ShouldI get a lawyer for my son who has been charged with juvenille vandalism?

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ShouldI get a lawyer for my son who has been charged with juvenille vandalism?

My 12 year-old son was with his cousin who vandalized property with a permanent marker (over a period of 2 days). He wrote gang signs on park equipment, a fence, a garage door, a stop sign, a library door, an outhouse, school park equipment, a school park bench, etc. He went to county jail charged with a felony. My son was also charged with a misdemeanor for destruction of property. Will I need a lawyer at court? What should I expect for punishment?

Asked on March 20, 2011 under Criminal Law, Illinois

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Anytime a criminal charge is involved it is critical to have competent legal representation.  An experienced criminal law attorney may be able to get the charge dismissed and/or reduced.  Additionally, since your son is a juvenile (and I assume a first-time offender), he may be eligible for some form of alternative sentencing that will leave him with a clean criminal record.  And in this day and age, employers, licensing agencies, and the like do thorough background checks.  Try to hire a criminal defense lawyer that is local to the court in question; they will have contacts within the court system that can be invaluable in such a case.

Your son may be appointed a Public Defender (if he meets the income eligibility requirements).  If he doesn't, check to see if he qualifies for representation by Legal Aid (although they have their own income guidelines).  Additionally, you could see if there is a law school nearby to the court in question; they typically run legal clinics that handle just this type of case for free/low cost.  Finally, you could also contact the local Bar Association in the county in which this has all taken place; they may have a list of attorneys who will take his case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on his income/circumstances. 


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