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Time, Place, and Manner

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Turn Away Petty Criminal Clients

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A client walks in to your office, tells you he's been charged with public intoxication, wants you to represent him.

Show him out, immediately.

It's a well known secret among drunken revelers that no one is ever charged with public intoxication for being publicly intoxicated. It's also true of disorderly conduct, a resisting arrest charge not accompanied by another offense, and any white person charged with loitering. These charges are, more often than not, little more than code for "Was a Dick to a Cop in the Third Degree." They are minor charges and rarely come with jail time for a first time offender. Cops make the arrests not because you are a criminal, but because you're being a bad citizen and while slapping you across the face for that might be jurisprudentially problematic, it's something as a society we're generally willing to accept. In the absence of directly pissing off the cop, it's also possible to get these charges by pissing off a civilian to the point where they call the cops, and then the cops punish you for being a big enough dick to make them come out there. Pretty much the same deal.

If someone comes in to your office looking for you to defend them on one of these charges, ask yourself if this is really the type of client you want to represent. If he was a dick to a uniformed police officer carrying a gun, a tazer, and the long arm of the law, how much of a dick do you think he's going to be to his asshole lawyer who carries an outdated Blackberry?

He's going to be a dick to the judge when you get into the court room, and that's not going to help your reputation with the judge the next time you see him. And good luck getting paid.


There is another sort of client who might come in with these charges. Probably younger, no prior arrests, well educated, likely a college student or a recent graduate, polite, moderately attractive, and almost certainly white. The first time didn't really commit a crime but was hit with a charge just for being a prick. This second type did actually do something, something worse than what he was actually charged with (think assault for a public intox charge), but he was extremely polite with the police and they cut him a break with a lesser offense.

You also don't want to represent this client.

Unlike the first type, he'll probably be nice to you, and his parents are almost certainly going to pay upfront. The problem is that he is in fact guilty, he got a huge break with the charge already being reduced to a minor offense, and yet despite this he still wants to fight it. If he's planning to plead guilty and just wants representation to make sure he gets a sentence of community service, or time served, or gets youthful offender status, fine, represent him. But if he wants to challenge the charge brought against him, he's actually probably a bigger dick that the guy who got a night in jail for talking about a cop's momma. He's just a dick who knows how to behave in front of the cops.

[Read more from Lawyerlite]

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