Teenage mistakes can come back to haunt young adults for many years in the future. Especially if the criminal justice system gets involved, it can be hard to move on from a criminal conviction. One of the most common issues that young adults face with the law is a violation of alcohol laws.
It is illegal for minors to purchase or consume alcohol. However, that legal prohibition has never successfully stopped teenagers from having a few drinks with friends. Just getting caught with alcohol could be bad enough, but if your teen got behind the wheel after drinking, that mistake could have an impact that persists well into adulthood, affecting educational opportunies and work.
Depending on the circumstances, there are a number of ways that you may be able to help your child move past a dangerous mistake related to alcohol in Massachusetts.
It may be possible to go to juvenile court
If your child is 17 or younger, it may be possible to have the issue heard by the Massachusetts juvenile courts instead of the adult criminal justice courts. While that may just seem like a minor change in venue, it can have a profound impact on your child's experience.
Juvenile justice cases are often eligible for record sealing or expungement later in life. They are also more private, with a focus on rehabilitation rather than just punishment. They help protect minors accused of nonviolent offenses from facing the potentially damaging experience of incarceration with adult criminals.
One of the first things that you should explore when discussing your child's situation with the criminal defense attorney is whether your situation could qualify for the juvenile courts instead of the standard criminal justice court system.
Reduced charges and court alternatives may be available as well
Most courts will consider minor infractions by teenagers on a case-by-case basis. Although there are certainly some judges who have a reputation for throwing the book at youthful offenders, many others are inclined toward leniency, provided that the teenager in question has a solid support network and no previous criminal convictions.
In order to protect young adults from losing a promising future over a single criminal mistake, some judges and prosecutors will offer reduced charges for first-time offenders. It may also be possible to seek treatment instead of punishment. If your teenager has developed a drinking problem, that could also play a role in the strategy you use for addressing pending criminal charges.
There is no straightforward answer about what solution is best for any one family. Instead, you really need to evaluate your situation on an individual basis. Sitting down to talk with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who understands both impaired driving laws and juvenile offenses can help your family move on.