Don’t Confuse Your Google Search with Legal Advice

Woman looking Confused
It seems like you can learn how to do just about anything on the internet! You can learn how to make your own soap, treat a bee sting, or get a red wine stain out of your carpeting. The number of things that you can discover online are endless. If you’ve got a medical issue, it seems like all you have to do is type your ailments (lower back pain, headache) into the “Google Machine” and instantly your computer will supply you with a confusing array of mostly incorrect yet very serious medical conditions guaranteed to frighten you! Obviously, the best advice when it comes to health concerns is always to talk to a doctor, not to your computer.

Can You Trust Online Legal Information?

Well, the practice of law is no exception. Every day, thousands of people in Chicago and across Illinois turn to their keyboards for quick legal answers. Just like medical issues, sometimes the answers are correct. But more times than not, the answers are just plain wrong and leave people bewildered, confused and scared.
One of the main legal subjects that people tend to search online for involves what kind of criminal punishment they are likely to receive in court. Seems reasonable. After all, everyone wants to know what their fate holds. But when it comes to trusting the web for legal answers to such questions, some of the potential problems include:

Geographical Limitations Affect Sentencing

Location is everything! A person might be charged with retail theft, battery or DUI in Chicago and receive a very light slap-on-the-hand sentence, while another person who was arrested in Joliet or St. Charles under virtually the same circumstances might receive a much harsher sentence with jail. Sentencing is often dependent on what county you’re in, despite the fact that all Illinois State cases are governed by the same statutes (book of laws). Cook County is different than Lake County and DuPage County is different than Will County and Kane County. But even more specifically, sentencing often differs depending on which courthouse within each county that you’re in. For instance, courts in the city of Chicago are often considered by many to be less harsh than suburban Cook County courts in Rolling Meadows, Skokie, Bridgeview or Markham for some cases, yet more strict for other types of cases.

Specific Judges and Prosecutors Affect Sentencing

Both Judges and prosecutors are human beings. Yes, it’s true! Just like other people, some are nicer than others, some are more reasonable than others, and some are better listeners than others. No matter the person, everyone has bad days and good days. Most criminal and traffic cases are negotiated with the prosecutor and then will need to be approved by the criminal judge. But which prosecutor and which judge will your attorney be dealing with that day? Will the court personnel be having a good day or a bad day? Will their nerves be on edge because the courtroom is packed or because the air conditioning is broken? Anything and everything can affect your case.

Don’t Assume What You Read Online is Even True

People write and blog online for all sorts of reasons. Some try their hardest to communicate what happened to them on their case to help others. But unless the author is a knowledgeable criminal or traffic attorney, there’s a good chance that the information may not be entirely correct despite their best efforts. Other people write all sorts of nonsense online just to scare others. Even if the information is mostly correct, keep in mind that the sentence undoubtedly relates to a completely different judge, prosecutor and courtroom.

Speak to a Lawyer About Your Specific Case

So, no matter how similar information online seems to your situation, you can be assured that it’s absolutely different in ways that may not be readily apparent. An experienced attorney can effectively evaluate your criminal or traffic case, taking into consideration your background, your particular facts and which judge / prosecutor / court system will be involved in order to properly advise you. The legal team at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC can be reached at (312) 644-0444 or online for a free consultation.

This blog is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on specific legal questions.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : December 30, 2021