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April 2, 2013

Controlling emotions can prevent charges

My last column was about common “stupid” behaviors, committed while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, that break the law. 

Being high is no excuse, and the decision to drink or do drugs can change your life if you end up with a criminal record or jail time. 

Out-of-control behavior due to anger, rejection, jealousy or other strong feelings can also cross the line to being criminal. 

The law regulates conduct — if your actions break the law, then you may end up with a criminal conviction even if you regret what you did and think that it wasn’t the real you.

IT’S A CHOICE

We have the idea that criminals are strangers who attack us or break into our homes. They certainly are, but people we know and care about can become criminals, too. 

I saw many cases as Plattsburgh City Court judge and Clinton County district attorney where people reacted impulsively, making bad choices while emotionally upset. 

It is understandable to feel angry and hurt if another person rejects or betrays you. But, how you act on those feelings is a choice you make.

When a relationship ends but you persist in texting, calling or confronting the other person, you are crossing the line into crimes of harassment and stalking. 

If, during an argument, you break someone else’s phone, computer or other property, that is criminal mischief.

Assaulting the person who wronged you, especially if you seriously injure them, can bring criminal and civil charges.

SEEK GUIDANCE

Strong feelings can overwhelm you, especially if you do not talk about them to someone you trust. A parent, friend or counselor can help you slow down and work through your feelings so that you do not react unwisely.

People get themselves into trouble when they won’t take “no” for an answer, whether it be from a loved one, a police officer or a judge in an order of protection. To keep contacting the one you care about, even after being told not to, can lead to your arrest.

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