Are You About to Suffer Courthouse Surprise?

Most first offenders have no clue about how the legal system works. The problem is, they think that they do or think that they can, with a cup of coffee and a few minutes on the Internet. Here’s the truth: If you were stopped by the police and given a Criminal Summons (a citation that looks like a traffic ticket, but has a mandatory court date on it), or if you were arrested, then you can be sentenced to go to jale. And it doesn’t matter how you spell it if you are there. Yet – surprisingly – many people (especially first offenders) are extremely nonchalant about going to jail. Jane1 was pulled over for speeding six miles an hour over the speed limit and given a traffic ticket with a fine amount on the back. A “forty-something” soccer mom and business owner, she was also given a second citation for No Valid Driver’s License. There was no fine amount, and the nice officer gently explained that she shouldn’t worry, just to go to court on time so an arrest warrant would be issued. He also assured her that although it was for a criminal matter, it was “just a misdemeanor” and that “she would be alright.” The officer’s words reassured her until she looked it up online and found out that the charge carried a maximum penalty of sixty (60) days in jail. Naturally, this concerned her. But two of Jane’s friends had been arrested before and neither went to jail, plus the officer had been so reassuring. “First offenders never go to jail,” one of her friends...