Freaking Out

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My son just got arrested. He’s basically a good kid, though of the three
I have has always been the one most likely to get in trouble with the
law. Things like BB guns and sassing a policeman when he was young,
and a DUI (driving under the influence) and a brush with pot
possession in high school. I was told his records have been sealed.
Now he lives two states away and was stopped by a cop for a traffic
violation. The officer thought he smelled marijuana and searched the
car, finding a small amount. Alex waited for news of a court date,
which never showed up. He has moved several times since then. When
he applied for a new rental he was told he had a felony on his record
and was not eligible. FELONY! It turns out that where he lives they
notify people of court dates by mail and something didn’t get
forwarded so he couldn’t defend himself or choose from other options
so he now has A RECORD. What should he do? I do? What if his junior
records are discovered?!?

Freaking Out



Dear Freaking Out:

You should find a lawyer in the state where he lives. If I were looking,
I’d look for a defense lawyer who’d worked for the Prosecutor’s Office
in the past. The kind of person who can pick up the phone and get
someone to answer, and who can say there’s been a problem that
needs to be corrected. Once it’s clear that your son never got the
notice (ahem, he could have called, just saying), the lawyer should be
able to get the original options put back on the table. They would likely
include a rescheduled hearing and some time to choose what’s usually
called diversion (classes for offenders in addition to a fine, but no jail



Note that you will likely have to pay the lawyer a retainer (think
$2500). You should ask him what that covers and follow up with an
email to be sure you have it right. Most lawyer bill by the tenth of an
hour (yup, every six minutes), so time can add up fast. You should
know the hourly rate and also the lawyer’s expectations of actual cost
to make sure your son’s record is cleared, or at worst that he ends up
with a misdemeanor. I hope he learned his lesson. If not I recommend
he move to a more pot-friendly state.