By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
As even keel as I try to be — nothing gets under my skin more than people giving legal advice that have no business giving legal advice in criminal cases. Everyone has opinions, their own experiences, and what they believe to be common sense — but I’m not really even talking about that type of stuff.
The “legal advice” I’m talking about is when the very same police officer that arrests you for DWI — also tells you that you need to just talk with the prosecutor to see if you can get a good deal… or when court staff or personnel tell you it might be easier to just talk with the prosecutor rather than get a lawyer… or when a bail bondsman tells you that your case is hopeless and hiring a lawyer is a waste of money.
It unnerves me because these are people that carry a marginal amount of credibility — and because of that people tend to listen to their generally uninformed, narrow, and incomplete analysis of a particular situation — whether it’s drugs, theft, assault or DUI. Now, in defense of these people — they are probably well meaning in their intentions. It’s just extremely reckless. You wouldn’t operate on yourself because they guy at the front desk in the hospital thinks it’s a good idea… and you shouldn’t take legal advice from anyone in the justice system except YOUR lawyer.
Maybe I also get upset because unlike the police officer, court staffer, or any other various know-it-all, I spent many nights in law school up until 1 or 2 a.m. studying about the layer after layer of the law and our legal system. Unlike them, I’ve spent my entire career since law school dealing with people and learning that their personal situations also have layer after layer. And unlike them, I get to hand a 42 year-old single mother kleenex across my conference room table when she can’t get a job from a conviction 17 years before when some know-it-all in a position of semi-trust told her she didn’t need a lawyer.
Being a lawyer is a hard job. Doctors manage imperfect variables which involve the human body. Lawyers manage imperfect variables which is how the humans which comprise our system of justice will treat any given scenario. Lawyers are bound by very rigid rules of ethics which make clear that no lawyer can ever guarantee you any result — due in large part to how imperfect and how complicated legal matters can be.
Most police officers, court personnel, and various other people that tend to come into close contact with those accused of a crime are very respectful of the complexity of legal issues and of the Attorney/ Client Privilege and thus are properly deferential. Other know-it-all’s, though are loaded with bad advice that is only based on their past experiences and training — and none of it is from YOUR perspective or from the perspective of someone that’s dealt with these situations from start to finish.
I’m sure there’s a possibility that some of the things they say might be right 40, 50, or even 60% of the time… And I don’t know about you — but my personal experience is that having 40, 50, or 60% of the right information is a great way to make a very bad and uninformed choice.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific situation you should directly consult an attorney.