Adult Child Arrested?!

Oh my God, my adult child is charged with a crime.

What do you do if your adult child is charged with a crime? The first thing that comes to mind is probably panic. However, the first thing you should be doing is contacting a criminal defense attorney well versed in the law. This is not the time to call the family attorney that did your mother-in-law’s will or an attorney that helped you do documents for the closing of the purchase of your home. You need someone that concentrates their practice in criminal defense. Criminal defense is a very unique area of the law and knowledge in one area of the law does not mean that attorney knows other areas of the law. If you needed your hip replaced, you would not go to your general practitioner but you would go to a surgeon skilled in that type of surgery. The law is specialized, just like the practice of medicine.

Your adult child has probably received a Criminal Complaint. This is probably scaring the living daylights out of both your child and you. For instance, even if it’s a Class A Misdemeanor, the complaint will likely tell you that your child is facing up to a $10,000 fine and up to nine months in jail. Worse yet, if it is a felony, the complaint could say something like, “Upon conviction, the person may be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned not more than 40 years in prison or both.” Obviously, this is scary. First, take a deep breath. Second, get an attorney.

Some people think they do not need an attorney because their child may have committed the offense. If they committed the offense, an attorney won’t be worthwhile, would it? Well, the answer is, yes, the attorney could be worthwhile. Just because someone is charged with an offense, it doesn’t mean they are going to be convicted of same. Sometimes, the State has trouble with their case when it comes to proof of the crime. While it is best if someone doesn’t commit a crime, just because they have committed a crime doesn’t mean they are going to get convicted. An attorney well versed in criminal defense can find defenses that a non-attorney would not know. For instance, if your adult child is accused of battery to an individual and is facing nine months in the county jail, just because they hit somebody doesn’t mean they are going to be convicted. There are defenses to battery such as self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property. It may be that someone came at your child aggressively and your child simply defended themselves. Self-defense is a complete defense to the count of battery. Therefore, even if your child won the fight, it doesn’t mean they are guilty of doing anything wrong. Potential defenses are possible in almost any charge imaginable. If your child got caught selling drugs to a police officer, a defense of entrapment might be available. Even if your child shot someone, self defense is allowed by law under certain situations.

In addition, even if there aren’t any applicable defenses under the facts of your child’s case, sometimes matters can be pled down to a lesser offense. For instance, your adult child might be age 19 and had consensual sex with a girl at a party. He may find out later that the girl was 15 years of age. Imagine your horror to find out that your child is now facing a sexual assault, with up to a $100,000 fine and 40 years in prison and inclusion on the sexual offender registry for at least 15 years. That certainly is a nightmare. However, many times, in these types of situations, as long as we can show that things happened consensually, we can find ways to avoid that felony conviction or have it amended to a misdemeanor, even if there are no defenses to the charge. There is common sense in the law and many times prosecutors will charge a matter at the highest level to amend it down to a lower level later.

In most cases, things are not as bad as they appear on paper. One should remember that the complaint is drafted by the District Attorney’s office. Many times, in the complaint, they will put all the bad facts and leave good facts out of the complaint. The complaint isn’t the end all when it comes to criminal cases. The police reports, audio, video, scientific testing results, further investigation by the defense attorney and other expert reports may refute the allegations and prove that your child isn’t guilty or your child is guilty of a lesser offense.

Many times people don’t want to spend the money on criminal defense and they will use the public defender’s office to represent their child. The idea is that they could always appeal it later if they get a negative outcome. Waiting to “fix things” on appeal is absolutely the wrong approach. While appeals can be helpful and can overturn some bad results, most appeals are unsuccessful. It is much wiser to spend the money upfront at the trial level representation rather than saving money later for an appeal. A person is presumed innocent before trial and, therefore, it is easier to mount a defense. Once someone is convicted, on appeal, the burden then shifts from the State having to prove evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that your child is guilty rather than your child having to prove on appeal that there is clear and convincing evidence that they should get a new trial or have the matter reopened. It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, the money spent before trial is like purchasing the ounce of prevention to avoid having to spend money for a pound of cure.  

Many times, you haven’t received a complaint yet but your child might tell you that the police want to talk to them to complete their investigation. This is not the time to have your child, or anyone else, make statements to the police. That doesn’t mean that a statement may not eventually be made, but it is much better to seek advice of counsel first and have an attorney with you if a statement is going to be made. The best advice when the police come calling is to get an attorney first and not talk to the police. Even though the police may insinuate that you are acting guilty if you “lawyer up”, that is just a police technique to have the person talk to the police without representation. Everyone in the United States has an absolute right to representation under the 5th and 6th Amendments of the United States Constitution. You have a right to remain silent. Your silence cannot be used against you in a court of law. While these warnings are frequently told to people, people, unfortunately, ignore those rights. They feel like they are guilty if they don’t talk to the police. The police can always get a statement later from your child and his attorney. However, it is hard to get back the statement later if it proves to be incriminating. It is better to think first and act second.

Long story short, if your child is charged with a crime, or if the police come knocking, have your child assert their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to make any statements without an attorney present. At Petit & Dommershausen, we defend people charged with crimes. It would be our pleasure to represent your child and we would do everything we could to assist them. We treat our clients as if it was our own child that is facing a criminal charge. We can be contacted at:

Phone: #920-739-9900

Fax: #920-739-9909

Appleton Area Location:                      Oshkosh Area Location:           Green Bay Area Location:

1650 Midway Road                             2001 Bowen Street                   2830 Curry Court, #2

Menasha, WI 54952                            Oshkosh, WI 54901                 Green Bay WI 54311