Drug possession is always a serious offense, no matter what the amount or circumstances. Marijuana is still illegal in the state of North Carolina, so any amount can be considered “drug possession.” An adult can be charged, tried and convicted, but juvenile drug possession may have a somewhat different path through the criminal justice system.
Drug charges can also have long-lasting consequences. Just being charged can limit choices in school activities as well as reduce college/education, housing, vocation and military enlistment choices. Should your child be asked later if they had any arrests, he or she will have to answer “yes,” and it will show up during a background check. Even a minor drug charge should be taken seriously.
The Juvenile Court System
There are two forms of criminal justice for juveniles—one for underage misdemeanors, and one for adults. The focus of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation, not incarceration. Numerous programs exist in Wake County that aim to reduce and prevent juvenile crime and offer diversions from such behaviors, as well as entry into the juvenile and adult criminal court systems.
Anyone arrested under the age of 16 is considered a juvenile, particularly for non-violent offenses (truancy, shoplifting, etc.) There are penalties and punishments for breaking the law, but the judge has the option of using alternative sentencing, such as drug counseling, probation with conditions and community service.
Juveniles won’t have a trial by jury as an adult would (unless they’re tried as an adult), and would attend a hearing with only a judge. After a caseworker evaluation and report, the judge will decide on the best disposition and sentencing for the child. The child has the opportunity to have the charges dismissed and the records sealed at the age of 18 once his or her sentence is completed.
However, if the juvenile is charged with a felony (i.e., drug trafficking, weapons possession), no matter what the age, they’ll probably be sent directly into the adult criminal justice system. Should that happen, the child will then will be tried as an adult, can serve jail time and may not have the opportunity to have any charges eventually dismissed.
First Offender “Forgiveness”
North Carolina offers a “First Offenders Program” that allows, under certain circumstances, the first offense to eventually be dismissed. This only works one time, and a second drug charge allows the first to be used in court.
An attorney experienced in drug possession defense and juvenile crime can help you and your child decide if the First Offenders Program is right for your case, and if so, help you through the process.
What If Your Child Is Actually Innocent?
It’s not uncommon for several teenagers in a car or other close proximity to all be charged with drug possession when only one actually has it. This is particularly true of marijuana when a police officer detects the odor at a traffic stop. If your child has a solid legal defense, such as insufficient evidence, or if he or she were the victim of an illegal search/seizure, it’s better to go to court with an attorney and present that defense instead.
If your child is innocent, don’t use up his or her only chance at the First Offender’s Program instead of going to court and being acquitted. An attorney experienced in juvenile drug possession charges can discuss this with you and prepare an effective defense for an acquittal.
Get The Legal Help Your Child Needs
If your child has been charged with juvenile drug possession in Raleigh, it’s time to find an attorney who can help, right now. You need someone who is experienced and can represent you and your child in court.
As a former Wake County prosecutor, Dewey P. Brinkley is now an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you and your child through the court process. He can defend your child against drug charges, fight wrongful charges and work for a more reasonable sentence if convicted. Call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your child’s case at (919) 832-0307.