What To Expect When Your Adult Child is Facing Criminal Charges
Let’s talk more about adult children facing criminal charges. My typical criminal defense client is a university student, legally an adult,* charged with DUI, possession of a controlled substance like marijuana, obstruction of law enforcement, public drunkenness, or other crimes.
For most, it is their first arrest, their first time being in jail, their first time talking to a lawyer, and their first exposure to the criminal justice system. While, legally, they are considered adults, these young people need a particular kind of help and guidance and support as their case makes its way, slowly, through the system. They need the help of a therapist, counselor, advisor, advocate, and friend. This post is for those parents who are actively involved, or who want to be actively involved, in their adult child’s criminal case.
Parents, your important role goes far beyond being the source of funds from which your adult child’s attorney is paid. You can offer moral support, encouragement, wisdom, and the benefit of your life experiences. You can facilitate your adult child’s enrollment and attendance in an alcohol or drug treatment program, if necessary. You can provide transportation for your adult child, if necessary. You can cooperate with your adult child’s attorney in scheduling office appointments and phone conferences. You can provide food and shelter. You can give or lend money to your adult child for fine payments. You can help your adult child by reminding her not to discuss her case with anyone but her attorney.
Because these young adults usually do not have enough money of their own to hire a lawyer, the law and the rules of the State Bar of Georgia allow payment from one other than the client under certain circumstances. Rule 1.8(f) provides that “[a] lawyer shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client (including a parent) unless:
- the client gives informed consent;
- there is no interference with the lawyer’s independence of professional judgment or with the client-lawyer relationship; and
- information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by Rule 1.6.”
Rule 1.6 requires a lawyer to “maintain in confidence all information gained in the professional relationship with a client, including information which the client has requested to be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would likely be detrimental to the client, unless the client gives informed consent, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or are required by these Rules or other law, or by order of the Court.”
A comment to State Bar Rule 1.8 provides further guidance:
Lawyers are frequently asked to represent a client under circumstances in which a third person will compensate the lawyer, in whole or in part. The third person might be a relative or friend… Because third-party payers frequently have interests that differ from those of the client, including interests in minimizing the amount spent on the representation and in learning how the representation is progressing, lawyers are prohibited from accepting or continuing such representations unless the lawyer determines that there will be no interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment and there is informed consent from the client. See also Rule 5.4(c) above.
An experienced attorney is in the best position, is the best suited, and the most qualified to help your adult child facing criminal charges. As such an attorney, I take my role very seriously and treat every client with respect and dignity. Working together as a team, you, your adult child, my staff, and I can successfully navigate the criminal justice system.
*Parents, I hear you! I hear you saying things like, “My son/daughter may be 18/19/20/21, but he/she has never faced anything like this before, and he/she doesn’t know what to do, and he/she is immature, and he/she doesn’t have any money to pay a lawyer so I will be the one paying, and he/she needs my guidance,” and so on and so forth. I understand that despite your son/daughter having reached the age of legal adulthood, you still think of him/her as a child, your baby. I understand. I really do. I feel your pain.
The problem is that the law does not see it like we do. The law sees your adult child as an adult. Whether your son/daughter is 18 or 28 or 48, the law sees him/her as an adult. While you and your son/daughter may confer and discuss his/her case, and while you may offer your opinions, thoughts, and suggestions to your son/daughter, you may not represent your son/daughter in court (unless you are a lawyer representing your son/daughter). Your son/daughter will be required to stand on his/her own two feet in court, just like any other adult.
I go to great lengths to accommodate parents of young adult children facing criminal charges. I spend a great deal of time every week meeting with, or having conference calls with, parents and their adult children, discussing their cases, answering questions (to the extent allowed by the State Bar rules and the law), and offering advice. No rule or law requires me to include parents in those meetings or conference calls. I do it anyway. Sometimes, we discuss things that I have already discussed with my client, the adult child. Other times, I answer questions that I have already answered numerous times in the past. I answer them anyway.
What I do not do, and what I will not do, is violate any rule of attorney-client confidentiality. I will not violate the trust that someone has bestowed upon me. I will not share secrets. I will not do anything that could cause my client to stop trusting me. It has to be that way. My clients must have total faith in my word, my pledge, that they can share anything with me and no one can force me to divulge that information. It can’t work any other way. If a client cannot trust his/her lawyer, the only person looking out for his/her best interest, then he/she cannot trust anyone.
Parents, please understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. Even if I wanted to share with you everything that your son/daughter tells me, I could not. The law and the State Bar rules forbid it. If you need to cast blame, direct it toward the law and the State Bar rules instead of me, please. I didn’t make the law or the Bar rules, but I will honor them, and I will obey them because that’s who I am. Please don’t put me in a bad position by asking me to communicate with you outside your son/daughter’s presence. I am doing everything humanly and legally possible to protect your adult son/daughter’s interests.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.