Should a 17 year-old plead guilty to a Felony Mischievous Vandalism charge at a preliminary hearing?

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Should a 17 year-old plead guilty to a Felony Mischievous Vandalism charge at a preliminary hearing?

My grandson and 5 others kids spray painted a football fieldhouse a day before a ballgame. It was a rival school. The damage was $577 and is paid by the families already. The school is pursuingthis charge – a felony – which will ruin these kids lives. They have already confessed to the Sheriff’s Department, spent a day in jail, and apologized to principal of school. They know they did something very wrong but a felony is a harsh punishment in my opinion. Should we speak to a criminal defense attorney? In Alcorn County, MS.

Asked on October 31, 2010 under Criminal Law, Mississippi

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Under no conditions should your grandson plead guilty (unless his attorney instructs him to).  You are right on both counts - this could ruin his life and this is harsh punishment.  A skilled defense attorney may be able to get the charge reduced (or possibility dismissed due to a technicality, although at this point that's not probable).  Find an attorney in the area where all of this occurred; they will have local contacts at the courthouse which they will be able to use to your grandson's best advantage. 

If money is an issue, a PD will be appointed.  Otherwise try Legal Aid or see if they can recommend someone to help.  Additionally, check to see if there is a law school nearby; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Finally, contact the local Bar Association in the county; 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. 

Whatever you do, do it ASAP.


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