From the “make this global pandemic ALL about me” folder, friends have asked me about how a situation like COVID-19 affects the practice of law. There are many aspects of the justice system that are turned on their heads when social and economic paradigms hit highs and lows, and the following are just a few to prepare anyone reading for some headaches at the courthouse.
I’ll preface everything with a high-brow disclaimer: I’ve been at this table before. Maybe not in the infectious-disease vein, but in the backdrop of big-picture economic rattling and how it hits an industry that by smell-test is recession-proof. I mean… people are always going to break the law and get divorced, right? Maybe. In no particular order…
Financial strife constitutes the basis for many acts of Domestic Violence. Coupling that with concerns over health, family plans that are now suspended, and an inability to interact with support systems outside of the household can exacerbate the problems on life and cause things to spiral.
If you or a family member are the victim of an act of domestic violence, the Court is still available for your protection. We have Judges in our county who are very cognizant of the need for emergency restraining orders and NOBODY who’s experienced an act placing her/his safety at risk should assume that 77 South Union Street is ‘closed for business.’
Similarly, if you find yourself accused of an act of domestic violence and served with an Order of Protection, it’s imperative that you seek help immediately to know your rights and responsibilities. These are matters that will still continue to be heard as scheduled in Cabarrus County.
The majority of property offenses in North Carolina courts are merchant-related. Shoplifting, larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses; these charges typically involve a vendor and an accused customer or employee. Whether based on need or impulse, a standard litigant in this state is accused of taking something from a business. As such, it would make sense that charges would INCREASE when times are tough.
But if 2008 taught us anything, it’s that the first industry to take a monster hit – especially in these online shopping times – is retail. And when retail scrambles and the fat has to be trimmed, the bullseye falls on one aspect of business: loss prevention. Soooooo counterintuitive as people are going to be more likely to steal when times are tough, but I get it; there are gals and guys in board rooms crunching numbers and determining where dwindling money is best spent for each particular company. Bottom line: if you’re accused of committing a theft from a store and prosecuted, you’re probably going to be in a much smaller group than you would have been a few months ago. Make sure you’re well represented.
This is just real life, People. When the world’s turned on its head, so are all sub-aspects of it. And for many, the default is to turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Not the perfect solution, but none of us make all the right decisions. A few things to consider:
- Police know that people turn to self-medicate during times of crisis and are all the more vigilant with respect to their duties. As a citizen, I absolutely appreciate this. As a citizen AND an attorney, I want you aware of this. Just because your local watering hole is closed for a while doesn’t mean that the girls and guys in blue from Concord, Kannapolis, and all-points Cabarrus don’t have their ears to the ground. Consider this: many criminal filings will dip a bit during economic downturn because people are less-social. Not DWI, though. In fact, despite Driving While Impaired/Intoxicated requiring a car, gas money, and a place to go, this area of criminal law becomes a focus when wallets are empty.
- Similarly, illicit drug transactions hit a fever pitch during times of financial strife. Definitely not the ideal way to address the situation, but no judgment; we all worry about our abilities to provide for loved-ones and keep the status quo in place. This is problematic in at least three ways, though: a. like above, the cops are looking for unusual activity in high-drug areas even more than before, b. most new or infrequent users aren’t terribly clandestine in their buys/sells, and c. that shit’s bad for you. Big picture: you’re going to get caught, and even if you don’t, there are better ways to deal.
Whether it’s DWI/DUI or drugs, please stay safe. Not just during this time in our world, but from this point forward. If you’re accused of a crime in any facet, though, seek the help of an attorney as soon as possible.
Nobody likes to acknowledge it… especially in the light of the whole “for richer or poorer” stuff… but money can punch a marriage in the balls. It doesn’t mean that one side is being greedy or unamenable or that the other side is slacking; it’s probably more of a product of life setting up like Model A for years and years, and now everyone’s told that Model X will be the benchmark going forward. I’m not Dr. Phil, so there are probably a hundred more Freudian items in play, but I understand the power of inertia.
Shortly. Sweetly. Before overhauling your life litigiously… via separation, equitable distribution, divorce, child support, alimony, alienation of affections, and criminal conversation… take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you’re out of love, or if your 401K shit the bed and you’re projecting. I have clients in each category, and the ones who’ve made sure that their domestic situations aren’t kneejerk assessments are the ones most happy after going through the court system or repairing what’s in place.
When the economy is solid, most have disposable income and a job that precludes them from going to court. When it tanks, though, many are jobless and don’t have extra money. Therein lies the line drawn making the decision between handling an item pro se (or by one’s self) or through an attorney. It makes sense; after all, how badly can you real screw up a speeding, red light, or lane change citation?
The answer is substantially… at least related to the financial implications. Sure, you’re not going to jail by pleading an infraction in a less-than-perfect way, but the burden of a three-year premium increase or a license revocation can feel like a prison sentence.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ve got all the answers; I’ve represented many people who, on Court day 1, were all like “I got this…” Twice the legal fee later, after it could have been dealt with reasonably on the front end, the correct result is obtained… after a bunch of headaches.
Whether it’s DWI (DUI), drugs, family, traffic, or any other area of law, you may find that our current economic and health-related times bring you closer to the system than you’d have ever expected. Keep your chin up; you’re not in the vast minority. Similar to your bank account, it’s how you deal with adversity that will define you and the situation. McCartan Law offers free consults on all areas of our practice and encourage you to give us a call with your concerns.