After practicing law for well over 15 years now, I’ve seen some clients come in with some ideas about legal issues that just aren’t quite right. So today we bring you some of the top legal myths our clients come in believing and talk briefly about what the law really is.
Myth #1: If you are a victim of a crime, you decide whether to “Press Charges” or not.
That’s not exactly true. Certainly the willingness of the victim to testify against the criminal is important but the prosecutor’s job is to apply the law on behalf of the victim and also on behalf of the State and ALL its people. It’s the Prosecuting attorney who decides whether to pursue charges, or not.
Myth#2: If you have to retain a lawyer to sue someone and you win, they will have to pay for your attorney.
That is true in England and is sometimes called the “English Rule,” versus the “American Rule” which is generally that each side pays their own attorney – win or lose.
Myth #3: A contract has to be in writing and because it’s not in writing, it’s not enforceable.
Actually, most things you might think of as contracts are enforceable even if not written down. For example, you agree to pay a neighborhood kid $20 a month to mow your lawn, and there’s nothing in writing, and you don’t pay him.
Well, first off, shame on you, and second, that kid is going to beat you down in small claims court for stiffing him. The main exceptions to the rule are where the contract involves real estate or involves a term over one year in length.
Myth #4: You have the right to remain silent if arrested
Ok, that is not a myth, just checking to make sure you are still paying attention.
Myth #4: When your car insurance agent tells you you have “Full Coverage,” that does not mean you have “Every coverage.”
Generally the term “Full Coverage” means that you have purchased insurance to repair your car EVEN IF you are found at fault for the accident. This is required by the bank if you have a loan on your car. HOWEVER, “full coverage” does not necessarily mean that you have uninsured or underinsured insurance to pay your medical bills in case of an accident with injury. Ask your insurance agent if you have uninsured motorist insurance so that you can repair yourself after an accident – and not just your car.
Myth #5: In a divorce, each party will get “Half.”
I also believed this for the longest time because I used to watch Eddie Murphy doing standup. Yes, I am that old.
But nowadays most states have moved to some form of equitable distribution – except for California and Texas because … they are … special. Equitable distribution meaning the Judge will determine what’s fair and that’s often NOT 50/50.
And there you have it, 5 legal myths debunked – hopefully in the nicest way possible.