Monday, July 19, 2010

Legal Advice: Don't Waive Counsel

I went to the Reds game Saturday night, so I saw this guy run onto the field late in the game. He acted differently than other fans I've seen run onto fields. He was fully clothed (always a plus). And once he was on the field (I didn't see exactly where he came from, but someone sitting near me thought perhaps he had fallen over the wall in shallow right field trying to get a baseball hit in that vicinity), he ran directly to the nearest police officer (near first base), stopped, and put his hands behind his back. Usually, these guys make the police chase them around for a bit. So kudos to him for not making the police work too hard on a hot day.

So he's arrested and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor (which means the possibility of six months in jail and $1,000 fine). I was curious as to what would happen when he appeared in court today, so I looked up his case. (It appears, by the way, that he has no criminal record in Hamilton County. He may have one elsewhere. I'm not convinced that the name he gave--Talon Power--isn't an alias.) At arraignment, he waived (or gave up) his right to an attorney. He pleaded guilty. And he got a seven-day jail sentence.

Again, I don't have the guy's entire criminal record available to me, but seven days seems awfully tough. People convicted of domestic violence or assault for the first time generally get probation. DUI will get you three days (or six, if you test at twice the legal limit.) Causing a 30-second delay in a Reds game is worth a week in the slammer?

The point, though, is this: if you're charged with an offense that carries the possibility of jail time, don't waive your right to an attorney. There's a reason that the Sixth Amendment protects your right to counsel. It's because you don't know what you're doing in a courtroom. And that's not shameful or embarrassing. There's a whole host of things I can't do: repair a car, fix a pipe, cut my own hair, cure an illness, or perform practically any other useful task. Instead, I call a professional. And that's what you should do.

Would this guy's outcome have been different if he'd had an attorney? Who knows? But he should have found out.

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