We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from David Stoddard.
In high school, my friends and I would occasionally drive 30 minutes south to a pond in Salem, Utah to go swimming. This pond has a large bridge that spans one of its widest points. We would climb on the rail of the bridge and jump 40 feet into the cold waters below. Being mischievous teenage boys, we loved the rush that we felt on two separate levels. First, we loved the feeling of crisp waters quickly engulfing our bodies. Second, we knew this activity was not allowed, as there were signs posted stating “No Trespassing,” thus adding to the excitement of the act.
Due to the imminent risk of being caught, each time we drove to Salem we would only do a few jumps before returning to our vehicles to quickly exit the premises. One warm summer night, we decided we would go around midnight and do as many jumps as we could, in order to get the most thrilling return on our investment of driving time. This time, we planned it well and invited as many of our friends as would like to participate. One of our friends invited his female cousin who subsequently invited a couple of her friends as well. Needless to say, the group ended up being much larger than we had initially anticipated.
The night came, and three cars full of teenagers ventured sneakily down to Salem Pond. We tiptoed over to the bridge and began our plunges into the dark waters below. As one may imagine, a large group of teenagers comprising both genders plunging into brisk waters in the shadows of moonlight is not a quiet activity. Within about fifteen minutes, flashing lights of red and blue came racing around the nearest bend. What is the one thing a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds are thinking when they know they are about to be caught? Run! And that is exactly what we did, scattering in every possible direction. The next hour was comprised of hiding in bushes and lurking in shadows as we watched officers hunt each nook and crevice with their flashlights. After about an hour, we were all caught.
With the kindness and compassion of the officers, we were only officially charged with one offence. Having ran for so long and trespassed, we know that our punishments could have been much worse. Because some members of our group were seventeen years old, those of us who were eighteen received Class B misdemeanors for ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.’ On September 21, 2006, those of us who were eighteen appeared before Judge Howard Maetani for our arraignment. We did a plea in abeyance. We each paid a one hundred dollar fine and had six months of probation. At the completion of six months, the charge was dismissed.
Since this run-in with the law, I have stayed out of any other sort of trouble. This experience, although unfortunate to have happened, has helped me gain a frontline view of the legal system coming to life in a way that I never would have been able to see otherwise. I have always been fascinated by law and the criminal defense system. Had I not gone through this short-lived trial, I would not be able to appreciate what criminal defense is all about. The counsel that we were assigned was very helpful to explain the ramifications of our plea and the punishment to follow.
Furthermore, as I am now approaching law school, I want to be sure I have a clean record going forward. To facilitate this venture, in February I began the process of expunging this offense on my own. I contemplated hiring an attorney to help me through the paperwork and filing technicalities but ultimately decided to pursue it independently. This was the best decision I could have made! I love learning by doing. Going through the appropriate channels of getting my certificate of eligibility, followed by serving the prosecutor, and the petition to expunge has taught me a great deal about how the legal system works. I am now in the ninety-day waiting period before the judge issues the order to expunge. This whole experience has taught me a great deal and has further solidified my excitement to start law school in August.
As an attorney, I would love to help those who have walked through my same footsteps. I know everyone makes mistakes, and it would be my honor and privilege to help others feel comfortable through the sometimes confusing legal system. Having been here before and known the overwhelming feeling that can come with a criminal charge, I know how great it feels to be given quality counsel. I want to pay it forward and be the one to give that counsel. It is my hope and prayer that obtaining my legal education will help facilitate that ambition.