I Found Myself In Criminal Court Speechless….

by John Watts on April 20, 2012

I hope this Friday finds you doing great.

I don’t practice criminal law. Well, I have twice in 17 years.

Once I helped out a friend of my family and didn’t realize I did something taboo — I agreed to bail my client out of jail.

Apparently that is a big no no in the criminal defense world. No one told me! (Until after I had done it….)

That was about 16 years ago.

Never make that mistake again.

Well a few months ago I found myself representing a client on a traffic violation.

Not much choice — a relative.

Except I have no idea what goes on in criminal court.

I’m shocked to hear the judge say “I give everyone jail time for any traffic violation but if you pay the fine and court costs, I’ll not make you actually go to jail.”

OK, that’s not what I was expecting.

The District Attorney was a nice guy — we had worked out a deal so the case would be dropped.

“What do I say when we go up there” I ask him.

He casually responds — “Just say what we would normally say. You’ve done this before dozens of times, right?”

That would be a negative.

He was surprised.

I say “I’ve had lots of jury trials over personal injuries, wrongful deaths, and other civil issues but only went to criminal court once.”

I left out the part about bailing my client out — don’t know what the statute of limitations is on that offense….. :)

He looked at me.

Then, taking pity, he said “I’ll do the talking. You just stand by me, ok?”

I agree — sounds like a brilliant idea as I’ve been watching this judge nail people with 30 day jail sentences for the most minor of traffic violations.

Some of his comments seemed to me to be way over the top…. But I guarantee you everyone in the courtroom will be driving under the speed limit in that county!

It goes fine — DA does what he promised me — judge does not impose any guilty sentence.

Here is the point of all of this:

When we are in an unfamiliar environment, sometimes we don’t know what to say or do.

Put me in a courtroom on a civil case (not domestic relations) and I’m very comfortable — been doing that for 17 years. Put me in a criminal courtroom, not really…. :)

If you, or a friend or family member, are put in a situation of dealing with a debt collector calling or writing, you may feel the same way.

“What do I say” or “What do I not say” etc…

We have two articles on our website Alabama Consumer that might be helpful.

How to talk to debt collectors


A simple dispute letter to send to debt collectors.

You can read on the website the articles — just click on the links.

If you like the articles please comment or share or go to the video (on the talking with collectors) and comment on it or “like” it.

Also, if you would like these two articles in PDF, just reply back and let me know and I’ll be happy to send them to you in that way.

I know sometimes I like to have hard copies of stuff off the web…

I hope these articles are helpful to you to give you some ideas on what to do if you are in the unfamiliar arena of dealing with a debt collector.

Have a great weekend!


John G. Watts
Watts & Herring, LLC
301 19th Street North
Birmingham, Alabama 35203

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