You may remember the popular 80s TV commercial for Vicks® Formula 44 starring “All My Children” soap star, Peter Bergman. In the now iconic ad, Bergman starts out by saying, “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV,” only to go on advising viewers how to treat a cough. I don’t know about you, but if I were hacking away like the woman in the commercial is, I’d want to hear from a doctor – a real one.
The same goes for hiring a lawyer, especially a criminal one, where matters involving your wallet, your freedom, even your life turn can turn on how well your lawyer represents you in court. Of course, we have all heard the story about your neighbor from childhood whose brother-in-law’s first cousin (once removed) had an ex-wife (his third) who was able to successfully defend herself against a charge of murder without retaining a lawyer. The story was such a feel-good one that it didn’t take long before that former defendant told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on and so on and so on. Wait, wrong 80s commercial.
All kidding aside, this is not only information you cannot trust but more importantly, is information you should not trust. Going to court is no laughing matter. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or murder, the impact of a guilty verdict on your life can be pervasive. And lasting.
Take, for example, a situation in which a police officer sees a car on the highway swerve and pulls over its 19-year-old driver, a college student, for driving under the influence. Though the college student had only two drinks while out with his fraternity brothers, he refuses to take the breathalyzer and standardized field sobriety tests during the traffic stop. But because it’s May and hay fever season is in full swing, the college student’s red and watery eyes provide the officer with enough probable cause to arrest him. In fact, it was a violent sneezing fit that caused the student to swerve in the first place.
When the college student and police officer arrive at the hospital that night, they face a crowded emergency room, and by the time the student’s blood is drawn, more than an hour has passed. When the results do eventually come back, the student’s blood alcohol level reveals that he is just below the state’s legal limits. While there were no injuries at the scene and the college student has never been in trouble with the law before, not even receiving so much as a detention during high school, the government nonetheless decides to prosecute. With his entire life in front of him, the college student knows he has a lot at stake and calls his father. The father, who coincidentally heard the feel-good story above, informs his son that he doesn’t need a lawyer and that he will defend him.
Now, I know what you are thinking; how difficult can it be in the Internet age for the college student’s father to research his state’s penal code? Not hard at all. Or obtain legal advice from the copious websites offering it for free? Or view a YouTube video detailing step-by-step instructions about how to behave during a DUI? Yes, all of this information and more is at his fingertips. He can also download episodes of “Law and Order,” catch “My Cousin Vinny” on Netflix, or watch Mr. Brady in “Brady Bunch” episode 72 (spoiler alert!) drop his briefcase in court forcing one Mr. Duggan to turn his head, proving his neck brace and injury is fake.
However, as any skilled and experienced lawyer will remind you, legal representation involves more than a mere reading of the rules and, instead, an in-depth understanding of how to interpret and apply those rules to the unique facts of your case. Such knowledge can only come from years of formal training and practical experience, including familiarity with how courts have previously ruled on cases similar to yours. And should it come to sentencing, a skilled and experienced lawyer will know exactly how to minimize the lasting repercussions your arrest and our favorite college student’s arrest can have over the course of a lifetime.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to roll the dice with your future. Choose Wisely.
Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense, Super Lawyers and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.
If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation following a serious accident or injury.