If you have never been involved with the “Criminal Justice System” you may be in for a shock. It should be called, I think, the criminal IN-JUSTICE system. Frankly if you are very wealthy, like O. J. Simpson, you can usually literally “get away with murder.” If not, hiring an attorney for even a simple case can bankrupt a middle class family.
Lawyers, also called “land sharks,” are expensive. They charge $300 or more per hour of their time. If you have to actually go to court on a major felony, you are talking big bucks!
If you are very poor, your child may qualify for a public defender, who is usually a young, just out of law school, over-worked, and poorly paid person. Or in some states every lawyer has to take a turn as an unpaid or poorly-paid public defender. So if they are spending time on your child and not being able to bill big bucks, you can imagine how much time they will devote to your child or loved one.
Here is a link to a very good article about public defenders.
Do you even want to hire an attorney for Junior, even if you can afford it? Maybe not, you may very well be able to talk to the judge yourself and get junior out on bail or even just released to you before he goes back for a preliminary hearing. Where he will plead guilty or not guilty. The judge may set a trial date if he pleads not guilty, or may sentence him if he pleads guilty and throws himself on the mercy of the court, and agrees to work and make restitution (if it is possible.)
If you think truly that your Junior is innocent of the crime he is accused of you might very well want to hire an attorney or secure a public defender if you can’t afford a private attorney. If Junior is over 18 or living independently and is “low income” he may qualify for a public defender based on his/her income or resources.
In deciding things about Junior, you need to take into consideration lots of things. First, many teenagers are very narcissistic (self centered) but will grow out of it, many are rebellious to one extent or another, and will also grow out of it. Many take risks that no sane adult would take, but they will also usually out grow that phase too. However, those same personality traits can also be signs of something more serious.
One of the “worst case scenarios” possible usually starts exhibiting its self about puberty and that is Anti-Social Personality Disorder, or one of several disorders called “cluster B” disorders and include Borderline Personality Disorder, Oppositional defiance disorder, or Conduct Disorder are other terms for this. Many of these young people go on in adult life to become psychopaths, and essentially do not have a real conscience or be able to have empathy. Other adolescents seem to “out grow” this and “rowdy on down.”
Bi-polar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive) is when the person is depressed at one time, then “manic” at other times. This mental illness which has a high heritability component usually surfaces about puberty or young adulthood. When a person is in the manic phase of this, they think they are invincible and may do outrageous things that are out of character and totally absurd. Even full adults who are manic may do such things as decide they have a sure fire way to beat Los Vegas and take the family savings and go to the casinos.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder is frequently found with conduct disorder or oppositional defiance. In adults with psychopathy,
ADHD and bi-polar are frequently also found as additional diagnoses along with the psychopathy. Of course, not all people with ADHD or bi-polar are psychopaths.
All of these diagnoses have a high degree of genetic predisposition, however, DNA is not (I repeat: is NOT) destiny.
Because teenagers are so volatile anyway, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between pathological and normal teenage rebellion.
Some of the questions you should seek answers to if your Junior is becoming involved with the criminal justice system is 1) are there mental health issues involved? 2) is this new behavior in an otherwise previously “good” child? 3) could drugs possibly be involved? 4) could there be abuse involved that could cause the child to “act out?” 5) how serious is the offense(s)? 6) what are the resources available to you through health insurance? School counselors? Family finances?
When our children from good families, of whatever age, become involved with the criminal justice system through lack of judgment or premeditation, or just hanging with the “wrong crowd” it can have life changing consequences. Deciding what to do for a family without previous knowledge of how the criminal justice system works can be overwhelming to say the least.
When my own son Patrick started roaming the streets at night (age 15) I didn’t see this as much more than “teenage” rebellion, even when the local cops brought him home. Things started escalating though when the school resource officer (cop) came to my home and told me that Patrick had a gun at school showing it to other students. I found out later it wasn’t the first gun he had ever stolen, as he had stolen one from my father, though he continued to deny that theft.
After I discovered the gun and confiscated it, Patrick ran away from home, and I turned him in as a run away. Since I turned him in as a run away (out of my control) I was not liable for the damage he did to the vehicle he stole. Still, at age 17, he was considered a juvenile and sentenced to counseling and probation. He told the counselor how abused he was by his family. In fact, I found out that at his trial for murder at age 20, which he made sure we did not know the date of and therefore couldn’t attend, that his defense was his “abusive childhood.”