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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: How to Avoid a Life of Crime

January 14, 2009

There is a big difference between someone who makes a mistake and someone who is a criminal. During my legal career, I have worked as a prosecutor, a law clerk to a judge, and, in the private sector, have represented individuals and businesses. I have seen many cases in which an individual (or a business in some circumstances) committed a criminal act. The outcomes of these cases depended in large part upon whether or not the person had a criminal history.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors are often understanding with individuals who make mistakes (even stupid ones) so long as no one was injured. If a person commits a criminal act, is remorseful, and does not have a criminal history, prosecutors will often accept a plea agreement to a substantially reduced charge or even drop the case altogether if the person agrees to a period of community service and does not get into future trouble. However, if the person has a criminal history, prosecutors will rightly pursue the case and attempt to obtain the maximum penalty. Prosecutors do this to protect the public because a person with a criminal history is much more likely to continue committing crimes than a first-time offender.

In my observations as a prosecutor and as a private attorney, the following are ways to best avoid becoming a criminal:

(1)Pick your friends carefully. I have seen so many young people commit crimes because of the group of “friends” that they hung around with rather than of their own volition. It is very hard when you are young to refuse to go along with what your friends are doing. However, taking a stand against something wrong that your friends are doing (criminal or not) can be a life changing event.

(2)If you make a mistake and commit a crime, learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes rise to the level of crimes. However, after committing such an act, you have a choice. If you are remorseful, have good representation, and learn from the act, a single mistake will likely have no negative effect on your life. However, if a person makes repeated mistakes, prosecutors and judges will view that person as a criminal and the person will not receive the benefit of the doubt in court.

(3)Be aware that even minor acts can turn into major crimes. It is not simply the act
which is considered in judging a crime, it is the outcome as well. If you run a red light, and are stopped by a law enforcement officer, you will be charged with a violation, and have to pay a fine. However, if you run a red light and collide with a car that had the green light, the charge would be substantially different. If the person in the other car was injured or even killed, a simple violation could turn into a manslaughter charge for which you could spend years in jail. The outcome is often more important than the criminal act itself. So, be aware that even minor violations can mushroom into major crimes.

There are many other tidbits of advice that I could give, but at the core, avoiding a life of crime is simple: do not commit criminal acts. That sounds easy, but we all make mistakes -- and sometimes these mistakes may rise to the level of a crime. The key is how you react after you make a mistake. When I worked as a prosecutor, nothing dismayed me more or made me angrier than seeing repeat violent criminal offenders because I viewed these people as hard core criminals that endangered law abiding citizens. On the other hand, an individual who makes a single mistake can easily rebound and the act will have little future effect. It’s repeating mistakes, not making them, that leads to a life a crime.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay