Children and teens in this generation are faced with a multitude of temptations that didn’t exist for earlier generations. In this time of ”zero tolerance,” it has become much harder to be a teenager, and alternative actions of correction taken on by teachers, judges and police officers, has almost become non-existent.
So when it comes to encounters with police officers, the rules have changed for the parents.
It's a miracle if your kid doesn’t get arrested, or face the prospect of it, at some point in their teenage years. Many times, it won’t even be their fault!
With this in mind, then, there are some things you need to know and tell your child in order to keep them out of prison.
1. Fix that broken car light.
Traffic stops are the number one source for encounters with police officers. Since most young drivers are driving second-hand cars, the odds are that something is going to break. It’s what draws a law enforcement officer’s attention to your car – a broken light, or an expired license plate. Once a cop spots something wrong, a traffic stop is almost likely to happen.
2. Never give a police officer the authority to search your car.
When a police officer carries out a legal traffic stop, he’s entitled to ask for your driving license, registration documents and proof of insurance. And if issued with a citation, there isn’t any reason not to sign it or argue with the officer. Once the citation has been issued, however, an officer may ask you for permission to search your vehicle.
It may sound something like this: "Would you mind if I searched your vehicle?”
It’s a lawful request, and often a teenager will feel intimidated into giving consent because it’s a police officer. But there is no obligation to consent to a search… that’s why it’s called “consent”.
It’s ALWAYS a bad idea to give a stranger (even a police office) permission to search your car. Instead, you should ask one question:
“Am I free to go, Officer?”
With this question, the officer is forced to make a decision: if he’s merely looking for a free search, he’s going to admit that you are, actually, free to go. If he has a reasonable suspicion some law has been broken, it forces him to tell you that he can obtain a warrant to search your vehicle, which is the correct procedure. If he obtains a warrant and conducts a search, there’s nothing to do but sit back and wait to see what happens.
Immediately call your parents and advise them what is happening. You are now officially being detained, and your fourth amendment rights have just been activated.
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The ultimate goal of this provision is to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary governmental intrusions.
The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.
Your parents can decide whether to hire a lawyer to explain what all those rights are.
3. Never give a statement to a law enforcement officer without an attorney present.
One of the rights your lawyer will advise you of is your right to remain silent.
Sometimes parents with good intentions will take their child into a police station to “sort out the mess,” and answer the good officer’s questions. Almost every time, the result is the child gets marched back out in handcuffs, facing serious misdemeanor or felony charges because they voluntarily gave a full and complete statement, implicating themselves in a number of criminal offenses.
4. Get a criminal defense lawyer.
Gone are the days of one-fits-all professions. In these days of specialization, you wouldn’t go to a neurosurgeon surgeon to treat arthritis. So why would you go to a police station with a divorce lawyer when the office wants to interview your child about a burglary, or aggravated battery?
If things have already come to the point of police involvement, seek legal services and find a good criminal defense lawyer. And be prepared to spend some money.
When determining the fee for attorney services there are a number of factors to consider such as; the local area, the attorney’s expertise, and the complexity of the case. There are plenty of honest and bright lawyers who don’t have a fancy office, or car, but are perfectly capable of handling your case. Find a lawyer you are confident with, then follow their advice.
5. Don’t be in a hurry to resolve your case.
If the worst happens, and your child is arrested, or even locked-up, remember that a conviction is forever. If the offense is not that significant, such as a simple drug possession case, most of the time there will be an opportunity for some type of pre-trial
With more serious cases, such as violent crimes or felonies, time often negatively impacts the state’s case, and improves the defense’s case. Witnesses move or go to college, more serious offenses take priority with the court, budget cuts can overload the already overworked prosecutors, and older cases are more easily negotiated.
A competent defense attorney knows the system and can navigate you through the process with as little exposure as possible. The six months (or even a year) your case can take, can work to your advantage, so let things work themselves out and give your lawyer time to do their thing.
And the things that will keep your child out of jail will also keep you out of jail!
This ”zero tolerance” stuff doesn’t just impact children; as lots of adults have found themselves in situations they never imagined because they were just trying to be “helpful” to a law enforcement officer.
Don't think this is an anti cop article with this information. Most of the honest ones (and most police officers are honest) tell their kids the same things. Keep your car in good repair, keep the music down so you can hear a siren behind you, be polite, and remember the question:
“Am I free to go, Officer?”
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