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Ignorance of the law-A loving example

Guest Blogger: Samuel B. Goldberg, Esquire

Hey, remember the old adage “What you don’t know cannot hurt you”? Well, if it ever was true, it isn’t anymore. At least not where the criminal justice system is concerned.

I have been embedded in the system for over 30 years in the state of New York and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I am proud to have become “Of Counsel” to the Briones Law Group and you can find out more about me on their website. The purpose of my posting this “guest blog” is to begin my association with you by giving you a glimpse into the criminal justice reality that surrounds and endangers you…regardless of your state of knowledge.

We have all heard people say that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. But what does that really mean?

It does not take a doctorate degree to know that you can’t go out, rob a store and then claim, “Gee, I didn’t know you couldn’t do that”, expecting law enforcement to understand and go their merry way without you in tow. There are certain basic things that we are expected to know. However, these things do not end with such obvious situations.

Ricky Romantic was married to Ida Itsover for three happy years. Unfortunately, they had been married for eight. Ida has had it and she threw Ricky out and began divorce proceedings. Ricky, however, cannot believe that it is “over”. So he calls Ida once or twenty times per day despite her protestations that he stop. She even went to get a restraining order to get him to stop. Ricky does not plan to go to the hearing, much less hire a lawyer. After all, love is love and he is sure that, perhaps at the last minute, Ida will not press for the Order. Besides, he has always heard that you have to actually assault or threaten someone in order to get into trouble like that.

Unfortunately, Ricky is opening himself up for even more trouble than a simple Order telling him to stop bothering Ida. In fact, he is opening the door to the Order, a prosecution for Criminal Harassment and whatever negative effect both of those will have on his upcoming divorce proceedings.

“But why, Sam? Ricky did not mean any harm.”

Maybe not…but in Ida’s perspective he caused some. And the way that Ida sees it is precisely the way law enforcement, including the prosecutors, are likely to see it.

“That’s absurd. Ida might be angry, but surely experienced law officers will have a better perspective and simply try to work things out between them, right?”

Not so much. The fact is that the authorities in the system have barely enough time to do what is their job, let alone not their job. Except for the social workers, which would usually not be involved in such a situation, these folks are not social workers. They are dealing with criminal matters and Ricky has indeed broken the law.

“The point is that, even if they cannot fix the situation, they surely are not going to treat Ricky like a criminal are they?”

In reality…yes. They probably will not treat him like a murderer, but they will not only want to avenge the harassment, but will be worried about what comes next. Will Ricky’s obsession result in a violent confrontation or even break down into a homicide? It has been known to happen.

“But there is nothing to indicate that it will in this case.”

That is not how they are likely to see it. One thing you will learn through these blogs is that what moves the system in large part is fear. Fear of what could happen. And should whatever is feared actually happen, the media often concentrates on why didn’t the system “work” and thereby prevent the tragedy by locking Ricky up. That is the fear that quakes throughout the system.

You’ve undoubtedly seen it time and time again.

“This just does not make sense. Is that ‘Justice’?

Stay tuned…

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