Thursday, August 26, 2010

11 Ways to Avoid (Legal Problem-Inspired) Debt

Every time I am in court for Monday morning arraignment (for work!), I start counting heads and end up with a ballpark figure of how much the group of people slated for arraignment that morning will eventually dump into the county coffers. It is usually a five or six figure amount. Wow. If you want to avoid supporting your local county court system (and bankrupting yourself in the process), here's some ways to stay out of financial (and legal) trouble:
  1. Don't drive without a license. I am amazed at the number of people who are already in legal trouble, have their license suspended, then continue to drive anyway. They just end up burying themselves in more legal trouble, and more legal fees when they get caught driving without a license!
  2. Don't drive without insurance. Most states now require that drivers have liability insurance at minimum. The fine in our state for driving without insurance is $550, but should the driver get in a wreck, or worse, kill someone, the legal and restitution costs go up exponentially.
  3. Drive safely. Since many people have driven unsafely in the past, our state now has laws (and fines) for a variety of unsafe activities such as not wearing a seat belt, texting or talking on your cell phone while driving, not having your child in a car seat, etc. Be a safe driver and avoid these kinds of fines.
  4. Don't drive drunk. Ever. The minimum cost for a first time DUI can range from $3000 to $5000. Side affects of this usually include a steep rise in insurance costs, loss of driving privileges, and occasionally the loss of a job if your job requires that you have a clean driving record. Then there is the tragic loss of life thing that often happens when someone drives drunk which you can't put a price on.
  5. Plan for the kids you are going to produce. A quick roll in the sack with a one night stand can lead to eighteen YEARS of child support. Plan accordingly.
  6. Try to work out marital problems. A divorce is a horribly messy affair that costs everyone big time. When you consider the cost of lawyers, alimony/child support, and maintaining two separate households, the much smaller fee for marriage counseling can be a real bargain.
  7. Have insurance. You never know when you will get in a car wreck or have someone fall off of your deck. By having comprehensive insurance coverage (life, health, auto, home) you will be covered for events that could result in financial and legal liability.
  8. Just say drugs, fighting, gangs, etc. A sure path to legal problems and legal-related debt is to participate in things that will land you in legal trouble. If you know that something you are considering doing is illegal, don't do it. Everything from fighting and dealing drugs to gang activity and corporate embezzlement can lead to lawyer fees, court fines, and even incarceration. Yikes.
  9. Never, never, never co-sign for someone. Whether you are co-signing a loan, co-signing a cell phone contract, or putting up your house to bail someone out of jail, you are just asking for a trip through the court system to try to get your money back (which even then probably won't happen because the person you are signing for has no money, no credit, and no sense of responsibility). Small claims courts are just brimming over with these types of cases.
  10. Pay your taxes. It is illegal not to do so and the IRS is better than most any other debt collector at getting the money that is owed to them. If you don't pay, you will be subject to fines, interest, penalties, and in really bad cases, lawyer fees and court fees.
  11. Realize that you are legally and financially liable for your children's activities and prepare accordingly. Parents who supervise their kids, set limits, and keep their kids too busy to get into trouble, are better off than parents whose children are unsupervised, bored, and get into all kinds of trouble with their friends which can then cause the parents to have to pay fines, court costs, lawyer fees, etc.

Those are the most common types of ways that people find themselves in trouble with the legal system then dinged with all kinds of legal fees. By avoiding these problems, you will have a nice clean legal record and lots more money in your pocket!

1 comment:

  1. Oh the tangled webs people manage to weave...
    Your job sounds very interesting.