The legal realm is not a single entity. There is criminal law, civil law, family law, bankruptcy, tax, etc. Today’s legal market leads new attorneys to specialize in a specific area of law in an effort to call themselves an “expert.” It is because of this narrow minded view that individuals do not understand the full legal consequences of a single circumstance.
Nowhere is this seen more than in criminal law. A good number of criminal charges come with civil and family issues. Usually, the facts that lead to certain criminal charges also open the door to other legal problems. For example, if a nurse is charged with drug violations, and pleads guilty, the federal government is able to revoke her license to practice in any medical facility that accepts government funding. The drug charges are a criminal matter, but the license suspension is a civil matter.
Another extensive example of this interplay between areas of the law are simple assault and aggravated assault charges. When the assault is between two individuals who get in a fight at a bar, it is not that relevant. However, when the assault is part of domestic violence, the alleged criminal must be prepared to face multiple consequences. Let’s assume these facts: married couple get in a fight, man strikes woman multiple times and threatens to kill her. During the fight, woman calls the police.
When the police arrive, they may charge the man with simple assault. In Pennsylvania, this is a second degree misdemeanor and carries the potential for lengthy jail time and a large fine. That charge will have to be resolved through the criminal process. So, he will need an attorney who practices criminal law.
Next, because the man threatened the woman, she will likely file for a Protection from Abuse Order (if in Pennsylvania) to protect herself and any children. This Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) will prevent any contact between the parties and will last for approximately 10 days. Within those 10 days, the woman should be granted a hearing in family court to determine whether the PFA must become a permanent restraining order. For this, the man will need a family law attorney.
Finally, assuming the parties do not work out their differences, a divorce is likely to follow. This will likely be an uncontested divorce, but may raise issues of spousal support, child support/custody, and property distribution. For this, the man will need a family law attorney or a specialized divorce attorney.
The key point to this illustration is that the man will call my office looking for a criminal attorney. Because he is not educated in the law, he will not realize the non-criminal consequences of his actions. If he contacts an attorney who specializes in only criminal law, that attorney may also not know the full picture of the legal system. Therefore, it is important for individuals to understand that the legal system is not a single entity. It is extensive. The interplay between the areas of the law are complicated. While it is necessary to find an attorney who is experienced in the type of law you need, it is also important that the attorney understand other areas of law as well.
When you are looking for an attorney, be sure to ask whether there are other legal issues that may arise out of your original legal problem. The attorney who knows and understands your question is the attorney you want to hire.