No parent wants to face that moment where they have to pick their kid up from the police station because they were caught drinking or carrying marijuana. It’s scary. It’s embarrassing. You’re mad at your child and worried for them at the same time. What is this going to mean for their future?
Obviously, breaking the law in any way is not a good move for your child, but there are far worse juvenile charges. Most likely, they won’t have to spend time behind bars, and as a parent you even have a few options to clean up your child’s record before they head to college.
Yes, that’s right – this probably won’t derail their chances of getting into college.
Don’t breathe that sigh of relief yet, though. Your child could still face serious consequences. The best way to ensure a positive outcome is to understand the process and what types of actions you should take.
What to Do to Get a Positive Outcome in a Minor in Possession Case
Here’s what’s you need to do if your minor child is caught in possession of marijuana or alcohol:
Build a Defense. Even if a breathalyzer was on the scene at your child’s arrest, it is still possible to defend against possession charges. Some defenses include:
- Consent of the Parent: A glass of wine at dinner with parents is not a reason to have a criminal record. Colorado allows alcohol consumption if “they obtain permission from their guardians and drink on their private property.”
- Religious Purposes: Drinking the wine offered at church or other religious ceremonies is also not a reason to have a criminal record.
- Breathalyzer Failure: A breathalyzer cannot distinguish beer from mouthwash. In fact, our breathalyzers may not properly read alcohol at all. There are many stories of mouthwash and prescription drugs affecting breathalyzer results. Moreover, Colorado has recently come under fire because our breathalyzers were not properly assessed and signed off on over the last few years.
Stay Out of Trouble: If this is your child’s first offense, it may be possible to get the charges dismissed… as long as your child stays out of trouble.
Judges usually offer a Deferred Judgement or Deferred Prosecution to minors caught with marijuana or alcohol for the first time. For one year, your child may have to take an alcohol- or marijuana-related class or do community service, as well as staying out of trouble.
If they can manage to stay on their best behavior and do what the judge asks of them, their case (and charges) will be dismissed. If they do not stay out of trouble, they may face penalties like license suspension, fines, and a conviction on their record. Additional possession charges may result in jail time and higher fines.
Apply for Expungement. An arrest on your child’s criminal record can be a burden when they apply for colleges. Luckily, as soon as your child’s case is dismissed, your lawyer can apply to have the record expunged.
Expungement hides the contents of a criminal record from schools, employers, landlords – anyone who isn’t involved in law enforcement. In other words, if your child is charged a second time for possessing alcohol or marijuana, the judge will see the past infraction, but admissions officers and teachers will not.
Not all offenses can be covered up. If your child is charged with additional crimes, like disorderly conduct, the charge may have to stay.
Even less serious charges can damage your child’s future, but having representation can help you get the best results. From telling you about your rights to fighting for your child’s expungement, a lawyer can walk you through the process and make sure everything goes smoothly.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.