People really have no idea how the system works from top to bottom. Most of the time when someone comes into an attorney’s office, their head is spinning. They are looking for guidance and trying to figure out answers about what’s going to happen to them.
The biggest misconception people have is regarding interaction with law enforcement. Most people think they can explain their way out of trouble, but that’s where they really get themselves into trouble. People tend to think if I am a good guy, and cooperate with the police, they think that they’re either not going to get charged or the police are going to go easy on them.
It makes a lot of sense if you think back on how kids are raised. When you’re raised as a kid, if something goes wrong, you go to a police officer. If you get lost, you go to a police officer. People have this kind of idea that all police officers are out there trying to help them every time they interact. However, when that police officer is investigating a crime, it’s generally the exact opposite of that. A police officer is going to try to solicit information out of you that is incriminating. Police officers aren’t out there to hear everybody’s side of the story and make the best decision possible at the time in which a crime occurs; they are out there to build cases against people.
Another common misconception is people think they are safe if the officer didn’t read them their Miranda Rights. People see that on TV all of the time. They get their information from watching crime shows. As far as reading your Miranda rights, that isn’t a “get out of jail free” card by any means. In most cases, it only applies in one narrow aspect.
Another misconception would be admitting to crimes. People who admit to crimes not knowing what they are admitting to is a crime. They just don’t know the law and they think that explaining themselves is somehow going to get them out of it. The easiest example of this is on domestic battery. In Kansas, the average person is going to think domestic battery is slapping somebody or punching somebody, giving them a black eye, bloody nose or something like that. However, the law on domestic battery is completely different.
All you have to do to be found guilty of domestic battery is have committed an unprivileged or unwanted touching in a rude, angry or insulting manner. That’s a far cry from punching someone. If you’re in a fight with somebody and you’re yelling at your spouse or you are getting into some sort of argument and you lay your hand on them, most people would consider that a touching done in a rude, angry or insulting manner. When the police arrive, people may start saying things such as, “Well, I didn’t hit her or slap her. I didn’t do this,” thinking that they are getting themselves out of trouble when all they are really doing is admitting to a crime. This whole idea, that if you are a good guy and are honest with police officers, they are somehow going to help you, is the biggest misconception when it comes to any type of criminal case.
Another misconception that people have is when they get arrested. Most people think, “I’ve been arrested. They’ve got me” when in reality, the burden of proof for arresting someone is just probable cause. Probable cause is a lot lower of a standard than is required to prove somebody guilty, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. People think that when they are arrested, it’s time to come clean. “Well, they have got me. I might as well confess. I might as well tell them.” The police are there the whole time pushing that agenda to get people to admit to things because it will be easier to convict them if they admit guilt.
Another misconception is they think this is the time to make a deal. The police are going to further that agenda, and will tell the person, “If you tell us you admit to this, then we’re going to be easier on you”. The reality of it is the police don’t make the decisions when it comes to settling deals. It’s the prosecutor and you’re way better off to remain silent and make a deal with the person who actually can make a deal; the prosecutor.
Another misconception is regarding bond. People think that you pay bond and that money is gone and you never get it back. They also think that just because they haven’t been convicted of a crime, the court can’t restrict what they are doing while they are on bond and that’s another major misunderstanding. It gets people in trouble all the time.
There are also a lot of fallacies about hiring a lawyer. Everyone knows that it’s intimidating and costly and they think they want the meanest lawyer they can find or the most expensive lawyer that they can find.
Really when you are looking at who your attorney is going to be, first of all, you want to make sure that you get along with your lawyer and that you trust him.
As mentioned, hiring a lawyer is costly. People think they can’t afford an experienced attorney. However, there are ways around this. A lot of lawyers work on payment plans and sometimes they will help you just because you need help. There are times that people visit an attorney and they don’t have the money but they have got a case that needs to have someone on it.
Another common misconception is about time. Again, it’s largely based off TV. People watch shows like CSI and they think all cases get wrapped up in one episode. They think it’s just bang, bang, bang, and everything goes through. That is not how it works. Criminal defense is not something you want to rush. Your liberty and your life is on the line. You don’t want to rush through it just so that you feel better. These cases take time and it’s not uncommon for a case to take a year depending on the level of severity.