How to handle a criminal charge against a minor who is a first-time offender?

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How to handle a criminal charge against a minor who is a first-time offender?

There were 5 people in my sister’s car when her car was searched. All denied owning the drugs so all were arrested and charged. Since she owns the vehicle, she is responsible. She is 17 but parents were not contacted because the police said they were charging her as an adult. She has no previous record. Should she try to arrange a plea of guilty claiming first-offender status and ask that the solicitor to seal her record on turning 18? Would the solicitor general likely change the charge to juvenile possession if we agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana? Would the solicitor likely agree to such a deal? Is this the best way to handle the situation? Concerned about college admission and financial aid. Should she see a criminal defense attorney? In Ware County, GA.

Asked on April 25, 2011 under Criminal Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Your sister should get a criminal defense attorney IMMEDIATELY. As you note, an a conviction can impact many aspects of life as well as resulting in imprisonment, probation, and/or a fine, so your sister's priority needs to be to at least minimize (e.g. agree to a lesser plea) the charge, such as to a juvenille charge or a less misdemeanor or violation; it might also be possible to fight the charge and win, if, for example, there is something wrong with the evidence or the search.

There is no way to provide general guidance on what to do--every situation is different. The best strategy will depend on the specific facts as well as the personality of the prosecutor(s) involved. Experienced defense counsel can evaluate the case, advise your sister, and represent her. So she should get a lawyer right away, and she should not speak to the authorities (i.e. exercise her right to silence, which is the right against self-incrimination) until she talks to her attorney.


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