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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27726
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My 17 year old son was arrested for possession of marijuana

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My 17 year old son was arrested for possession of marijuana here in Edmond Oklahoma a few nights ago. I have two questions:

He was clearly guilty so my first instinct is just to plead guilty and go through whatever counselling, community service, etc. that they sentence him to. Is that the proper course of action?

Second, the forms that they sent us to fill out asks for him to supply the name of where he purchased the marijuana. He does not want to do this and I have to admit, I think it seems unreasonable for them to expect him to. What should he do and what are the consequences for my son or for whoever he purchased it from if he gives the police their name? He is willing to face the charges alone and doesn't want to involve anyone else but I would like to know what could happen if he doesn't. Can they really ask him for that information?
Hello Jacustomer,

Simple possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. Every criminal defendant should first plead NOT guilty when he comes before the judge on a criminal case at his arraignment. That's when the court reads his charges into the record and first asks him how he pleads. Even if he knows he's guilty, even if he knows he will want a plea bargain he must still plead not guilty at his arraignment. It's the only charge that keeps all of his rights and choices open. Anything else will give him a conviction.

Once he's pled not guilty, his lawyer can talk to the judge about a plea. YOu're right. He's still a juvenile, and he is likely to get a program where with fines, community service, anti drug classes and a period of probation (which would likely include random drug tests), he would be eligible to have his misdemeanor dismissed after he successfully completed everything.

However, he should not plead guilty until something like that has been promised to him. Once you've pled guilty, the judge could sentence him to anything the statute called for, which could even be jail. (Highly unlikely in his case, but why risk it?) You can almost never take back a plea of guilty. So you have to wait until you are handed what you want (a deal that would keep this off of his record) before you agree to anything.

He has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to give up his friends or supplier. A suspect or defendant has a right not to submit to police interrogation. That can never be used against him, as he's protected by the 5th amendment. If he volunteers to answer questions anything he says can be used against him and, of course, the police will go after his contacts.

Drug sellers, in general are not nice folks once you get above the level of the street dealers. It's a real risk to give names, and he's wise not to want to do it. He can leave that blank.

Finally, since it doesn't appear to me that juvenile records in Oklahoma are automatically sealed, it's best that your son have a lawyer. He shouldn't need him for very much or for very long, as the standard disposition with a first arrest juvenile in this situtation is usually along the lines of what I have stated above. But there are always exceptions and surprises. He's a young man with all his life and goals still before him. I'd retain counsel and cover his back.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It seems very odd to plead "not guilty" whan clearly he was caught red handed with a small amount of marijuana and "paraphernalia" in the form of a pipe. The other options are " no contest" and "not guilty". Correct me if I am missing something here but pleading "not guilty" seems like lying to the court. Is that routinely what people are advised to do in cases such as this?

The arresting officer was very nice and explained everything that he thought would happen. In this case, he didn't say anything about obtaining an attorney. I appreciate your input so I would like to know how strongly you feel about hiring one. This is already getting very expensive and we haven't even really started the process yet.

By the way, my son has no previous contact with the police and the officer praised him highly for being the only cooperative child among the other seven kids he was with when this occurred. Others managed to run and get rid of anything they had on them before they were caught. My son stood there and cooperated fully. So far it hasn't gotten him very far as the others were all released to their parents and cited for curfew violation.
Hello Andrew,

Sorry for the delay. I left the computer to do some shopping.

By custom and by necessity all defendants in criminal cases are expected to plead not guilty at their arraignment. That's because whether you did something wrong or not, under our Constitution, every one of us starts off under the law as innocent until proven guilty. That's a fundamental right under the 5th Amendment and as it's one of our most important rights, nobody should throw it away. Most judges, in fact will try to stop you if you plead anything else, because you can hurt yourself.

A plea of guilty is an instant misdmeanor conviction in this case. It's not what you want for your 17 year old. You want him to wait until he gets a plea offer that will dismiss his case. Plead guilty first without any understanding of sentence and the prosecutor has no incentive to deal with you. He's already got his conviction and is patting himself on the head for it. The prosecutor is the only one who can come below the charges and offer something less and favorable for a plea in exchange. Once you've pled guilty to the higher charge, he can't lower it any more.

I know it sounds silly to the unninitiated, but to those who have any experience in the criminal justice system, it's as basic as it gets. Criminal law is a lot more subtle than it looks and a defendant generally has more rights than he knows to ask for. That's why our Constitution entitles us to a lawyer on a crimiinal case.

Cooperating with the police never did any suspect any good. That's counter-intutitive too, as we raise our kids to listen to what an officer tells us. But when you are a suspect or a defendant, the best thing you can ever do (and let's hope that nobody in your family needs to hear this again) is to not discuss the incident with the officers, because it can be used against you. That's what Miranda is all about.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you very much for your input. As you can probably see we haven't had to deal with a lot of legal issues so we aren't sure what to expect. Your advice will help us navigate the unknown as we proceed with getting this resolved. I will gladly leave you excellent feedback from our communication. I'm not sure how this works, are you still available to us for extra questions we may come up with as this plays out?
Hi Andrew,

I'm pleased to have helped. Many people without experience in the criminal justice system think they are perjuring themselves if they walk into court and plead not guilty. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even after you rate me, if you have a follow up down the road, you can come back to this thread (you own it, so to speak) and ask for further clarification. Or if it's a totally new matter you can post it in Criminal to my attention. The most effective way to do that would be to make the first two words of your new question "For FranL" It will then show up as the subject heading of your question. I will see it and know it's for me. And other experts will know to avoid it.