Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Trust the Real Lawyers

Anyone who has spent any amount of time practicing criminal law is familiar with the jailhouse lawyer. People in prison (or in jail awaiting trial) have little to do, so many of them dive into the law library with great abandon. Some actually learn a good deal about criminal law and are valuable quasi-lawyers inside the facility (my boss at my old job told me he knew a guy in prison who was good enough that he'd hire him as a paralegal, if he ever got out). Most of the time, however, the jailhouse lawyers know just enough about the law to be dangerous, to themselves or, in some cases, to their fellow inmates. As in Tennessee, where a guy nicknamed "T-Flake" turned down a plea bargain that would have netted him a 210-month (17.5 years) federal prison term, on the advice of jailhouse counsel. Bad idea. He went to trial, lost, and ended up with a 480-month (40 years!) sentence for his trouble.

The moral of this story? Listen to the real lawyers. That's why we have the diplomas on the wall.

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