A couple of weeks, I was contacted by a civil client of mine. He told me that he needed my services on another front: Criminal Defense. Great! I thought. I prefer Criminal Defense work. So, I started to ask him about his issue. Turns out, it involved his 15 year old son.
The child was being charged with Disorderly Conduct after getting in a fight at school. Now, admittedly, I have not been in public school for a long time, but I was blown away when he told me this. Since when do children get charged with a crime when they get in a fight at school. When I was young, school fights happened a couple of times a year (at least the ones I saw). The kids would be taken to the Principal’s office and would be suspended for a few days or a week.
Anyway, I started drilling my client with questions trying to figure out how his son ended up being charged with a crime. He told me that years ago, the Principal of this school decided that it would be more of a deterrent to call the police than to suspend the children. In other words, the Principal is too afraid to discipline on his own and has to get the police involved. After some investigation into the matter, I found that a lot of schools are taking this action. It makes sense to that the police are called when the school finds drugs, but charging a child with a crime for fighting? I thought this was a little much.
The more I thought about the case, the more aggravated I became. The school wants to charge a child with a summary offense that may carry up to a $500.00 fine, 90 days in jail, and a criminal record. Sure, no Magistrate is going to send a child to jail, but that fact still stands. Generally speaking, the statute of Disorderly Conduct is written so broadly, that it is not hard for the Commonwealth to meets it burden of proof in front of a Magistrate. I can usually get rid of these cases by having my client do some community service in exchange for a dismissal of the charges. But, that was not going to be enough for me in this case.
On the day of the hearing, I showed up and blew the officer’s case out of the water. The vice-principal showed up, the alleged victim showed up, and the office that charged my client’s son was there. No one had any evidence that my client’s son did anything wrong. CASE DISMISSED!!!!
The following day, I received a call from my client. He told me that he spoke with the vice-principal about the case. And in another shocking moment, according the vice-principal, I was the first attorney to ever appear at one of these cases. WHAT?????? That means all of these children at being charged and found guilty of Disorderly Conduct. That is a travesty of the Legal System!!!
If you or someone you know has a child that has been charged with a crime. Give me a call. Our society cannot afford to have children trying to better themselves in life with criminal records. That is a first step in the wrong direction.