If you have a teen, you might want to consider at least knowing of a good criminal defense lawyer. Sounds a little crazy, right? Here’s why it might not be.
It’s hard to believe that your little angel could be responsible for a crime, but regardless of how hard you’ve tried to raise them well, kids will always get into trouble. Usually it’s nothing to worry about – maybe problems with Algebra, or talking during class. But when that trouble turns into bigger problems, and it does happen, you’ll want to be prepared.
Stories of bullying, fighting, and even death involving teenagers flash across our TV screens every day. How can a teen go from living a normal life to all of a sudden being charged with a crime? It can happen in the blink of an eye, a text message, or in a Facebook post.
That’s why Lisa Green, author of On Your Case: A Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman’s Life, believes every parent of a teen should know of a criminal defense lawyer.
Criminal Defense Lawyer
A criminal defense lawyer handles a variety of cases including:
– Drug Charges
– White Collar Crimes
– Violent Crimes
– Sex Crimes
– Theft Offenses
Hiring a lawyer is your best bet in defending yourself against criminal charges such as this one. A criminal defense lawyer will give you guidance on the strengths and weaknesses of your case and your specific risks of conviction and punishment. They will help to explain the legal system and the procedures involved. And when the allegations are against your son or daughter, a criminal defense lawyer can be your first line of defense.
Green, who also works as a lawyer believes that every parent should know of a criminal defense lawyer. Not having one is “the unrecognized area that parents, particularly parents of teens, miss all the time. So many of our friends have armies of tutors, extracurricular activities, all sorts of angles covered … but when it comes to the law, there’s this black hole.”
Turning a Blind Eye
Of course you never want to believe that your child will actually need to be defended in a court of law. The idea is most likely your worst nightmare, but being unprepared can cause even greater nightmares. Because of that, you need to be prepared.
“I cannot count the number of kids I know, good kids, who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Green.
“I have now two young adults, and when they were going through their teenage years, it was a simple matter of a party that went wrong, a group of kids in the park when the police stop by and have some questions, bringing something to school they shouldn’t have. And in each of those cases, a little bit of knowledge of the law, a little bit of knowledge of what their rights are, the right way to behave, would have saved parents a heck of a lot of grief.”
Ways to Protect Your Child
There are some things you can do to protect your child and his or her rights. First, review any codes of conduct that are provided by their school. A lot of times parents are unaware of the fact that a school has certain laws they must abide by, including searching personal property. A student is allowed to ask if they can call their Mom or Dad before a search is conducted.
“They need to have reasonable suspicion that something’s wrong,” said Green. She advises that parents talk to their teens about what’s appropriate behavior, as well as what’s appropriate action, and what’s not appropriate when it comes to handling a request like this. Essentially, parents need to act as their child’s first legal advocate. This is how a teen should handle such a request:
“If you’re asked, as a child, for a locker search, to open a phone, to open a laptop, if it’s your property, pause and ask if you could call Mom and Dad,” she said.
“We can act whether we’re lawyers or not as that first line of defense.”
In college, the rules change a little, but as a parent, you should feel capable of setting down some ground rules.
“They don’t tell you about it during that fantastic tour with the kid walking backwards as your child is looking around to say, ‘Who can I party with?’ But it’s a really important set of information because different schools have different levels of tolerance” for various campus activities, she said.
You’ll want to consult the college’s rules regarding conduct. This is usually made available in the information packet that new students receive.
Parents Responsible for Crimes
If your child commits a crime, you should know that as a parent you can face charges.
“I am not advocating that kids should be absolved of responsibility. If a kid does something wrong, if they broke the law, they ought to be punished appropriately by it. But we also live in a society where we have legal rights, and I want parents to know that they should be aware of what those are so they can help their child use better judgment.”
Each state has its own laws regarding the legal responsibility of parents and legal guardians for criminal acts committed by minors in their charge. Many of these laws were enacted on the assumption that when a minor commits a crime it is because their parents have failed to exercise proper control and oversight.
California’s parental responsibility laws place potential liability on parents and legal guardians when a minor causes harm to a person or causes damage to property including car accidents and other acts.
A parent is liable for a minor’s “Willful Misconduct” in California under the California Civil Code section 1714.1, which states: “Any act of willful misconduct of a minor that results in injury or death to another person, or in any injury to the property of another, shall be imputed to the parent or guardian having custody and control of the minor for all purposes of civil damages.”
“Willful Misconduct” means that a minor did something on purpose, with intent.
The statute states that the custodial parent or guardian is jointly liable, along with the minor, for any damages resulting from the minor’s willful misconduct, for an amount not to exceed $25,000 for each wrongful act.
If a person is injured as the result of the minor’s “willful misconduct”, the $25,000 limit can include compensation for medical treatment and other injury-related expenses. It cannot include compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
If the minor’s misconduct involves “defacement of property of another with paint or a similar substance,” the limit of the parent or guardian’s joint liable is still $25,000.
Parental Liability for Driving
Two main California statutes exist for a parent or legal guardian’s potential liability for damages caused by a minor’s driving.
California Vehicle Code section 17707 states: “Any civil liability of a minor arising out of his driving a motor vehicle…is hereby imposed upon the person who signed and verified the application of the minor for a license, and the person shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages proximately resulting from the negligent or wrongful act or omission of the minor in driving a motor vehicle.”
California Vehicle Code section 17708 holds a parent or guardian potentially liable for all foreseeable damages any time they give either express or implied permission for a minor to drive a vehicleand the minor ends up causing a car accident. That extends to even if the minor is not licensed to drive or not.
California Civil Code section 1714.1 (the “willful misconduct” statute) limits a parent or guardian’s liability to $25,000 for actual damages.
These driving related-statutes make a parent or guardian jointly liable for “any damages proximately resulting” from the accident, which includes compensation for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
Other Situations and Parental Liability
It’s important to remember that if you are a parent or legal guardian, you can still be held legally responsible for a minor’s actions under traditional civil fault principles (known as “common law”), beyond the above statutes.
Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Once you and your attorney have discussed the specifics of the allegations that you or your child are facing, you will be informed about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, including the risks of conviction and punishment that you face. A defense attorney will be able to negotiate a plea deal or decide to move forward with a trial, while constantly working to ensure your best interests.
The criminal defense lawyers at Daniel Perlman Law in Los Angeles will put our experience to work for you. We believe every defendant has the right to a zealous defense. We offer free initial consultations and will usually quote a flat fee that will cover all the services necessary for your case, including trial. To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, call 877-887-4541 or contact us by e-mail.