My Son or Daughter Was Arrested, I Need Help…What Should I Do?!!??
One of the worst phone calls a parent can receive is a collect call from a jail and a familiar voice on the other line, saying, “Mom and Dad, I did something really stupid, and I got arrested last night.” While you first struggle to contain the rage you have boiling up inside at their poor decision-making skills, you are also quickly overcome with a desire to help, as all parents feel obligated to do. But, in return, you may also immediately get a real sense of hopelessness…asking yourself, “I want to help, but how?”
This blog is meant as a guide for those of you parents out there desperately perusing the internet looking for answers to the thousands of questions you have in hopes of helping your child through what will surely be a difficult time. While this blog cannot possibly cover all the areas you need to consider, it will cover the 10,000 foot view of criminal cases and what you can expect. A good lawyer can fill in the gaps!
HOW CASES GET BROUGHT
Typically, criminal cases come about as one of three ways: (1) an outright arrest at the scene of the alleged crime, (2) a summons to appear, or (3) a warrant for an arrest.
Most cases are brought by way of the defendant being arrested at the time of the alleged incident, such as the case in thefts from stores, DUI’s, etc. If an officer is feeling particularly kind with your child, they can issue a summons for them to appear in court in lieu of arresting them outright. This is often used in traffic-related offenses such as Reckless Driving, Driving While Suspended, etc. They also can use summons to appear in first-time offenses for Possession of Marijuana, Minor Consumptions, Conversions, Trespass, etc.
More seriously, warrants are typically issued if a felony is going to be filed after a long investigation from a detective or a grand jury has concluded charges should come. They are also issued in criminal cases if the defendant is a flight risk, lives out of state, and/or has failed to appear in court before.
Depending on how your child’s case comes about, or if you believe a case might be coming, the first step you need to take is a hire a good lawyer! Moreover, it may be important to hire a lawyer pre-charges or pre-arrest for your child. This is incredibly important for cases where detectives wish to speak to your child, or if you know that your child has committed a crime and charges might be coming. Why? Because a lawyer can be present during questioning, they can instruct you on what to say and not to say.
Because a lawyer is schooled in the rules of evidence and Indiana’s criminal statutes, they can inform you what might happen if charges come and can help you plan for when that day comes. Also, if you bring a lawyer on board early, they know what to expect, and can be ready to assist you if your child is arrested. In so doing they can enter their appearance, attend the initial hearing, request a lowering of the bond, etc.
FINDING A LAWYER VS. PAYING THE BOND
Without question, one of the most difficult decisions a parent has is determining whether or not to find and pay for a lawyer first with limited funds, or, inversely, put that money towards paying a bondsman first to get your child out of jail.
FINDING A LAWYER
To read our blog on hiring lawyers, click here.
This statement may sound self-serving coming from a lawyer, but the most significant driver of how your child’s case will resolve itself is the lawyer you hire. A good lawyer has the knowledge, the skills, and the experience to guide you through this difficult time. They can inform you of every step of the process, they can instruct you on the decisions you need to make, and they can be the important conduit between you and your child while they are incarcerated and/or out on bond.
When picking a lawyer, you want to find someone that has been a litigator, someone that isn’t afraid to try a case if they have to. Former prosecutors fit that mold, and most of them are excellent trial attorneys. You don’t want someone who is only interested in pushing a plea on your child to make a quick buck. However, if a plea is appropriate, the attorney needs to understand the ramifications a conviction can have on your child’s future. Make sure you ask them if they have the time to put into your case and their caseload isn’t too high — this is often the complaint of public defenders.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your attorney: How many cases have you tried? How successful are you? Do you have experience in these types of cases? Have you worked in this county before? How long have you been working in the criminal field? Etc.
Yet, the paramount question still remains? To hire a lawyer first, or to not hire a lawyer first and pay the bond with that money? Where is the best place to spend your money? That decision is a tough one, but one that becomes clearer depending on the circumstances. Depending on the level of the crime charged against your child and the amount of bond that’s requested, the answers vary.
In some counties, like Marion County, judges will release inmates with limited criminal history and on smaller level crimes without a bond. Obviously, in that case, the lawyer isn’t needed until after they are released. Inversely, if the bond is so high as to be unobtainable for you as parents to pay, the lawyer should always come first. Why? Because, a good lawyer can attempt to lower the bond to a more reasonable level, or the lawyer can expedite the criminal proceedings knowing that your child isn’t going to get out of custody. Nevertheless, in those circumstances, your child is also receiving credit time for every day they spend in jail, which can be important later.
However, the closer calls are when the bond is relatively low yet high enough it might break the bank, but could possibly be obtainable. The question then becomes is it worth hiring a lawyer to expedite the process and request the bond be lowered, or is it better to just bite the bullet, pay the higher bond, and get your child out of custody quicker. I suppose the answer depends on if you are teaching your child a lesson or not!
What’s a bond? Let’s review…To read our blog on bonds, click here.
Typically, in any case in Indiana, once a judge determines that there is probable cause for your child’s arrest (or, in layman’s terms, a valid, legal reason for their arrest), a judge will set a bond amount while your child is in custody. Bond is an amount of money that you must pay either directly to the court or through a bondsman to have your child released from jail.
Typically, the two most common bonds are a surety bond (a.k.a. “SR”) or a cash bond. A surety bond is paid through a bondsman whereby you pay the bondsman 10% of the total bond amount, and they then offer collateral to the court for the remaining 90% in exchange for a promise that your child will return to court when told to. So, if a judge sets a $15,000 SR bond, you will pay $1,500 to a bondsman, and they will then be on the hook to the court for $13,500 if your child fails to appear for court. Thus, most bondsmen are very aggressive about making sure clients show up at court; and, typically, the bondsman will have collateral on you that they can go after to make up the money they have to pay the court if your child runs! A cash bond is just what it sounds like — you pay cash to a clerk, and your child is free.
However, there are times that the state of Indiana, by and through the prosecutor’s office, will ask that your child remains in custody for 72 hours without bond. Why, you might ask? If the state is still trying to figure what level of crime to charge, or if they are thinking of increasing the level of charge to a felony (or higher level felony), they can ask for more time to make sure they have their proverbial “ducks in a row.”
Regardless of how the bond is paid or when, it can take up to 12 hours for your child to be released depending on the county, the court, and the processing time of the jail. For example, smaller towns and counties are quicker (taking only 3-4 hours) at releasing inmates, while places like Marion County and larger jail systems can take much longer (up to 12+ hours).
LIFE AFTER HIRING A LAWYER AND BOND
After you hire a lawyer, breathe easier. If you’ve investigated all the lawyers you think can help and have carefully selected one, you should be in good hands. As soon as your attorney is hired and the bond has been paid (or not), that lawyer will then enter their appearance on the case. That’s the formal process of letting the court know your child is represented by counsel. At that point, all evidence and correspondence will go through your attorney.
It’s at that time that you will find out what court your child will be in and who the prosecutor will be. The court will then set an initial hearing, which will be the first time your child will be before a judge. The initial hearing is a court setting where the judge officially reads the charges that have been filed against your child. After that hearing, the judge will then set a Pre-Trial Conference out in 30-60 days. If the case is a felony, the judge will also set a jury trial far out in the future as well as a final Pre-Trial Conference typically a week before trial. They will also set an Omnibus date for the attorneys to know when certain motions are due as well. You are welcome to attend any hearing to watch — as all hearings are open to the public (unless it is a juvenile proceeding).
At the pre-trial conferences, the defendant, their counsel, and the state of Indiana all appear before a judge. Most of these hearings are pretty low key, and they are intended as status hearings to let the judge know what’s going on in the case and if there are any issues that need to be resolved. Typically the scheduling of trials is discussed at those hearings and whether or not a resolution may be coming short of trial.
The entire process – start to finish – can take as little as 45 days to as long as over a year, depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case. By the law of averages, most cases are resolved within 3-6 months. And, as a rule of thumb, we always tell clients that criminal cases never go as quickly as you would like…and, though it is incredibly difficult to do, patience is a virtue!
Obviously, as parents, we all want to be as involved as possible in helping protect our children — even from their own careless decisions. We choose to love our children, regardless of the choices they may make. So, if you find yourself in need of representation for your child, we hope this blog has enlightened you enough to ease your mind as much as possible. Again, the key to achieving the best result is to hire the best attorney you can afford. Then, you can let the attorney take the weight of the case on their shoulders. A good attorney will be glad to do so.
If you find yourself in need of representation for you or your child, give the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC, a call today. Let their skills as former prosecutors be put to work to look after your child. Both attorneys in our office are proud parents of children, and we know what you are going through. Give us a call 24/7/365 at (317) 870-0019. Or, email us at email@example.com.