I have a lot of 17-19 year old clients who feel targeted by small town police departments. These young adults are usually in my office for a pot case, or maybe even a DWI or DUI (DUI is only for those under 21 in Texas) and they tell a similar story; that the police pull them and/or their friends over consistently and they don’t know how to stop the harassment. First, advice for parents.
If your child is being pulled over frequently, or if he has friends who are targets or have been arrested recently then it’s important that you have him (it’s almost alway a male) meet with a lawyer and get him either on retainer, or establish a relationship so your he can lawyer up when he is pulled over.
Why does this happen? Teenage boys are targeted because a) they are politically powerless, no one cares if teeangers complain about the cops b) they do dumb shit often and c) drug arrests are the low hanging fruit for cops, it looks like real police work, except it’s much easier. So if you pull over enough teenagers you can write some easy tickets ($$ for the city) and maybe find some pot; then you feel like you solved a real crime and make your stats.
Let’s talk about point b) so more. Teenage boys commit crimes and parents want their children to be held responsible. I get that, but what parent should not want is the criminal justice system to hold your child responsible. This system is too stupid, corrupt, violent and arrogant to know what is best for your child.
Parents come to my office thinking that the criminal justice system is fair, and targets bad guys, not people like their child who made a mistake. Certainly the system won’t want their child’s future with a drug conviction, or with a deferred probation that will never be expunged? Such optimism is the telltale sign of a lack of experience with courts and cops in Texas. Texas prosecutors still run on being the toughest, and guess who they are going to be tough on? Your child. Why is that a problem? Because in Texas the criminal justice system is rigged from arrest to trial to benefit the State, the police and the prosecutor. Google Michael Morton, Ken Anderson and John Bradley for more info.
Don’t get me wrong, you could get lucky and have fair and decent people in your local police and DA’s office, but you’d be shocked at how many could care less about your child’s future. To be fair, most prosecutors give better recs to those under 21 as a general “kids are dumb and make mistakes” policy. But not all, and it’s not uncommon for children whose parents cannot afford quality representation to see their child locked up for weeks just trying to make bail. Forget drug free zones and prior convictions, the real sentence enhancement in Texas is for the crime of being poor. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.
Pro Tip- Hire the best lawyer you can afford for your child. A great defense team can be expensive, but think of this like college, it’s going to affect the rest of their life, so it’s worth it to pay for a better outcome.
If a prosecutor is trying to destroy your 17 year old son’s future with a terrible plea rec the system works against your child, and as defense lawyers our options are much more limited in adult court than in juvenile court. Juvenile court focuses on rehabilitation and the future of defendants. Adult court focuses on punishment and the past. You are what you did in adult criminal court, nothing more. Where in juvenile court you are who you could become.
Let’s talk about being an adult in Texas for a second.
In Texas once your child turns 17 he or she can’t vote, can’t drink, can’t buy smokes or even lottery tickets, but he or she will be charged as an adult if arrested.
What kind of state hates their young adults so much that it puts high school kids in adult jail, and in the adult criminal justice system? Why do we want to ruin their future with lifetime convictions? FYI- All convictions in Texas last a lifetime and even petty crimes like possessing a joint means up to 180 days in the county jail. What idiots thought of that?
We seem to understand that the brain of a 17 year old may not be ready to drink or vote; but that same brain is perfectly capable of perfectly following the thousands of laws Texas has and should be punished accordingly?
What to tell your child if he or she is confronted by the police
1. In Texas all you have to do when confronted by cops is ID yourself, and present insurance if you are driving.
2. Never answer any questions about illegal activity. Ask for a lawyer, and keep a lawyer’s business card on you. If asked about anything illegal, ask for your attorney. I don’t care if the cops find weed in your pocket, don’t say or admit anything. In fact, don’t answer any questions, cops are better at interrogating you than you are at answering their questions.
2a. Cops are allowed to lie to you to get you to confess. They can tell you your friends snitched, or they found your DNA on the waterbong and you are going down like OJ. But it’s usually a show to get you to talk. Again, shut up and ask for a lawyer.
3. Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, go.
4. Never consent to a search. Don’t stop the cops from searching you, but never agree to it. Ask for a lawyer instead.
5. Be nice and calm. Cops often bully young adults to get them to confess and consent. Stick to the script and be polite. The less you say the better.
Should we move? Or switch schools?
Yes. The system isn’t going anywhere, the local police aren’t going anywhere. Moving is expensive, but so is constantly being arrested for petty nonsense.
What about filing a complaint against the police?
You know who investigates complaints against the police? The police. Guess how that works. I mean, do it if you have a concern, it’s good to make a record, but don’t expect the local PD to do anything beyond finding clearing their colleague.