The similarities between holiday shopping and legal trouble? They’re both ridiculously expensive!
Welcome, December! With Thanksgiving over, we now are at the peak of holiday shopping. Advertisements are seemingly everywhere giving you gift ideas for every person in your life. Cyber Monday, Black Friday, ugh! So much shopping, and so little money or time to do it with!!! With all the pressure of finding the perfect gifts, it’s no surprise that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most expensive time of the year. In 2019, the average American will now spend $920 or more on holiday gifts. Even more astounding, U.S. holiday spending is predicted to total more than $1 trillion this season. Holiday expenses are stressful enough. If you happen to be dealing with legal trouble at the same time, the cost can seem unmanageable. Thankfully, there have been some money-saving bills introduced in 2019 that can help make legal expenses more affordable.
The Expected (& Unexpected) Legal Expenses
Thanks to billboards and TV commercials, most Americans have an idea of how expensive DUIs can be. As mentioned in our DUI Consequences blog post, a DUI charge can cost over $10,000 including legal fees, court-ordered fees, lost wages, etc. However, many other cases have a financial bent to them as well. One issue is that you generally can’t finance your legal defense, aside from payday loan places and other predatory lenders. Most Americans don’t have the money lying around to pay for their attorney fees upfront, especially considering all of the other legal expenses involved. (This is one of the reasons we take third party payments and credit card payments–ask us about our Low Pay Slow Pay options!)
For starters, if your case needs experts or consultants, their services can be super expensive. If you are required to pay restitution, your balance owed will accumulate interest and is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Pre- and post-conviction, if you’re required to be supervised, you will have to pay for that “privilege.” As mentioned in our Monitored Sobriety blog post, drug-related cases require you to pay for the necessary equipment and drug tests. Expenses can also be indirect, such as missing work or worst case scenario – losing your job. We could keep going, but you probably get the picture. There are countless expenses involved in our legal system, making it difficult, if not impossible to afford it all.
However, there is good news too. This year, there were many legislative changes in Colorado that will make the process a bit more affordable…
Money-Savings Changes in 2019
HB19-1225 took effect 4/25/19, after passing the House unanimously. This bill eliminated cash bail for traffic offenses, petty offenses, or municipal offenses (with certain exceptions).
SB19-191 took effect 8/2/19. Among other things, this bill requires that a defendant cannot be charged more than a $10 bond processing fee. Additionally, no other transaction fees such as kiosk fees may be applied, except for standard credit card processing fees.
HB19-1025 took effect 5/28/19 and is a big deal for people who already have a criminal record. This bill prohibits employers from advertising that a person with a criminal history may not apply for a position, or inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history on an initial application. This bill allows job hunters to get past the initial application phase and answer questions about their histories in an interview setting. This will increase their chance of getting hired as well as widen the pool of jobs that they can apply to. While it may not be directly money-saving, it can help the financial burden after a criminal charge by making it easier to become employed.
Another important change, HB19-1310 took effect on 7/1/19. This lowered the interest charged on restitution from 12% to 8% starting in 2020. It also required no interest accrue on restitution when the defendant is in DOC custody, or while the defendant is under 21. Restitution is when a convicted offender is required to reimburse victims for financial losses incurred due to the offender’s crimes. It can apply to lost income, property damage, counseling, medical expenses, and other costs. It’s unsurprising that restitution can become a hefty expense; in Federal cases it’s not unusual for the amount to be hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. Lowering the interest rate paid, and limiting when it can accrue, can make significant differences in the total cost.
Hopefully, these changes will make getting the latest gadget under the tree a little easier on folks! Besides, these are just a small sample of bills that have made the legal process more affordable this year alone. It’s likely that more legislative changes will occur in 2020, and future years, that will also make the process more manageable.
Need More Help Understanding Your Expenses?
While it’s a good start, we understand these changes can be small for many people. If you are in need of legal advice this holiday season, consider reaching out to Nicol Gersch Petterson for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://NicolGerschLaw.Com or call 970.670.0738 at any time. (Did we mention one of our attorneys has an undergraduate in Accounting and has practiced bankruptcy and tax law? Just sayin’.)
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).
If you have done both of the things mentioned earlier–signed a letter and paid us–then, and only then, you might be a client. But merely chatting with us online does not a client make. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and Nicol Gersch Petterson, you should probably ask for some clarity. Until then, we’ll keep your secrets but we don’t formally represent you… YET.