So your teen is facing a felony, a speeding ticket, a drug offense or some other matter before the court. As a parent, this is your first time having to think about lawyers and judges with possible fines and jail. Your fear and anger is running rampant because your teen’s risky behavior or crisis led them to this point. How on earth does a parent deal with this type of dilemma?
For many parents, we see court rooms on television shows or in movies in which the prosecutor or the defense attorney has the victory. While watching, you see a judge give a slam of the hammer of punishment or extend mercy.
Back to reality, you look at the court date on your calendar and wonder what the end result will be for your teen?
If you’ve never been to court before, thoughts of going is scary. Wild images run through your head of a screaming handcuffed teen being swept away by officers. It’s not just any teen, it’s your teen.
Back it up a bit and slow down. Let me give you a better picture to look at.
First of all, let’s squash the myth that prosecutors are big bullies and want to see your teen rot in jail or jack up fines so high that it’ll be years before they can have their first job or car.
Believe it or not, prosecutors are willing participants in the bargaining of your teen’s violations. Many of them don’t want to see a repeat of your teen’s appearance, so they work with you to help bring down those violations for the first time offense and offer another chance at getting things right.
If it is your teen’s second offense, offers of a drug rehab program, community service or center to get your teen in the right direction is really the goal of attorneys and judges.
The other myth is that public defenders are incompetent and don’t care about your teen’s case because they are being paid by the state. Untrue! There are many public defenders that truly care. It is the offender who usually doesn’t care.
For example, I went to a court hearing recently and was shocked as the public defender called off name after name of those he was representing. Eighty-five percent of those names did not show up for court. The counselor shook his head in disbelief. What was the purpose of filling out an application to get a public defender and then not go to court?
Judges come in all sorts of sizes, ethnicities, male or female. I sat in court last week with someone who had a ticket and I think I laughed at half of the things the judge (who was a lovely African American woman) said. She was hilarious, merciful and yet at the same time, one with justice on her shoulders. I walked away with a good understanding of tickets, the law, and the various violations from mild to serious.
In another courtroom was a white elderly judge who liked being a grandpa and showed firmness and fairness upon each case that stood before him. There were many who were incarcerated, had DUI and drug offenses. Of those offenses, a majority of them were sentenced to serving community service and rehab programs with the warning of what was to happen if they did not fulfill their obligation. Out of a hundred cases I saw, there were only a handful who deserved the fullest penalty.
You see, most court appointed officials want to see teens change their life around and get back on track of being responsible and accountable citizens… especially those in crisis.
It is the teens who have the better opportunity in the courtroom than an adult. The Court knows that teens can learn lessons and truths about themselves through the negative actions they have caused. They can’t always say that for adults who are repeat offenders.
You as a parent can also participate in this process by providing the court with documentation that supports your effort in getting help for your teen; such as a rehabilitative program, Psychiatric counseling, etc… (which can be encouraged as a court ordered requirement).
As to fees, yes a public defender is free, BUT there is a court fee of $100 to acquire a public defender for the case. It differs in each state and township, so it is wise to investigate.
Lastly, I would encourage you to sit in for an hour or more in your local courtroom and see how each case is handled before the Court. It is a great education.
In closing, God is our ultimate Judge who sees the heart better than any court room. Lean on His understanding and wisdom for each decision you need to make. He is the BEST Counselor you could ever need.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!