Most of the people who hire our criminal defense firm have never been in trouble with the law before and see themselves as law-abiding people. Everybody wants to throw the book at criminals unless it is them or their loved one that becomes part of the legal process.
In our practice, we see many cases of people who get arrested due to random dumb things, misunderstandings and/or a weird set of circumstances. And one of the most difficult situations is when kids become a part of the legal system. It can disrupt their school and life plans. Seems like there is no such thing as “youthful indiscretions” anymore.
Recently, read some interesting articles that may be worth talking to your kids about.
Evin Mintz of the Memorial Buzz wrote an article entitled, “On a Bad Day, Anyone Can End Up in Jail.” The article talks about booksmart kids who sometimes do dumb things. In some ways, kids can’t help but doing some dumb things because of their brain chemistry. Neuroimaging research suggests that the frontal lobes that govern things like impulse control and sensation seeking are still developing up through the mid-20s.
Even when people don’t do dumb things, they can be pulled into the legal system. George Flynn of The Houston Press wrote a chilling cover story called, “A Wrong Turn: Once Galveston emergency personnel discovered the dead motorcyclist was ‘one of us,’ a Bellaire teenager’s nightmare revved into overdrive.” Very concerning story about media rushes to judgment, and how difficult it can be to get the authorities to drop unsupportable charges, particularly when it involves public servants.
In my observation, the criminal justice system seems more throw-the-book at people than it was when I was growing up. Instead of getting warnings, kids are going to jail. It’s worth talking to your kids about the science of their developing brains. About making good decisions. About the consequence of bad decisions. Keeping an open and truthful dialogue with them, even when they are telling you things you don’t want to hear. I’m sure you do this already, but sometimes discussing articles that talk about real kids can make this seem more real.
Unfortunately, sometimes talking isn’t enough as experience is the harshest of teachers.