If your teenager is in trouble with the law for drugs, alcohol, theft, or some other crime, then it is understandable that you feel distraught. You are probably very unsure of what’s to come in terms of legal ramifications, your household, and, most importantly, your child’s future. Your world as you’ve known it is rapidly crashing to an end. Things will be different now, for you, your troubled teen, and your family. However, all hope is not gone. There is a ray of light at the end of what may appear to be a solemn, dark tunnel.
While this article certainly does not aim to provide legal advice, it should help to give you a few tips and pointers about what to expect in the days to come, which should hopefully alleviate some of the stress you’re feeling as the parent of a child in trouble.
You have every right to be upset, but it is important that you don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. You’re probably feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, and afraid, and that’s all completely understandable. But it’s important that you keep your head together for the sake of your child. You need to remain calm and collected in order to protect your teen’s rights and to be the parent they need you to be. You have every right to be angry, but do not allow that anger to prevent you from helping your teen right their mistakes.
Prepare for the worst.
Regardless of the crime your teen allegedly committed, it is important that you take the issue seriously. All crimes, no matter how small, have the potential to wreak havoc on your family, so it is advisable to seek out an attorney as early as possible in the legal process. Yes, they can be expensive, but, for most families, they are definitely worth the money. In many cases, lawyers have the ability to lessen the charges being pressed against your son or daughter, and sometimes they can even make those charges disappear entirely. They act as your ally throughout the legal process, lessening your anxieties and increasing your teen’s chances of receiving fair penalties.
If you are unable to afford an attorney, remember that there are other options. Most lawyers offer free consultations, and, if you do enough research beforehand and ask the right questions, you could be able to prepare yourself to the point where you do not need to actually hire the lawyer. You also have the option of being represented by a public defender, although these lawyers are often unable to give your case as much time or personal attention as a private lawyer.
Keep things in perspective…
Throughout the legal process, it is important that you keep things in perspective and resist the urge to panic. Remember that your teen is still a minor, and, as such, the penalties they will receive are likely to be far less severe than if they were charged as an adult. Therefore, this incident probably doesn’t have the ability to ruin their future. This is still a difficult time, to be sure, but just remind yourself that this is not the worst that could happen and that your family will pull through. It’s really not the end of the world.
…But still take it seriously.
At the same time, make sure that you are still taking this issue seriously. Your teen’s juvenile criminal record will be hidden from public view once they reach adulthood, but that doesn’t mean that your problems are over with. While first offenses are often not punished very harshly, the legal system makes up for this lenience by punishing repeat offenders much more severely. Also, juvenile offenders are more likely to become adult offenders if their underlying issues – whether emotional, psychological, family-related, etc. – are not properly addressed. Therefore, be sure to provide your teen with the care, counseling, or discipline they need as soon as possible; otherwise, their law breaking habit could stay with them into adulthood, where it will carry much, much heavier consequences.