, even if it is only $20, pay it. This will go a long way with the court. What you accomplish by doing this is you show they judge that you respect an order of the court. You would be amazed at how many people don’t pay anything and then a judge won’t accept a plea or wants additional conditions on release or a longer probation period because no money has been paid.
I know some of this might sound cheesy or you may be thinking that this stuff won’t fool the judge—trust me—it often works. Judges are real people too and they do not want to rip you out of a job or school. They also don’t want to look like the mean guy when your sponsor or the person who runs the volunteer program comes in and tells the judge what a wonderful person you are. Depending on the facts of the underlying case, your actions could mean the difference between jail time or probation.
As always, before doing anything it is probably a good idea to run it past your lawyer to get his blessing.