There are few circumstances as heart-wrenching and emotionally draining as seeing your child — no matter their age — dealing with legal trouble. The phone call with the news that your child has been arrested will scare you, cause you to worry, and potentially make you very angry.

And whether your child got carried away at school and wound up charged with underage drinking or arrested for something more substantial, like DUI, drug possession, theft, sexual offenses or worse, things can get complicated fast, especially since many parents don’t not fully understand the intricacies of the criminal justice system. After all, it’s hard to guide your child if you’ve had limited contact with criminal charges yourself.

But there’s one thing that’s certain if your child was arrested in Philadelphia or surrounding suburbs: the importance of securing prompt, professional and capable legal representation by a seasoned attorney who knows “the system” and the people who run it. These important details are often what spares my clients from a criminal conviction and possibly lifelong consequences.

First, Find Your Child and Protect Their Rights

If your child is taken into police custody, it is likely because the police have reason to believe and have evidence that they’ve committed a crime. Being arrested is serious and represents a significant phase of the justice system. Your child’s rights need to be protected, and their actions will be heavily scrutinized.

Most parents’ first instinct when they hear their child has been arrested is to get them released, but accomplishing this can be confusing, especially if things happen far from home. Generally, when someone is arrested, they will typically be brought to a police station for questioning and booking.

Depending on the severity of the charges, the accused person’s criminal history, and whether or not they pose a flight risk or danger to others, will weigh heavily when a judge is tasked with determining whether they are released on their own recognizance or only after posting bail. In some cases, minor charges might result in the person being released after a brief detention period. It’s important to remain patient and persist in your search for information, as the status and location of an arrested individual can change quickly in the early stages of a criminal matter.

Finding your child after they’ve been arrested may involve contacting local police departments, jails, or using online databases specifically designed for this purpose. Some resources for those looking for incarcerated persons in the Philadelphia area:

After an arrest, the accused will typically be read their Miranda rights and questioned by police. Your child must understand they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. They should also exercise them appropriately to avoid jeopardizing their defense. Police officers are trained to get people to forego this right by making them think they can explain things on their own and that only guilty people need attorneys.

This is always a mistake. Your child could make things worse, and the statements they make can be misinterpreted by officers looking for a conviction instead of finding the truth about what happened. Regardless, you can rest assured that law enforcement won’t look out for your son or daughter’s interests, record, or future.

Once Found, Get Them a Lawyer

When your child has been arrested, speed is of the essence. You need to find a criminal defense lawyer with experience working with younger clients and considerable success navigating all the first-offense options and diversion programs offered in Pennsylvania.

If your child is in custody, here are the steps to finding a quality lawyer for your child:

  • Research: Look for an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search online, ask for recommendations, or contact your local bar association.
  • Reach Out to Firms and Ask Questions: Most law firms offer a free initial consultation where you can discuss the details and get an idea about what your child is dealing with.
  • Hire the Best Fit for You & Your Child: After discussing the case and fee structure, hire the lawyer you believe will best advocate for your child.

Once Hired, Your Child’s Lawyer Will

  • Contact Your Child & Work On Their Release – If your child is still in custody, the attorney you hire can get access to them either in person, by phone, or through video conference. From there, they will discuss the details of their case and work to secure their release.
  • Develop a Defense – Your child’s attorney will review every detail about their case and identify flaws. This might include challenging the legality of the arrest, questioning the evidence, or arguing for the charges to be dropped or reduced.
  • Negotiate a Plea & Protect Your Child’s Interests – Your child’s lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor, which could result in lesser charges or reduced sentencing. In doing so, your attorney should also consider ay long-term implications of accepting a plea, like the adverse effects of a conviction on a young person’s record or the opportunity to get the charges expunged down the line.
  • Fight for Your Child in Court – While going to trial would scare most parents, the importance of keeping your child free and unburdened by a criminal conviction cannot be overstated. Your child’s attorney should have the experience and skill to take the case to trial if that’s the best option.

Consider the Penalties & Consequences

Some common charges for young adults might include:

  • Public intoxication
  • Theft
  • Assault
  • Underage drinking
  • Driving under the influence
  • Illegal drug use or distribution
  • Rape
  • Stalking or harassment
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism

      If your child is convicted of any of these crimes, they could face fines, time in jail or prison, and possibly lose their driver’s license or ability to work in certain fields. Some crimes, like sexual assaults, require registering on the sex offender registry.

      In addition, when your child’s charged with a crime, they could also face academic penalties if they are a student since many local universities around Philadelphia have codes of conduct. For example, most institutions’ codes of conduct tell students they could face various sanctions if they violate that code. They could be fined or suspended, in major cases, expulsion from student housing or the university itself is common.

      Criminal penalties and school sanctions can be included on your student’s record. This could impair their future employment opportunities, limit their options for continuing an education, and tarnish their reputation. The right Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can help your student keep their record clear.

      Discuss Getting Charges Reduced or Dropped

      It may be tempting to tell your child to fight the charges until the end or accept responsibility and hope for the best, but getting charges reduced or dropped is often a critical aspect of criminal defense strategies.

      A reduced charge often means less severe penalties and a dropped charge can mean no criminal conviction at all. Having a clean record or a less severe conviction can significantly affect one’s future, impacting job prospects, housing applications, college admissions, and even personal relationships. Moreover, it can mitigate the psychological impact associated with the stigma of a criminal record.

      For instance, if your child is charged with a DUI, it may feel prudent to plead guilty and deal with a license suspension. Your child may be better served by having a lawyer handle the matter. Your child’s lawyer can identify possible mistakes in how your child was identified as an impaired driver. Without strong evidence of intoxication, the DUI may be dismissed. Also, there may be first-offense options you’re unaware of that let your child keep their license and allow for a clear record down the line.

      Support Your Child & Help Where You Can

      Your adult child is not immune to making mistakes or getting caught up in precarious situations. These situations can be incredibly stressful for families, but adult children may significantly benefit from their parent’s emotional and practical support.

      Parents can play a big role in getting past criminal charges by helping to secure a competent defense attorney, understanding the charges and potential consequences, and offering emotional support during an undoubtedly confusing time. Parents can also help ensure their adult child understands their rights and the seriousness of the charges, encouraging them to fully cooperate with their legal representation to navigate the justice system effectively.

      Criminal charges at the beginning of your child’s adult life can have lasting ramifications that limit their professional and academic careers. Your best chance at protecting their future could be with a defense attorney.

      Call Attorney Mike Fienman Today

      If you’re child’s been arrested, it’s time to act. Call Fienman Defense for guidance and help to protect them from an unforgiving criminal system.
      We can help locate your child and work to get them out of jail on bond. In our experience helping clients in Philadelphia and Montgomery, Bucks, Lehigh, and Delaware counties, we know how law enforcement agencies handle arrests and can ensure they have the proper representation during any interaction with the police.

      Once you hire us, we review every detail about their case. We’ll find things the police and prosecution got wrong. Maybe they didn’t collect evidence properly or only interviewed the alleged victim. Whatever the circumstances, we will work to get unfair evidence suppressed and charges reduced or dismissed.

      Call Fienman Defense for a Free Consult

      Philadelphia defense attorney Michael Fienman has been defending clients in and around Philadelphia since 2010. He has a successful track record in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey and is ready to help your child. To learn more, call (215) 839-9529 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.

      Attorney Fienman is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

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