One of a parent's greatest nightmares is to get that late-night phone call that their son or daughter has been arrested.
This can be terrifying, for both the parents and the children involved. Especially if the children are college-age and the parents are several states away.
Unfortunately, I get calls from concerned parents nearly every week. Usually the parents are in another state and the only way they know that their child has been arrested is because they got a quick collect call from their child in jail.
What do you do?
The first thing you should be thinking is whether the offense is bondable or not. Bondable offenses are basically charges that are not punishable by life in prison. The only reason somebody might not have a bond for a bondable offense is if they are on probation and got re-arrested (probation violation) or they were already out on a bond and got re-arrested.
If the charge is bondable, bond them out. Don't make them sit in jail. Believe me, if you are the parent of a college-age child, understand me when I tell you that jail is not for college kids. Get them out now.
Some counties, such as Miami-Dade, may allow you to post the bond before first appearance (within 24 hours of arrest). Other counties, such as Palm Beach, may make you wait to see the judge before a bond can be posted.
If your child was charged with a misdemeanor, they may have been issued a PTA (promise to appear). While this is not the same as a physical arrest, it is an arrest. Many people mistakenly believe that being issued a PTA means that they have been issued some sort of civil citation, like a traffic ticket. Make no mistake about it - a PTA is an arrest.
Once you have bonded your child out, you need to consider retaining a criminal defense attorney. Hiring an attorney as early as possible is key because this may permit the defense attorney to work with the prosecutor in the pre-file stage, which may result in a reduced charge or even the file of no charges (a "no action" or "no info.")
Click here to read my post about when you should hire a criminal defense attorney.
If charges are filed, then the battle has just begun. But by hiring a good attorney, the chances that something positive may come of all this are improved. Remember - an attorney cannot promise results, but they can offer some peace of mind. You should hire an attorney who has experience dealing with the type of charges your child is facing.
Eric Matheny can be reached at (305) 777-3855. Eric Matheny represents clients charged with criminal cases in Miami-Dade and Broward.