So your kid is in trouble. I know, you all think it won't happen to you. You are a good parent. You set rules and boundaries, and you teach your kids respect. Your kid has good grades. The teachers love her. He would never do anything to disappoint you. It's all well and good, except for one thing: kids are kids, and sometimes they do things we wish they wouldn't.
Let's start with the why. Kids can get in trouble for a variety of reasons, and with varying degrees. But one thing is certain: kids make poor decisions. Recent research has shown that juvenile brains do not fully develop until the age of 25. Twenty-five. Think about what you were doing at 25, and then consider that your brain wasn't even fully developed. Because this information is still relatively new, many children have been treated as adults in the criminal justice system. We are now faced with undoing some of those mistakes.
Now that we know why even the best of the best kids might make a really poor decision, let's talk about what to do if it happens in your family.
First, make sure you understand the seriousness of what is going on. Is your kid facing a misdemeanor? A curfew violation? A felony? The varying degrees of seriousness are really important in how you move forward. If your kid broke curfew, you can probably work that out without hiring an attorney. But if your kid is facing a felony, take it seriously.
Next, find out if a juvenile probation officer is involved, assuming your kid is under 18. If so, this person can be an extremely valuable resource for you to assist with navigating the seriousness of what has happened and making a decision as to how to move forward.
Once you have assessed the seriousness, your next step is likely to make contact with an attorney. This can be a valuable meeting and you will likely learn from that person how to handle moving forward. Your attorney can also assist with meetings with investigators, if necessary. Make sure your attorney has experience dealing with juvenile offenses if your child is under 18. There are different laws regarding juveniles and your attorney needs to be well-versed in that area.
Often times parents call my office when it's too late. Their kid has already seen the Judge and pled guilty. Or their child went to the police and confessed to everything, or worse, lied about everything. Don't wait until it's too late. Be proactive. This is not a time to let your kid "learn lessons the hard way" as the charges will follow them around for a very long time, depending on their age and the seriousness of the offense.
Here's hoping that your children are never faced with a legal battle. But if you do find yourself in that position, contact a lawyer and be proactive. You will get through it, and your kid still has a future.