|Photo credit: Reuters / Benoit Tessier / Reuters|
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If you have been following the news, in November, three UCLA basketball players who were in China to play a game were accused of shoplifting and arrested. Generally, people consider shoplifting to be a petty crime committed by “good kids who make bad choices”. Accordingly, if you polled most people they’d probably say that the penalty should fit the crime and amount to lots of community service and perhaps public shame.
Well the Chinese government views shoplifting a little differently. But for the intervention of the United States government, these young men were facing hard time.
Maybe your kids won’t be a Division 1 basketball player involved in an international scandal, but they might do something stupid…
While this scenario may seem far fetched to you because having a child arrested in a foreign land for shoplifting is a little sensational, consider all the “normal things” your child might do to invite legal scrutiny. Indeed, parents of teenagers might just want to have an attorney on speed dial. Here’s why, “sex, drugs, love, text messages and sexting”are five "normal" things that have gotten teens into trouble recently.
- Sex: Newsflash, lots of teenagers have sex even though their parents don’t like it and don’t even know about it. Often, they have sex in the comfort of their own home like when you think they’re doing their homework… Let that sink in for a second. And while that might be disturbing for other reasons, that won’t land them in jail. Imagine for a second that they were overwhelmed with desire and had sex in a park and were caught by the police and then arrested.
- Drugs: If you haven’t been following the news, there’s a drug epidemic in this country and even the nice kids are doing it. And by “nice kids”, I mean the white, suburban kids on honor roll. The media didn’t seem to care much when the addicts were Black inner city kids… Anyway, I digress. So, think about you sitting in a board meeting in your finest suit wearing pearls when you get a call from jail saying that your nice kid is in jail because he/she was found with drugs at school or tried to buy drugs from an under cover agent, or is in the emergency department the victim of an overdose after being found down in the street and the police want to “talk” to him/her once he/she wakes up.
- Love: Imagine your daughter falls in love with an athlete at her school who has some interesting extracurricular activities of which you were unaware. She calls you from the jail because they were riding in his car and were stopped for having a busted tail light, but inside the police found a gun and drugs. And while it sounds like an unconstitutional search and seizure to you, you don’t think that your law degree obtained from watching CSI, Law & Order, and Google searches is adequate to ensure the freedom of your baby…
- Text Messages: Recently, a teenager was charged with involuntary manslaughter for sending text messages to her friend who was contemplating suicide. She was later convicted because the court concluded that her text messages encouraged her friend to do it. That’s right, this teen is now in jail for the equivalent of yelling “jump” when her friend was on a bridge.
- Sexting (sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs or images, primarily between mobile phones): As a middle aged mom, the last thing you might think of doing is sending naked photos of yourself over the internet or into cyberspace. However, apparently, this is a thing. A study conducted by Rox, the national leader on research, education and programming for girls, by high school, sexting is “common and prevalent”. Despite that reality, sending naked photos of underage persons constitutes child pornography and can result in criminal charges, even if they are sent by the person in the photo. Despite this reality, the number of nudie photos sent by teens is rampant. You may think, no harm no foul, the kids are doing it and consenting so nobody will get in trouble. Think again. Parents who have seen such photos on their kids' phones and dislike the sender have reported the sender to the police resulting in criminal charges.
- Bonus: (Love Part II) Although love makes the world go ‘round, it can also be controversial. Your son may fall in love with a classmate, which leads to love and sex. It’s all fun and games until the parents of his girlfriend find out and decide to report it to the police because he’s an 18 year old senior and she’s a 14 year old freshman. That’s right, your son could face statutory rape charges for having consensual sex with someone he met at school.
I’m an attorney, but don’t practice criminal law. Still, I follow news stories. What they have taught me is that it helps to have a lawyer on speed dial. If you don’t have a friend or family member, then get the next best thing—legal insurance. Paying a little month for peace of mind can go a long way. Because honestly, you really have no idea of what your kids might do!
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