How to hire a lawyer and how much will it cost?
July 29, 2010 8:07 AM   Subscribe

How much would I expect to pay to hire a lawyer to find out why a state trooper showed up to my old apartment (where I haven’t lived since 2004) looking for me? And does the fact that I have lived outside the US since 2005 complicate things?

A former landlord emailed me to let me know that a trooper stopped by asking for me but the trooper declined to say why. I am guessing this is a summons to appear for debt but there is a chance that it might have something to do with a failure to appear in court for a traffic ticket (a fender-bender accident was involved) in Georgia in 1999. My phone calls to the county clerk in my old town and to the Kentucky state police have been fruitless, so I am hoping a lawyer can find out for me. How much would I expect to pay for this kind of thing, and where do I start in finding a lawyer to begin with?

Bonus for any information on the kinds of things that lead to State Trooper visits – as in, would they really come knocking for a 10 year old out-of-state traffic ticket? And do State Troopers deliver summons to appear in court? – and a BIG bonus for any information on the kinds of things that might get flagged up at passport control when I visit the US. Would that traffic ticket, or, for that matter, a failure to appear in court for a debt hearing, cause me problems?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could search for yourself in the Georgia Warrants directory.
That will at least tell you if there is a warrant out for your arrest.
posted by Flood at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

The fact that your phone calls have been fruitless does not necessarily mean that official agencies won't communicate with you. They might respond better to a letter. One of the problems with phone calls is that the person receiving the call may not have any way to verify who is making the call. Someone could be pretending to be you. With a signed letter, there is the chance of verifying the signature, and there is a legal record of the discussion (whatever it may be). For example, to change your address at a bank, you have to give them a signed letter requesting the change, they won't do it on a verbal request alone. To have to hire a lawer just to find out what interest the state trooper has in you, seems excessive to me.
posted by grizzled at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2010

About 8 years ago, I had an arrest warrant out for me in New York, after not showing up for jury duty one too many times (I moved out of state 7 years prior to that, and am still getting occasional jury summons at my parents' address in the Bronx to this day). In my case, I had to ask a lawyer friend to make the inquiry about the warrant, in person at the courthouse. I would start looking for attorneys in the last town you lived in in Kentucky, and ask them how they would handle this - they'll probably be happy to take a few bucks just to go to the courthouse and find out what the deal is.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:52 AM on July 29, 2010

I had a state trooper show up to get me in touch with a defense attorney for a man I saw committing a crime a couple of years previously in a different state. The lawyer wanted to talk to me to find out if he should have me appear as a witness - of course since what I saw was his client committing a crime, he decided not to have me come in.

I had moved without providing a forwarding address except by specifically calling credit card companies and the suchlike. A marvelous way to decrease your junk mail, if I may say so.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2010

FWIW, a state trooper wouldn't be delivering process on a debt (that would usually be a private party). Even if the suit has been filed, it would be a constable (for JP courts) or a sheriff's deputy (county courts). Also old traffic tickets (almost any minor things) would be in county courts. At least that is the way it works in all the jurisdictions I'm familiar with (though the title sometimes change) (and no, not all that experience was because I was being hunted).

They may be looking for you because they are doing a background check on someone you knew years ago, or because a long lost friend of yours has become lost for the wrong people.
posted by Some1 at 9:09 AM on July 29, 2010

Would a state trooper come to your house to notify you of a death of a relative, especially if they died in a car wreck?
posted by CathyG at 9:09 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've known sheriffs to show up looking for people who did not appear for jury duty. Usually they didn't appear because they had moved before they were called for jury duty and had no idea.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:14 AM on July 29, 2010

2nding sciencegeek:...

I had a deputy sheriff show up about 3-4 years after the fact, (even though i had moved) because I had witnessed a drunk driver fleeing the scene of an accident, followed him, and told the cops where he was, and gave them my name and phone just in case. Whatever, i got supoenaed, and ended up being an independent witness that stopped a game of he said she said, and got a civil judgement for the girl who got hit.
posted by timsteil at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

A close friend had a sheriff knock on the door when her doctor couldn't reach her to relay a test results (wrong phone number).
posted by metaseeker at 2:52 PM on July 29, 2010

we had local police come to our door to ask about a former friend and roommate of my husbands. he'd died under suspicious circumstances and they had no family information for him.
posted by kpht at 6:20 PM on July 29, 2010

Since you don't know why the trooper showed up, you don't know what kind of lawyer to hire. If you can't find out through public records, consider instead a private investigator.
posted by holterbarbour at 9:28 PM on July 29, 2010

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