Being a parent with a college student who has an open criminal case can be challenging – even more difficult when you are thousands of miles or many states away.  But, it can be easily managed and navigated as long as you know what is important to monitor and concentrate on.

Probably one of the simplest and most important things to monitor is court dates.  First, your college student should be getting written (usually mailed) notification from the court regarding upcoming court dates.  Also, your attorney’s office will know each and every court date and can provide them to you with a simple phone call to a secretary.  Lastly, many courts are now online and you can check the status of your child’s case via the Internet.

It is imperative to know from your attorney whether your child needs to personally attend the court date.  If you don’t have an attorney then your child MUST be in court for each and every court hearing.  If your child misses a court hearing the Judge will issue a warrant for his arrest.  It is sometimes difficult or impossible to reschedule or change a court date.  For example, if your child is home and not on campus for the summer and a court date is set during that time period then your child needs to travel back to school and attend court.  This is yet another reason to hire your own, private attorney to handle the case.

You also want to know what is expected to happen at each court date.  For example, is it just a “status conference” where the Judge just wants to know what’s going on with the case.  After each court appearance your attorney will normally let you know by phone, email or regular mail what happened in court. If you don’t hear from your attorney’s office within a few days after an important hearing then you should contact them to simply find out what happened in court.

Lastly, you want to know what are the maximum and minimum penalties for the charge. Meaning, what is the worst thing that could happen to my child.  Similarly, you want to be advised of each and every plea or settlement offer conveyed by the prosecutor to your child.  For example, if your child is a first time offender he may be offered a type of “pretrial diversion program” which may result in the charges being dismissed. You can read more about pretrial diversion and college students in an earlier post here. During the course of virtually all cases at some point the prosecutor who is handling the case will tell your attorney how he is willing to settle the case before trial.   Each of these offers should be discussed with your attorney and your child.