When it comes to law, our attorneys have seen a lot. We asked them their thoughts on how to avoid landing yourself in legal trouble–or deepening the trouble you’re already in. Here are their thoughts:
Mary Peckham (specialties: family law, estate planning) – Hire an attorney for document review.
On divorce : “A lot of people want to go through the divorce process without hiring an attorney. Which is fine–attorneys are expensive, and divorce can be a very long process. In that situation, my biggest recommendation is to hire an attorney for an hour or two to help you go over the paperwork before you finalize it. A good divorce attorney will be able to point out things that might look good on paper but don’t work in practice. They’ve seen it all play out before.
You’ll end up spending a few hundred dollars, but it’s worth it if it means avoiding future pitfalls.”
Jude Ramirez (specialties: traffic law, criminal law, family law) – It’s easy to incriminate yourself with the police.
On being investigated : “We’re taught that the police are our friends, that they’re there to help, but the truth is that the police are there to do their job. If you’re under investigation, their job is to incriminate you. They will take anything you say and use it to help build their case. Obviously, cooperate with their investigation as far as you are legally required to, but make sure you know your rights and be very careful about what you say.”
On traffic accidents : “Always call the police when you get in a traffic accident. There are a few reasons why someone might not want to involve law enforcement, but at the end of the day the pros outweigh the cons. Is there a chance that you might also get a ticket, even if you think you’re not at fault? Yes. But calling the police creates a third party paper trail that won’t exist otherwise, and it also discourages the other driver from changing their story after the fact. Not to mention that it’s your legal obligation to inform the police of an accident, and failing to do so can result in a very hefty ticket if it’s discovered.”
Elaina DeNolf (specialties: traffic law, criminal law) – Be deliberate and cordial.
General advice : “I think a lot of people get into trouble because they don’t think about their decisions before they make an initial reaction. You can save yourself a lot of grief by slowing down and thinking things through. I also think it’s important to make sure you know what the law says, and what your rights are within it.”
On traffic : “Be cordial, and make sure the officer has both sides of the story.”