At the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last April, I met author and teacher Carly Stevens, who asked me to chat with her on YouTube about writing about the law and lawyers, as a followup to my PPWC presentation on common mistakes writers make about the law. Our conversation is now up, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (We also talked last summer about building your characters, based on another PPWC presentation I gave, and you can watch or listen to that interview, Writing Better Characters, too.)
Carly and I talked about the types of lawyers and practice, the relationships between lawyers, discovery (that is, how evidence is shared before trial), and some of the common mistakes writers make about the law. You can revisit my blog post on common mistakes as well, which covers a few topics she and I didn’t discuss.
I came across another common mistake recently — one not on the list only because it has so much competition — and that’s the availability of juvenile records. Many people assume juvenile records are automatically sealed or destroyed at a certain age, but that’s not always true. State law varies tremendously, as do the records themselves. Factors include the nature of the crime — was it a misdemeanor or felony, a crime against property or a person? Repeat offender status. Age. Whether the offender was sent to a juvenile prison. Other factors may be considered, depending on state law.
Even if the records are sealed, a potential employer may have some access. Law enforcement retains access to most juvenile records, unless officially expunged. This state-by-state summary of laws relating to juvenile records from the National Conference of State Legislatures is enormously useful.
Do your homework!