Interviewer: Do you ever get clients that it seems to them they’re very hesitant about wanting to hire a lawyer because of pride and masculinity? But they don’t understand the repercussions about it and what’s going to happen?
Court Koehler: Yeah. All the time you get people that are wondering whether or not they need to hire an attorney. It’s for different reasons, it might be for pride, it might be because they feel like the charges aren’t that serious. Especially when you’re talking about misdemeanors, a lot of people have a perception that a misdemeanor is not that serious. That’s sort of true, but it’s also sort of not true. With violent crimes, like I said earlier, there’s lots of unintended consequences that can come from that that don’t have anything to do with jail time and fines. For instance, the weapon stuff that I was talking about, being able to carry a concealed firearm or have guns and things like that. There’s also consequences for in the future, if you get, it can be an enhancement to future charges if you were to again get an assault in the future.
Having a Conviction for a Violent Crime Can be Highly Detrimental for Future Employment or Educational Prospects
A lot of people think, “Oh, well that’s never going to happen to me again.” But then the same thing happens again, and here you are. I’ve seen dozens of times somebody brush off their first charge and then get a second charge. Then you’re really in a tight spot because you didn’t take care of it the first time the right way. There’s that as well. It’s something that it might not sound very serious, but when you have a violent crime on your record, it’s really, even if it’s just a misdemeanor, it can really throw a wrench in a lot of things. On top of, I’m just thinking now, if you are going to apply for a job, like a professional license, or a job at the government where they do background check and things like that, an assault charge is real serious. It can stop you from doing a lot of things.
The Stigma Attached with Violent Crimes Carries a Lot of Weight on a Person’s Record
I actually had a client one time who couldn’t complete nursing school because of an assault charge that he had. He came to me to try and get it cleared up. Those kinds of things, you might not think about it at the time, you might not know that someday you’ll want to go to nursing school. Five years down the road, you’re in a different place, you’re a different person, you decided to do something like go into nursing school. You’ve got an assault charge on your record and you’re not able to do it. Any crime is really more serious than you think because of the stigma and the record that you’ll have and it follows you around with. Particularly with violent crimes, that’s a real serious problem because of the connotation and because of the stigma of the violence. Even if it’s just a tiny misdemeanor, Class B misdemeanor. That carries a lot of weight on your record.
Judicial Treatment of Repeat Offenders in Assault Cases in Utah
Interviewer: What about repeat offenders, like second or third time, how is it going to work for them? I’m thinking of a situation, where it maybe the fact that someone has something in their youth and now they’ve come into a situation again.
Court Koehler: When you say youth, juvenile crimes are different. I don’t do juvenile law, really. I don’t want you to rely too much on what I’m saying. Generally speaking, you have an offense as a juvenile, it’s not going to be on your permanent record. Early enough, you were convicted of assault as a 16 year old or something like that and then again you got an assault charge as an adult, the juvenile charge would probably not affect you. If you have a second assault charge, where you’re going to go from is the judge sort of pushing a case through and not worrying too much about the safety or the danger of a person who’s just committed one assault.
The Consequences for Repeat Offenders are Much More Severe Than for a First Time Offense
They’ll give you probation, they’ll get you out of their courtroom, but the more times that you show up, particularly on the second time or third and fourth time, the judge is going to start to throw the book at you. Some of those things that I was talking about earlier and not worrying too much about jail time and things, those are going to become real concerns, even on a second offense. You’re looking at some jail time, probably for sure, if it’s a second offense. You’re looking at higher fines. You might have supervised probation instead of just regular court probation. Lots of things like that. In short, yeah definitely, much different consequences.