Don’t Confuse the Internet with My Law Degree
An online search of your crime is no substitute for the advice and guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
I’ve been practicing criminal defense for over 17 years now. In that time, I’ve handled many misdemeanor and felony cases. What’s troubling is that almost every time one of my potential clients has been arrested, they’ve already started looking up their crimes online. An internet search of the alleged offense is a bad course of action. It can produce incorrect information and lead to a downward spiral into a dark “rabbit hole,” causing unnecessary worry and ill health.
If you have been charged with a crime in or around Seattle, refrain from looking up your crime online. Instead, contact me at (206) 895-6800 for the straightforward legal representation you need.
The Dangers of Researching Your Crime Online
You can find information about almost anything on the internet. But that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially when the topic you’re researching is a crime that can lead to severe consequences, like jail time or fines.
When you research a crime, you’ll often get information about similar offenses from all over the U.S. If you were charged in the state of Washington, what you find online might not be helpful or accurate. The laws in other states do not directly apply to those in WA.
Let’s take assault in the fourth degree as an example. Say you find yourself accused of this crime and want to know how serious it is and what penalties are attached. So, you type into your search bar, “Is fourth-degree assault a felony?” One of the first hits is a discussion about fourth-degree assault, which you believe pertains to your situation. After reading the page, you learn that assault can be either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class C felony (if committed under certain circumstances).
Armed with this information, you decide to see the penalties for fourth-degree assault in WA.
You learn that a Class C felony is punishable by:
- Up to 5 years in prison and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines.
But wait. You can’t seem to find any information on Class A misdemeanor penalties.
That’s because Washington State doesn’t separate misdemeanors into classes. Instead, it has them listed as either misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. The reason your search results told you that fourth-degree assault was a misdemeanor was likely because you got information from Oregon’s law on the offense. Thus, you can throw yourself into a frenzy trying to find out what penalties you can face for a Class A misdemeanor in Washington because you got inaccurate information from the internet.
Because there is so much information online, it can be hard to know what applies in your situation. So how do you know what’s pertinent and what’s not? You reach out to someone familiar with the law – someone like me who has been in the field for a while and has handled cases similar to yours.
Creating Freak-Out Situations
Getting irrelevant information isn’t the only danger of turning to the internet to learn more about your alleged offense. Another pitfall is that you might think that the worst-case scenario is your definite scenario.
I liken this to people who self-diagnose themselves when they have certain ailments, something 35% of U.S. adults do, according to Pew Research Center. A person might have a headache, find a health site, read the symptoms, and end up diagnosing themselves with a critical disease (a phenomenon known as cyberchondria).
A similar thing can happen when you look up online the crime you were accused of. You read about what the prosecutor needs to do to prove guilt. Because being involved in a criminal matter can heighten your emotions, your objective reasoning may be hindered, which means you might not be appropriately processing the information you’ve found. Suddenly, you’ve tried and convicted yourself, even before charges have been filed or the case has begun.
Of course, doing a quick internet search can be helpful. You should certainly know what to do next. For the most part, that means reaching out to a professional for assistance.
What’s dangerous about obsessively searching online is that it can cause excessive anxiety. A conviction can result in incarceration, fines, and other severe sanctions. And now you’re imagining yourself behind bars and unable to see your family regularly, maintain your career, or enjoy the life you once used to. If you thought you were anxious before, your fear and anxiety could increase because you’re constantly thinking about the possible adverse outcomes of your case.
Remember, though, that you are innocent until or unless proven guilty. That means just because you have been accused of or charged with an offense does not mean confinement or fines is a certainty. The State must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet, defenses may be raised to cast doubt on their arguments. In some cases, that can lead to a favorable result, such as a not guilty verdict, allowing penalties to be avoided. In other cases, it may lead to lesser charges or a reduction in sentencing.
Slaying Imaginary Dragons
When a potential client has researched their crime online, they come to me full of fear and stress. What they’re feeling is a result of being bombarded with too much inaccurate information. Even if the potential client has relevant information, their fear stems from imagining the worst possible outcome. As a criminal defense attorney, I help relieve some of their anxieties.
At the start of many cases, I tell my clients that they cannot slay imaginary dragons. In other words, you can’t focus on the potential consequences of your case. Doing so is like putting the cart in front of the horse. You’re doing things in the wrong order.
The important thing to focus on is the here and now.
Criminal defense attorneys deal in “what we know,” not “what might be.” We know a criminal accusation has been made. But we also know there’s a path forward. Following that path means looking at the next logical steps, putting one foot in front of the other.
Your immediate priority shouldn’t be stressing about the potential consequences of your criminal charge. Slow down. You have a life to live. Your top priorities are your family obligations and responsibilities at home and work.
Naturally, some stress will be associated with a criminal accusation or charge. After all, this may be your first brush with the law, and there are a lot of unknowns. Dealing with what you don’t know can be scary, but I am here to help alleviate some of your burdens.
Once you’ve hired me, I will be your legal consultant. It’s no longer necessary to try to find answers on the internet. In fact, doing so can be counterproductive.
Instead, if you have a question or a concern, you can turn to me for the answer. I’ve refined my legal knowledge and skills in law school. I’ve handled hundreds of criminal cases. And I have served as a former prosecutor.
I am a fountain of knowledge and can provide you with a greater depth of (not to mention more accurate) information about your case and the legal process. Additionally, because I recognize that every case is different, I can discuss the options available for your unique situation.
Before imagining yourself in jail or prison, let me do the work you’ve hired me for: protecting your rights and future.
Charged with a Crime? Discuss Your Case with Me Right Away.
Doing too much research online about your alleged offense is not productive. Allow me to provide the focused, compassionate, and personalized guidance you need.
For legal help in Seattle, please call Guadagno Law, PLLC at (206) 895-6800 or submit an online contact form today.