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Single mom afraid of what happens next; 'My teenage son messed up big time.' AITA? FINAL UPDATE

Single mom afraid of what happens next; 'My teenage son messed up big time.' AITA? FINAL UPDATE

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When this mom is concerned for her and her son, she asks the internet:

"Teenage son messed up big time and I am afraid of what happens next + FINAL UPDATE. AITA?"

My son is 17 and just started driving. He used my car (a Honda Civic) to go to and from school sometimes. I was at home this week when 3 police cars came in our driveway and officers were banging on our door.

Turns out my son rear ended a vehicle and drove away. To make it even worse, the driver was a cop in his personal truck. It took maybe 15 minutes from the incident to when they came knocking.

The hit truck has no damage. It was a tap at maybe 15mph into his towing hitch. Our Civics license plate is bent and there is some bumper damage. The truck driver filed an insurance claim with our insurance. My son admitted fault. There is also video footage of everything.

I am beyond freaked out and haven’t slept since. I scolded my son but there is so much I can do now. He says he freaked out about hitting an expensive new truck and just drove off. I explained how wrong that was.

What I am more concerned about is that the driver pressed charges to “teach this kid a lesson”. The cops on scene said it’s up to the other driver if he wants this charged and he chose to.

We were told my son will be formally charged on Monday by the prosecutor and possibly arrested. Fleeing the scene of an accident is an arrestable offense here and it carries jail time too.

I’m scared shitless. I’m a single mom. I can’t afford to pay lawyers to keep my son out of prison when we barely afford rent, food, and bills. I know my insurance rates will be fd for years to come. His too probably. What do we do here? Thanks.

Before we give you OP's first and final update, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

gonazoisgood writes:

Ok. My son got accused of a crime as a teen and I totally understand your fear. Here is what I did. I had a consultation with a lawyer I trust.

I couldn't afford to hire him but an hour long consult was about $50 dollars and he helped me know what to expect. Tell your son to be remorseful, to be honest about how scared he was and that it won't happen again.

Going to court with a letter of apology is a good idea. He can write on to the driver he hit and one to the court Wear nice, clean clothes in court. Make sure your hair is clean all that jazz. I gave my son potential questions he might be asked so we could go over his answers.

Tell your son to be respectful, "yes, sir. no sir", or "your honor" when speaking to judge.

They will probably offer diversion which is like juvenile probation. In my case we refused diversion because my son was innocent and we fought and got it thrown out. But since your son did it then diversion is a great way to move forward. Good luck and hit mw up if I can help in any other way.

sooveral writes:

I work in a prosecutor’s office, as a senior admin. My state, and many others, have a separate level of court for juveniles and domestic issues. The judges (most of them) at this level of court are understanding about the level of maturity and decision making skills they are dealing with, lol.

Jail is highly unlikely. But because that charge carries jail as a possible sentence, your son is entitled to legal representation.

Ask for a court appointed attorney your first time in. In larger jurisdictions where the dockets are big, there are deals to be made between you/your counsel and the prosecutors office, which will hopefully include a dismissal after some court costs and community service and traffic school and about a year or two of no further incidents.

(In smaller jurisdictions the defense counsel and the prosecutors all know each other and work out deals, and even in my large jurisdiction I’ve seen deals made on a Friday night at the local place everyone at the courthouse goes for dinner after a long week.)

Every jurisdiction is different and that cop might be difficult, but please don’t let this stress you out. The vast majority of people are unfamiliar and therefore understandably intimidated by the legal system, but I’d comfortably wager that your son will not go to jail.

Just don’t ignore the situation and stay on top of the court dates. Make sure your son dresses appropriately and answers with yes/no sir/ma’am when the judge speaks to him. Not an ego thing, it shows the judge the child understands the severity of the circumstances and takes it seriously.

utterbored writes:

My advice: Do not fix this for your son. Be there for him. Be a shoulder to cry on, but make sure he confronts what he did head on, without you being there to cushion the blow.

From the sound of it, it doesn't sound like he'll be doing any jail time, even though the driver wants to charge this. No one was hurt, property damage was minimal, so it's just a matter of him taking away the right conclusions.

Look at it as a teachable moment for your son. This is an opportunity for him to take responsibility for his actions. Make sure any financial hit (insurance rates going up and any fine) are paid by him and not you. Do not let him blame others for this. Also, don't let him beat himself up too much. He did a stupid teenage thing and no one was hurt.

My son and youngest daughter had scrapes with the law, one pretty serious. I made sure to not reassure them everything will be alright. They're both upstanding adults now.

redfancydress writes:

Hey there…a grandma here…and I was a single mom too…and I’m no stranger to the legal system…

Here’s what’s gonna happen…you’re gonna get your kid a public defender. And then you’re gonna work a deal. Plea out. He’s under 18 and a first time offender so they’re gonna be all to happy to make this go away fast.

The courts are clogged with real crimes. Ask about community service to pay off the fines and/or restitution. Dress nice for court and be nice and humble.

I know you’re scared right now but this won’t matter in a year. The guy in the truck sounds like a jerk…so kiss his ass. Speak with your lawyer about your son writing him a good apology letter. Start thinking about references you can use for your son…a teacher, pastor, Boy Scout leader, etc when it comes to sentencing time.

Your son needs to step up his game. I don’t know how his grades and stuff are but if they aren’t good he needs to get them good. Does he have a part time job? If not…he needs one. Does he do extra curricular events? If not…he needs one. All of these things on your son’s “resume” will influence how the prosecution treats your son.

But let’s be clear…he needs to be punished. This isn’t ok. I’d prob tell him my punishment is he can’t drive my vehicle anymore. He is welcome to save his money and buy and insure his own car tho.

babetriuphm writes:

The recommendation of moving the trial is a reddit-tier bad legal advice comment. In Texas, you have to prove either a local conspiracy or specific local media attention against a defendant to the point that they cannot receive a fair trial in order to get a change of venue.

In the end, the cop doesn't decide on the sentence and neither does the prosecutor (unless there's an agreement).

In a contested trial, regardless of the plea, punishment is set by the judge or by a jury, at the defendant's choice - it doesn't appear that there's reason to doubt that he could have a fair jury in your jurisdiction.

As tempting as it is to listen to contrary opinions of people on the internet with nothing to lose in your situation, if you've already spoken to multiple local attorneys absolutely listen to them. Source: I'm a prosecutor in Texas.

condoronto writes:

As someone from an entirely other jurisdiction & someone who's worked "in the system," this is crazy.

Assuming there's nothing more to the story, this is exactly what diversion programs, probation, license suspension, community service, additional training, restitution are for. Your son likely would've been the perfect candidate for any and all of those (especially given your single parent status).

Again, assuming we're not being given a half story here, I would label this as "making criminals out of kids." Obviously I'm not familiar with the laws there, and I generally don't advocate for denying culpability despite being guilty, but assuming a criminal record is as damaging as I suspect it might be...

I'd roll the dice on a trial (or as another Redditor indicated, sentence by jury). 0.x% chance it gets thrown/more lenient sentence by jury totally worth the risk of max penalty (being 1 additional month versus plea) in my not-so-expert Reddit opinion.

parkaprolet writes:

I am a criminal defense attorney. This does not sound abnormal to me, it really depends on the jurisdiction. I have seen two individuals with same charge and same lack of criminal history in county x and county y.

County X has a "progressive" prosecutor. County Y is tough on crime. In one case the outcome is a fine. In another a year in jail. The difference? Three miles and an imaginary border. You can get a second attorney opinion but they will know the judge and jx and likely outcome over a lawyer from another region or people on Reddit.

OP provides this update a week later:

I really appreciated everyone’s input and words, some good, some bad. We’ve been a ball of stress since last week.

He was officially charged with leaving the scene of an accident and fined for failure to maintain speed. I spoke to a few lawyers around town and they all agreed there is zero chance the DA will drop the charge.

Our county is very tough on crime and they are campaigning on it. The DA refused any agreement (plea?). They have lots of video evidence from the truck’s front & back dash cameras, a gas station, and an intersection camera. Our focus is to try and get probation instead of jail time.

I need to come up with a few hundred for the fine and $1500 for the lawyer. That’s in addition to the insurance rates that will definitely go up. As a kicker, my insurance has “small accident forgiveness” for damages lower than $500. The insurance estimate for the truck’s damaged hitch came out to $504.

They also want to suspend my son’s license, so he won’t be able to go to/from any job that isn’t close by. We live in a really spread out area where a car is basically mandatory.

I am just so upset with him and his decision making. Trying to keep it together and work our way out of this but it’s frustrating. After watching the video I got even more mad. He clearly realized he hit the truck, then drove around it, and off he went. Ugh!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m upset about it all, but relieved it’s $500 and not $70,000. The truck was new and expensive. I explained that to my son. Had he totaled that truck, we wouldn’t have had enough coverage.

Then, OP's final update:

If this isn’t allowed, please let me know. I wanted to update everyone with what has happened since and ask some actual finance questions finally.

The crime he’s been charged is a Class B misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 6 months in jail and up to $2000 fine. The prosecutor has asked for the max on both. We worked with an attorney who told us from the get go that this case won’t be dropper and best we can hope for is a lower punishment.

I spent countless hours dealing with this. Our attorney was able to negotiate 5 months in county jail and a $1,500 fine. That’s all the prosecution would budge on. The alternative was the full 6 months in jail and $1,000.

Attorney advised that we should take it because a judge would throw the max penalty in this county, especially since there’s clear footage and really nothing to dispute or excuse the crime. Other lawyers had the same opinion.

My son is freaking out and scared shitless about jail time and now having a criminal record. He’s been crying and just a mess. That’s besides the finance aspect, so anyway. Financially, this has put us in a deeper hole than we were before. Now my son won’t be able to work during the summer because he’ll be in jail.

He’s missing the college start because of it too. We need to come up with: $1,500 fine + $1,000 lawyer fees + $350 misc court fees. I don’t have any available credit lines, so I’ll have to start borrowing or working an extra job.

The biggest unknown is insurance. They might drop us after this. If not, I need to also factor in the premium increase at the next renewal, which will probably be a lot.
It’s definitely a big lesson for him (and me too I guess, since I never thought to explain he shouldn’t drive off after hitting someone/something).

What do YOU make of OP's dilemma? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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