Top Legal Myths and Misconceptions

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June 30, 2020
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The United States is a country of laws. There are thousands of federal, state, and local laws that affect the way people live their lives. Every year they put new laws on the books. Laws are not written for the average person to understand. They are full of legalese and can only be truly deciphered by a skilled lawyer. No wonder there are several myths about the law. Let’s look at 10 of the most popular myths and misconceptions about the law.

1. Attorney-Client Privilege Is Absolute

The attorney-client privilege protects a client who has disclosed private information to an attorney. It prevents a third-party from compelling an attorney to disclose what their client said. This would include government agencies, criminal justice authorities, and third parties. However, there are some exceptions to the application of attorney-client privilege. These might include:

  • The death of the client
  • Fiduciary duty
  • Crime or fraud expectation
  • Common interest expectation

In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, the US Patriot Act led to the creation of several rules and executive orders that allow attorney-client privilege to be obfuscated. Not all components of an attorney-client relationship are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

2. Forming an LLC or Incorporating Will Protect Your Personal Assets

An LLC allows you to create a business entity that keeps your business assets separate from your personal assets. The separation creates limited liability protection. If an LLC cannot cover its debts, creditors cannot attack the personal assets of the owner, such as their home, cars, or bank accounts.

However, as with most things, there are exceptions. The owner is still liable for the debts they have guaranteed personally. Unpaid payroll taxes are still the responsibility of the owner. If the owner is sued for wrongdoing, they can still be held liable.

3. Bloggers Cannot Be Sued for Libel Because They Are Protected by the First Amendment

These days, everybody and their mother has a blog. Many think they can say whatever they want without being sued for defamation. They believe that the First Amendment protects them absolutely.

Anybody can be sued for almost anything nowadays. A blogger could be sued for libel if they publish a false statement or if they publish a fact about an individual that damages the individual’s reputation. All that is required is for one other person to have read the blog for it to be considered published. Bloggers cannot hide behind saying that they are writing an opinion piece or that they are writing satire.

A skilled lawyer can dismantle the argument that the piece was an opinion or satire. They only need to prove that what was written damaged the reputation of their client.

4. If a Person Gets Injured at a Place of Business, the Business Owner Is Automatically Responsible for Damages

A business owner is not responsible for the criminal activities of other people. If a robber goes into a store and injures someone during the robbery, the business or property owner is not automatically responsible. Business owners are not responsible for the stupidity, clumsiness, or negligence of others. For a business owner to be responsible for injuries that take place in their business or on their property, the injured person would need to show that the business owner is at fault.

5. Divorced Parents Are Entitled to 50-50 Child Custody

This is a common misconception that people have when getting divorced. They believe that parents should have equal responsibility in seeing and caring for their children. While this might seem logical, this is not always the case. The 1975 Family Law Act allows the court to take the child’s best interests into consideration when making parenting orders. If the court does not feel that it is in the child’s best interests to divide child custody 50-50, they may make a division that represents what they see as the best interests of the child.

6. Police Cannot Lie during an Investigation

When you watch television shows, you may see prostitutes or drug dealers asking someone if they are a cop. It implies that if a police officer lies, then they cannot arrest you.

When police are investigating a crime, they can use whatever tactic they have at their disposal. They can bluff, tell subjects they have evidence of their guilt, and even lie about the legal process or the consequences an individual may face for the crime. It’s up to you to exercise your right to remain silent and to be smart enough to ask for the help of a skilled lawyer.

7. An Arrest Is Invalid If a Person Is Not Read Their Miranda Rights

Police officers are not required to give you a Miranda warning when they arrest you. They can put you in a patrol car and book you without ever mentioning your Miranda rights. Your Miranda rights are only valid if you are in custody and subject to interrogation.

If you are not read your Miranda rights and you are interrogated, it’s probable that what you said could not be used at trial. However, as with all things, there are exceptions.

8. Victims Can Choose Whether to Press Charges

Absolutely false. Victims can choose to call the police. Police can choose whether they will make an arrest. However, once the arrest has been made and the court feels there is probable cause to support the arrest, the decision to charge or not to charge rests with the prosecutor. The complaining witness can say they don’t want the defendant convicted. But it’s up to the state to make the final decision.

9. The US Supreme Court Has the Final Word in All Laws for the United States

Actually, the US Supreme Court makes the final decision with federal law and the laws pertaining to the U.S. Constitution. However, it is the state Supreme Court that handle state issues. The only time the Supreme Court might review a state case is if there are federal issues involved.

10. All Contracts Must Be in Writing

No. Oral contracts are binding and can be enforced. The only exception is if there is a law, such as the Home Improvement Act, that requires a contract to be written for it to be enforceable.

This list has only scratched the surface when it comes to legal myths and misconceptions. For this reason, if you have legal questions, it’s good to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

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