"Have You Ever...?"

I spend more time arguing with my clients over this question than I do over any other, as society in general and lawyers in particular become ever more the focus of our inquiry into the lack of ethics in our society. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Go read "Saints and Superheroes" in our Overview section.)

So let me make one thing perfectly clear, and let there be no mistake about it:
(That's a famous Nixon line, but I can't find a link to it anywhere!)

All of the following might be asked, and if so, must be reported:

  • A bench warrant or restraining order of any sort.
  • Discharge from employment for charges of any impropriety other than lateness.
  • A less-than-honorable discharge from the military.
  • Underage drinking, open-container violations, curfew violations, smoking a joint or simple possession (without words like "intent to sell" attached).
  • Inability to work or attend school for drug, alcohol, or eating-disorder-related reasons.
  • Any traffic ticket that rises to the level of reckless driving, including:
    • Driving 20 or more miles over the speed limit;
    • Running a red light;
    • Failure to yield;
    • Improperly exiting a driveway;
    • Being found at fault in an auto accident
    • Having a suspended driver's license.
  • Tax or IRS liens.
  • Being hauled into court for a child-custody or divorce case in which you are accused of being an unfit parent.
  • Being overly-litigious -- i.e., you've sued a lot of people.

None of these things will keep you from being admitted to law school or becoming a lawyer. Failure to disclose them will.

So if you find yourself thinking, "I don't really have to report this because...," start over and write it all down.

"But I wasn't Arrested!"

After having enormous fights with two clients in 2010 over their assertion that they had pled guilty to a crime but had never been arrested, I figured out that they did not understand the concept of a non-custodial arrest. If you are stopped by a cop for a relatively minor offense, like smoking a joint or parking in a handicapped spot, and the police officer hands you a ticket that says "misdemeanor," on it somewhere, you have been arrested.


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