What should we do if my son is being charged with failure to notify an owner of unattended vehicle damage?

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What should we do if my son is being charged with failure to notify an owner of unattended vehicle damage?

He says that he did not hit the vehicle but they have a so-called witness. It took them 5 days to file the police report and notify us of this incident which happened 2 months ago. What will happen when he goes to court for this? He is 18 with a good driving record and no trouble with the law before.

Asked on April 30, 2015 under Criminal Law, Kentucky

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The first couple of hearings are usually procedural in nature.  When your son appears for court, the judge will advise him of the charges, as him what his plea is, and inquire if he is going to hire an attorney.  A trial cannot be set without adequate notice-- and that will come later.  The first hearings are basically  "paperwork" hearings.  Your son should enter a plea of not guilty.  From there, it will be up to the judge about what happens next.  Many will allow a defendant a period of time to find an attorney, or to apply for a court appointed attorney if they cannot afford one.  Sometimes the judges will give defendants the opportunity to take to the prosecutor.  I recommend against this because anything he tells the prosecutor could be used against him later.

As far as what will eventually happen in his case--- that varies by facts and jurisdiction.  Jurisdictions tend to me more lenient on younger defendants who have not been in trouble, but the exact recommendation will depend on the extent of the damage and the attitude of the prosecutor or judge.  From what you described, this is not a "go to jail for a long time" type of case.  If your son is guilty, then it's more of a "pay some restitution" and do an informal or formal type of probation.  Some jurisdictions do offer programs where young offenders can earn dismissals of their case by paying restitution and doing community service.  If your son is not guilty, he will need to take his case to trial and be prepared to defend against the accusations.

Because many of the variables of what could happen with your son's case depend on the nature of the policies of the local jurisdiction, you really need to visit with a criminal defense attorney who regularly handles cases in that area.  I always recommend visiting with more than one attorney.  Many will offer you a free consult-- so take advantage of those opportunities.  You want to visit with more that one so that you can (1) see what your comfort level is with the different attorneys and (2) to obtain different perspectives so that you can have a better understanding of local practices.  I wish you and your son the best of luck.


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