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