In many cases, a juvenile drug charge is the teen’s first interaction with the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, it can be a very serious first experience, because a drug conviction can stop the minor from getting student loans, joining the military, taking a first job or other important steps toward successful adulthood.
If a young adult you love is facing drug-related juvenile criminal charges, it’s important to make sure you get help from an experienced juvenile criminal attorney. At Alabama Criminal Lawyers, we can eliminate or minimize these harsh penalties for what may have been a simple mistake.
We represent children, teens and young adults who face juvenile criminal charges for:
In Alabama, judges can usually choose whether to try a minor under 18 as an adult or as a juvenile. (If the minor is over 16 and is charged with a very serious crime, including drug trafficking, he or she will likely be tried as an adult.) Young adults between 18 and 21 may apply for a one-time youthful offender status. In making either decision, judges take into account the defendant’s age and any past criminal record.
We will always argue strongly for juvenile status because the adult criminal code makes no allowances for inexperience, peer pressure and other common circumstances that can lead a young person to commit a crime. Furthermore, being imprisoned with adults essentially sends teens to “criminal finishing school” — exactly the wrong influence.
By contrast, youthful offender status makes a young adult eligible for alternatives to incarceration, including “boot camp” and, in cases of drug use, juvenile drug court. In juvenile drug court, the minor pleads guilty to the drug charge, then enters a six-month program of court-supervised addiction treatment and testing.
Under this program, the minor only goes to boot camp or juvenile detention if he or she repeatedly fails to cooperate with the program. In addition, the conviction can be sealed after the minor turns 18 or 21, preventing a youthful mistake from following your child into adult life.
Despite their age, immaturity, and inexperience, juvenile drug offenders face penalties that are often just as harsh as those for adult offenders. Even a simple possession crime can land a teen in juvenile detention or even adult prison — if it’s not handled by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
We will defend your son or daughter from juvenile drug-related charges, keeping one mistake from becoming a lifelong disadvantage. He will aggressively challenge violations of your child’s rights and sloppy work by law enforcement, including incarceration of a juvenile with adult offenders; failure by officials to notify parents or guardians of the detention; failure to notify the minor of or respect his or her legal rights; and illegal searches of the child’s person, belongings or vehicle.
In many cases, a successful challenge to these can get the minor’s charges dismissed or substantially reduced.
We can also fight the substance of the charges against your son or daughter by challenging unproven assertions like “intent to sell” or the juvenile’s knowledge of the crime. Remember, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict. And if a plea bargain is appropriate, we will do everything we can to make sure your child gets a sentence that’s appropriate for his or her age, experience level and alleged crime.
Later, we can also help seal a juvenile criminal record, to ensure that it doesn’t prevent the minor from leading a happy and successful adult life.
If you or someone you care about faces juvenile narcotics charges, contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers today at (205) 981-2450 for a free consultation.