This is an article that I tried publishing in an unnamed Jewish newspaper in Nassau County (more specifically the 5 Towns). I was informed that this article would not be published due to the fact that I was admitting that there is an alcohol problem with the Jewish youth.
As Jews, we have certain standards and values that we wish to impart to our children. Those standards do not include alcoholism or drug addiction.
Unfortunately, as American Jews, many of our teenagers and young adults are adopting the “American Way” and are using both drugs and alcohol at an alarming rate.
Whether this Americanization should be openly condemned or quietly tolerated is a question of both ethics and morality that should be handled by other disciplines. The scope of this article is neither to judge or condemn our fellow Jews, rather, it is to address the problem of what to do if you ever receive a call informing you that your son has been arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Q. I just received a phone call that my son was arrested for driving while intoxicated. What do I do?
A. Although your first reaction might be to yell or berate your son on the phone, resist that impulse. This telephone call is not a private one. It is being monitored by the police. Any statement that your son may make will include to some degree an admission that you do not want to share with the arresting authorities.
Q. What advise do I give to my son?
A. Tell him to “Lawyer Up”. “Lawyer Up” simply means that other than pedigree questions, such as his name, date of birth, or address, he should under no circumstances answer any other questions without a lawyer’s presence. The police are trained at interrogating suspects and your son will not be able to talk his way out of it. He is already in custody, and no matter what he says, he will be put through “the system”.
Q. What do you mean by, “Being put through the system?”
A. When someone gets arrested, they are processed, which includes photography and fingerprinting. The arrest photo, commonly known as a “mug shot” serves as instant identification. The fingerprints are sent to both our state capital in Albany and our nation’s capital in Washington DC to determine if there are any outstanding warrants. The authorities are also determining if this is either the defendant’s first arrest or if he has a criminal history. A report is then made, which is known as a “rap sheet”. Copies of the rap sheet are then sent to the arresting authority, the local district attorney’s office and the arraigning court. While all of this is going on, the arresting officers are meeting with representatives of the district attorney’s office who are drafting a formal accusatory instrument, known as a “complaint”.
Q. How long does this process take?
A. Generally, the time from arrest to arraignment can take hours. How many hours depends on where your son was arrested, what his charge is, what court he is being arraigned at and how knowledgeable his attorney is. In the interim, your son is sitting in a jail cell surrounded by violent, predatory and often dangerous criminals.
Q. What is my next move?
A. Call a criminal defense attorney.
Q. The only lawyers I know are the ones that did my house closing, drafted my mother’s will and handled my husband’s speeding ticket. Will one of those do?
A. No. A criminal defense attorney restricts his/her practice exclusively to criminal law. A criminal defense attorney is not a lawyer who diverts his time and energy trying to beat or “fix” a traffic ticket so you save a few dollars on your insurance premium. A criminal defense attorney is concerned with his client’s liberty, namely, keeping his client out of jail. Don’t minimize an arrest. Your son’s liberty, freedom, and future job opportunities may very well be at risk. Now is not the time to use an attorney who was successful in reducing your property taxes.
Q. I was told that if I wait for arraignment, the court will provide an attorney free of charge. Why should I pay for something that my son will get for free?
A. You get what you pay for. Half of the legal battle takes place before your son even sets foot in the courthouse, a time where if you wait for a public defender, your son will not be represented. If you choose to go with a free attorney, the public defender will not meet your son until minutes before the arraignment commences. The public defender, while well-intentioned, is frequently inexperienced and undoubtedly overworked. A retained criminal defense attorney will be interested solely in your son’s matter, while a public defender will be engaged in a juggling act and will be handling literally dozens of cases at the same time.
Q. But I do not know a criminal defense attorney. How do I go about finding one?
A. Unfortunately, in the Jewish community we all know someone who has been in your situation. Now is not the time for false modestly. Call up your friend who had the same problem that you are now facing and ask her what lawyer she used. Ask her if she was satisfied with the lawyer’s representation. Find out how accessible the lawyer was. Did the lawyer answer calls and patiently answer questions? Ask her if that lawyer kept appointments and have a comfort level in the courthouse. Ask whether the lawyer knew court personnel, and more importantly, did the court personnel know the lawyer? Once you get the name of that lawyer, Google that lawyer, read his/her online reviews and visit the lawyer’s website.
Q. Once I retain a criminal defense attorney, what do I do now?
A. Have that lawyer meet with your son and the authorities and have that lawyer call you back with information concerning your son’s arraignment. Make sure you are present at that arraignment. Your presence will help convince the judge about your son’s roots in the community and will further assure the judge that if the judge releases your son on his promise to return to court, that promise will be met.
Q. Now that the arraignment is over and my son is released, what happens now?
A. The next step is for your son’s lawyer to develop a defense strategy, which may entail the use of forensic investigators, social workers and drug treatment counselors. At the conclusion of this case, a great criminal defense attorney will turn a potentially devastating tragedy into a positive growing experience for you and your son and have your son come out emotionally and physically stronger.
James Medows is a second-generation criminal defense attorney admitted to practice in the State of New York and various federal courts. Mr. Medows is both a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Kings County Criminal Bar Association and can be reached at (917) 856-1247 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.ny-defense.com for more information.