Matthew Teeter is the first to admit he was no angel as a teen growing up in South Brunswick.
The 2004 South Brunswick High School graduate and SBHS prom king fell into many of the same traps numerous teens fall into in regards to peer pressure before getting in trouble with the law. But it was a second chance that propelled Teeter to turn his life around, as he went on to become a criminal defense and municipal court lawyer. That second chance is one he is now determined to also provide to young people who made a mistake.
"I wasn't perfect when I was a student. Growing up we can all fall to peer pressure," Teeter said. "When you're 18, you can't really comprehend the amount that getting in trouble can affect your future. I had my driver's license suspended, had speeding tickets, was in and out of court. My father spent thousands retaining attorneys.
"I didn't take school seriously and didn't hang with the right crowd. I got to a point in my life where I realized there are others out there like me who could make more of their future if they were given a second chance like I was. If I didn't have people out there helping me, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Once Teeter realized he needed to get his act together before it had a negative impact on his future, he became inspired to pursue a career in law.
Teeter graduated from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 2008 with a major in Criminal Justice and a focus in Forensic Investigation. He then moved to Alabama and obtained his J.D. from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law at Faulkner University.
"When I went to SBHS, I really wasn't aware of how good the school system was until I went down south in Alabama," he said. "I noticed the schools in the south were struggling. But I was so prepared for college having gone to SBHS."
Teeter noted that it was his experience in college with the mock trial team that eventually propelled him to pursue criminal law.
"My best grades were always in criminal and procedure classes," he said. "I was also involved with the mock trial team where I traveled the country. My professors told me I had a talent for speaking to juries and I needed to get involved with trial work. I always found criminal work more exciting because I feel like I'm advocating for people."
While in law school, Teeter became the youngest President of the Student Bar Association in school history, was appointed an Executive Board Member of the Board of Advocates, and represented his school at the 2011 Annual American Bar Association Meeting.
For the past three years, Teeter's focus has been devoted to criminal law, criminal procedure and trial advocacy. He credited his experience growing up in the township for helping to shape him, while instilling a sense of empathy for those around him.
"I got to see everything in high school, where there were Jews, Muslims, Christians, and so much cultural diversity that allowed me to become educated on so many different topics and cultures," he said. "You learn about people who aren't as well off as you. When you go to areas that aren't the melting pot that South Brunswick is, you realize how much growing up here helps. I made so many friends among different types of people who helped form who I am as a person. I think it's a Jersey thing, no other place has so much cultural diversity."
Teeter recently joined with partner Michael Brett Roberts, a Rutgers University and New Jersey School of Law graduate who has been practicing criminal law since 2009, to open the firm Roberts & Teeter LLC near South Brunswick in Somerset. When choosing an area to begin their practice, Teeter said it was a natural to return to the area that shaped him into what he has become.
"I have a love for South Brunswick," Teeter said. "I grew up in Kendall Park. I went to high school here where I met my future wife. My cousins are in the South Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame. I was always involved in the South Brunswick PAL football league. I knew I wanted to come back to this area and make New Jersey proud."
Teeter said his practice's goal is to provide competent affordable representation to the criminally accused, while offering discounts to current high school students and college students. The practice's web site provides detailed breakdowns of various crimes and the potential fines or sentences that may be incurred. While they handle all types of criminal offenses, Teeter said he has a special place in his heart for defending young people who made a mistake.
"People need to know that nobody's perfect. Parents go through stress raising teens, who may go to a party and make decisions that are not part of their character," he said. "I believe in second chances because I went through the same thing with having to come home and tell my dad I got in trouble. We're here to simplify things and let people know everything is going to be okay and you can restore your reputation. If you want to go to law school or medical school, you won't have a problem with the application process later on. Why should something be held against you later in life when you were trying to fit in with the crowd and made a mistake. I know better than anyone and we're the guys who are going to fight for you."
For more information click here to visit their web site or call 732-325-0814.