Do I Need an Attorney for My Minor Traffic or Criminal Case?
Our lawyers are in court just about every day of the week. While we are there, we see people handle relatively minor matters without representation, achieving seemingly good results. However, we also see unrepresented individuals make disastrous decisions that unnecessarily result in otherwise avoidable fines, lengthy terms of probation, or even periods of incarceration. Whether or not you "need" an attorney for your situation depends on your individual circumstances and comfort level. For example, many people are perfectly willing to go to court by themselves for a speeding ticket to accept whatever points and fines the judge may impose (while also hoping the officer does not show up). But other people may be concerned about avoiding higher insurance rates if found guilty. Other people may have a job that requires them to drive for a company; that company's insurance carrier may not allow employees to have convictions for certain moving violations. Or the driver may have a provisional license that could result in a 30 to 180 day suspension of all driving privileges if the driver is convicted or granted a probation before judgment disposition for a moving violation.
It is important to remember that, just because you have heard of a friend or relative who got a good outcome in a particular matter, does not mean that you are going to get the same outcome. Going to court is not like walking into a fast-food restaurant where every person who orders up the same item for the same price, receives the same item at the same price. Every county in Maryland has different policies about how certain cases are to be handled. Those policies can be affected by things as simple as what happened in the news in the last 30 days, and whether or not it is an election year for a judge or local State's Attorney. Prosecutors have different personalities and so do the judges. Some of those prosecutors and judges may be sympathetic to the unfortunate circumstances that led to your current predicament. Other prosecutors and judges may find your explanations to be pathetic and disgraceful. Sometimes, people just are in bad moods when they go to work and it is reflected in how they treat people that day. For better or for worse, the judicial system is staffed by real human beings who apply their own unique personalities to the process that you will experience.
In many cases, going through the court system is like going on a six month hike through the wilderness. The weather may be always sunny and warm. You may never be lacking for food and shelter. You may never suffer any injury or confront any adverse situation. You may complete your journey in a satisfactory manner. On the other hand, your hike may experience torrential downpours, difficult climbs, and predatory animals or persons. Your equipment may fail or you may suffer a serious injury that jeopardizes your ability to safely complete the journey. However, having an experienced "guide" with you -- someone who has the experience and equipment to be ready for any contingency -- greatly increases your chances of success.
Similarly, an attorney can be a valuable"guide" and advisor as you journey through the legal process. Your attorney can identify opportunities to take advantage of, and also keep you away from pitfalls that could make your situation much worse. For example, a prosecutor may say to you, "I am missing an officer today. I can ask to postpone the matter to another day. But I will offer you the opportunity to plead to a lesser charge in front of this judge today and be done with the case." Confronted with that situation, you will want to know: If I do not take the deal, what are the chances the judge will grant the State's request for a postponement? Will the case be dismissed if the postponement is denied, or can the State proceed on some of the charges? Will the judge be better or worse on the next court date if the case gets postponed? Are there advantages to me if the case is postponed? What are the risks of the lesser charge I am being offered today? What is the judge today likely to impose as a punishment for the lesser charge? Do I have a "good" judge today or a "bad" judge? Is this an offer that is far too good to pass up? Or is the offer of no meaningful benefit to me?
In nearly every case, we usually identify some contingency, opportunity, or pitfall that the prospective client was not aware of when he or she first consulted with us. That is for the simple reason that most people are not in court handling similar cases on a regular basis as we are. If you think you would like our assistance for your matter, please feel free to contact us to arrange a consultation.