Lawyers, Guns, and Money

“I was gambling in Havana. I took a little risk. Send lawyers, guns and money. Dad, get me out of this.”

Those are lines from “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, by the late Warren Zevon. The lyrics may make one think of a person willing to do whatever it takes, legal proceedings, violence, or bribery to get himself out of a sticky situation. Although violence and bribery do not work to get a person out of trouble here in the United States, lawyers are very much involved in criminal defense. However, guns and money have their place in the consideration of the consequences of criminal activity.

Let’s look at some of the obvious, and some of the reasonably foreseeable, but surprisingly often un-thought of consequences of committing a crime.

Jail. Though an obvious consequence of a crime, and one people are usually very much aware of when they commit a crime, it amazes me how many clients tell me, “I cannot go to jail. I simply cannot go to jail.” Of course, when a judge hears that the client cannot go to jail because the client is a single parent, or has too much going on, or whatever the reason is that the client cannot go to jail, a judge is likely to remind the client that the tremendous inconvenience in their life because of jail is something the client should have thought of, and likely did think of, before engaging in the behavior which lead to their conviction.

Fines are another obvious consequence. In a later blog, I will discuss where fine money goes, and whether the State profits off of the criminal activity of its citizens, by fining convicted criminals. But for now, I will just state that fines are very common in misdemeanor cases, but not as common in felonies. Fines of several hundred dollars are not uncommon.

There are other things a people should, but many times do not think of before committing crimes.

The cost of an attorney. The cost for the attorney is going to vary depending on where you reside, and who you hire. But generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the more you are going to have to pay an attorney. You can easily spend thousands and thousands of dollars on an attorney. Some people have to sell assets, such as vehicles, or jewelry to obtain an attorney. They often cash in, or take loans against a 401K, in order to hire an attorney. There goes that trip you were going to take to the Carribean. You spent the money on the lawyer.

Bond. If you get arrested, you may need to pay a cash bond to get out of jail while awaiting trial. The bond is an amount of money you pay to ensure your appearance in court as necessary while your case progresses. If you do not appear in court as ordered, your bond can be forfeited to the State. The amount of bond you have to pay will depend on several factors, including the severity of the crime, your criminal history, and whether you have a history of failing to appear in court. It is not uncommon for a person to have to post $25,000 before being released from jail after getting arrested. Although you will receive most of that money back at the end of your case (provided you show up in court when ordered to do so), it is still money you have to come up with, and cannot use for other things, such as your mortgage, car payment, child support, etc.

No contact orders. When the crime involves physical harm to another person, a no contact order is often entered which prohibits the defendant from having contact with the victim of the crime. These orders are found most often in domestic violence cases. Just as a client will often say, “I cannot go to jail”, a client will often demand the no contact order be lifted, because the defendant and the victim live together, have bills to pay, have kids to raise, etc. It is just not convenient to be subject to a no contact order. Again, that is something a judge would say should have been thought of before allegedly engaging in domestic violence.

Gun rights. Conviction of certain crimes, even if not felonies, will result in a loss of your right to possess firearms. For example, crimes involving domestic violence, even if not officially called, “Domestic Violence” or “Domestic Assault” will result in a loss of your firearm rights if the predicate facts for the conviction are of a domestic violence nature. Any felony conviction is going to result in the loss of your right to bear arms.

Probation costs. If placed on probation, a person will have to pay a fee to the probation office to remain on probation. A common term of probation is counseling of some sort (to help the person not get themselves into further trouble). The cost of that counseling can easily run into the several thousands of dollars.

Lost opportunities. While the cost to hire an attorney for the defense of a felony charge is likely to be high, the cost in terms of lost future income due to a felony conviction is likely much higher than the cost of hiring the attorney to try preventing the felony conviction. Employers, especially of persons drawing large wages, are often very skittish about hiring convicted felons. Even misdemeanor convictions can cause problems obtaining employment.

In the end, if you engage in criminal activity, you had better be thinking of lawyers, guns, and money.

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