Some people become lawyers by passing the Bar. Others, however, become laywers by not passing a bar, but rather by sitting there and talking to the person on the stool next to them and, over more than a few beers, developing a belief and (mis)understanding of how law works that sometimes borders on — no pun intended — criminal.

What follows are actual honest-to-goodness statements I’ve heard over the years, both in and out of court, and have had the speakers assure me in no uncertain terms that “that’s the law!”

• “The officer has to give me a warning!” No, he doesn’t. Not much to add to this one.

• “The officer didn’t stop me within X feet/miles of the traffic offense!” On traffic offenses, the officer can track you down six months after the offense and still issue you a valid citation. • “I can’t be evicted, I’m pregnant/I have kids/it’s winter!” In Oregon, you can potentially be evicted for no reason at all, and without better defenses the court isn’t going to care when it happens.

• “The vehicle going straight always has the right of way at a stop sign.” I’ve heard different versions of this and the simple answer is that it’s actually the vehicle that SAFELY enters the intersection first that has the right of way.

No, you can’t pull out in front of oncoming traffic and claim the right of way — or slow down, as too many seem to do — but the scenario is simple: Come to a complete stop, then SAFELY enter the intersection and you’ve got the right of way. If you’re not sure who got to the intersection first, go for courtesy and wave the other guy on through first. Which brings us to:

• “It’s illegal to wave the other guy through.” Nah. You can waive (pun intended this time) your right of way. Just make sure you have everybody’s attention when you do.

• “He’s 17, he’s the city’s problem now.” This was on a parental “failure to supervise a child.” The answer is “no, not really, he’s yours — and you’re on the hook for his offenses — until he’s 18.”

• “I have to be allowed to fix the problem I was cited for!” This is close kin to “the officer has to give me a warning.” See that myth for further discussion.

• “Well, XYZ PD only gave me a warning for the offense!” That’s very nice of XYZ PD. Of course, not only are you into the “the officer has to give me a warning” myth — see above — but you’re also effectively admitting that warnings don’t work in regard to getting you to fix the problem.

• “It’s legal in X!” I expect to see a lot more of this as legal marijuana comes online in Washington, but the answer is the same: “Interesting. But this is Hermiston, Ore., and it’s NOT legal here.”

• “He can’t divorce me if I don’t agree to it” and the similar “I don’t want her to keep my name.” That’d be “yes he can” and “yes she can,” respectively. Only two absolute sureties in a divorce — there will be a divorce, and the spouse who changed her (rarely his) name will have the sole choice as to whether to keep the married name or go back to her previous name.

• “State law requires attorneys to give people free consults.” Oddly, nobody who’s said that to me has ever been able to produce an actual, you know, statute or anything that says it. Some attorneys do indeed do free consults — but there’s no law that requires it.

Once again, Courtside is in recess — but questions about court and court procedures, to hermistoncourtside@gmail.com, are always in order.

— Thomas Creasing is a municipal court judge and Herald columnist

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