How to screw up your criminal case

If you get arrested for a misdemeanor like minor drug possession, retail theft, disorderly conduct, etc. and it’s your first offense, if you play your cards right, you should be able to beat the charge, get it cleared off your record and move on with your life. In Chicago that typically means you should hire a lawyer who does nothing but criminal defense and does a lot of work at the courthouse you are going to.

There are literally hundreds of people arrested every day for misdemeanors. Most are first time offenders and while the crimes are punishable by up to one year in jail and a huge fine, there isn’t enough room in the jail system to put everyone away. So if you play the game right, a good attorney can usually keep you out of trouble. It’s almost like in the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode. You keep your head down, mouth shut and move on down the line. If a Judge has 100 cases on his docket in a given day, he doesn’t want to hear 100 speeches or excuses, much less one. What he really wants is to get through every case and move on with his day.

So what happens is that the only people who get in trouble are those who stand out in some way. You stand out by not having an attorney do the talking for you. You stand out if you are dressed in a crazy way or in a manner that could be seen as disrespectful such as wearing shorts, ripped jeans or revealing clothing (although I know some Judges who would love that). You stand out by having a prior criminal record. And as shown by the girl in the video, you stand out by not taking the process seriously or acting rudely.

As you can see in the video, hearings are like a cattle call. People are lined up one by one. They almost all get the same questions and all are expected to give similar answers. The girl in the video was a first time offender arrested for drug possession. She acted strangely which got the Judge’s attention. She then talked back which not only got his attention, but got him to raise her bail.

The Judge is the king of the courtroom and can, for the most part, do whatever he wants. He can crack jokes, be overly sensitive, raise your bail, dismiss your case or put you in jail. In this case, the defendant didn’t like that her bail was raised so as she was leaving she flipped the Judge off and said F you. Of course he didn’t like that and he didn’t have to take it. He brought her back in front of him and found her in contempt of court, giving her 30 days in the county jail.

This girl is young and stupid and clearly did not take the process seriously. She learned the hard way that your pride and attitude should not accompany you in to the courtroom. Now when she applies for a job that performs a background check, she’s going to have a conviction on her record. This will prevent her from getting many jobs and for some people it starts the downward spiral of their life because when they can’t get a normal job, they rely on other means to survive. And when she comes back to court for the drug charge, everyone will know who she is and the Judge will be paying attention to her.

Hopefully you don’t find yourself getting arrested any time soon. Cook County jail is no joke. But if you do get arrested, be smart, keep your mouth shut and play the game the right way so you can move on with your life.

UPDATE:  Someone just told me that the girl begged for a second chance, went before the Judge and apologized profusely and got the contempt charges dropped.  She's one lucky girl because apparently it was a felony.  She still has to deal with the drug case, but it appears she is on the right path.  I don't believe many Judges in Cook County or any of the collar counties would have been so forgiving.


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  • I disagree with your statement "if you play your cards right, you should be able to beat the charge". More likely than not supervision would be an option which one may subsequently have expunged. A first arrest is no guarantee of a dismissal of a case.
    I agree with the remaining blog. Don't be the clown!

  • Thanks. IMO supervision is often a win, but potatoe, potato.

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