When a young person steals, parents often react with “What did I do wrong as a parent?” I hear a lot of parents say this or something very close to this. Maybe it’s something to the effect of, “I’m so ashamed that my child did this. This is not how he was raised.” These parents never expected that their son or daughter would need a criminal defense lawyer.
I immediately think, “Yes, you have a big problem here that you have to deal with. But if your child has never been in trouble before, you are in a whole lot better shape than most people that walk through my door.”
The truth is, if this is the first time your child has been in trouble, and he stole something relatively inexpensive (under $500 in value), I’m not saying it’s OK, but it’s not the end of the world either. Your child made a really bad decision. But one bad decision doesn’t make you a criminal in my eyes. One bad decision should not haunt him for the rest of his life.
At this point, the most important thing to do is just to make sure your child does not end up with a conviction. Generally, a good criminal defense lawyer can get the case taken care of without a conviction. Many times the case can be amended to a lesser charge, and paying a fine can make the case go away.
I’m not saying this is not a big deal. Because as you already know, it is a big deal. What I’m saying is, we can get your child through this, and make it more of a speed bump they hit, rather than a defining moment in their life.
So the next step is important. The criminal defense lawyer needs to explain the reason the kid is not getting a conviction. That reason is because the kid has never been in trouble before. They just used up that card. We’re going to get them a second chance, but next time it won’t be their first time in trouble. There won’t be another second chance.
This has to be explained to the kid. Once a young person understands that they are getting a break because this is their first time in trouble, and they’ve now used that up, they usually realize that they’re not getting a free pass or an excuse for their behavior. It’s important to know that a criminal defense lawyer can help you get through this difficult experience, but that doesn’t mean the behavior can continue.
I generally have the kid tell me what he is doing well — good grades in school, a job, volunteer work, sports participation, and other areas of success. This is important because the only thing the prosecutor and judge know about your child is what he is charged with and what prior charges he has. It’s our job to make sure that the prosecutor understands your child is not just sitting around doing nothing until he needs to go steal his next thing. We have to show them this is actually a really good kid, and this is what they have going on that is good, and therefore the court should give him another chance. If your child tells me they are not doing anything right now, I’m going to ask them to help me, so I can help them. I’m going to ask them what they can do while this case is going on to help me put them in the best light with the court.
That success can help your child get back on the right path, and make a difference in his future.
Don’t put your head in the sand, and just hope this will go away. It won’t. Call a criminal defense lawyer today. If you have any other questions I can answer for you, feel free to call me at 636-949-9000.