“It was a one-time mistake.”
“I’m just a kid.”
“I got caught up in the moment and didn’t think.”
If you’ve heard any of these explanations used to excuse poor decision making recently, you’re probably a parent. While learning how to navigate social situations by grappling with conflict, young adults can err in judgment and make a mistake. As a parent, you may have said that slip-ups can serve as the best teachers. This is usually a correct platitude; however, when some mistakes are made, they create long-term obstacles rather than learning opportunities. Such is the case for missteps that result in misdemeanor charges.
While many individuals believe that agreeing to a guilty plea for a misdemeanor will result only in a payment of a small fine with no jail time required, the long term effects can be serious. If a misdemeanor conviction for alcohol or drug possession appears on your child’s criminal record, this documentation can remain with him for the duration of his life. In the case of a drug possession, the impact of a conviction can be felt immediately because federal law mandates that students with such convictions shall lose their federal aid, grants or work-study benefits. Additionally, students with criminal records face challenges when applying for on-campus housing because they are often subjected to background checks during the application process.
For first-time offenders, however, there are options to help individuals reduce the impact a one-time mistake may have over the course of a lifetime. In South Carolina, the county courts have developed programs designed to rehabilitate individuals in order to prevent relapse into criminal behavior. Successfully meeting the requirements of some programs may result in an expungement of the charges or a reinstatement of federal loans. The benefits of each program vary according to the type and severity of the misdemeanor.
Here are some programs that may help your child:
1. Pre-trial intervention
2. Alcohol education program
3. Traffic education program
4. First offense simple possession of marijuana or certain other illegal drugs
Each county has its own requirements, so it is beneficial to speak with a knowledgeable attorney if you think that your child could benefit from the program offered. As a parent, you believe your child should be given a second chance to learn from a one-time mistake. As it turns out, so does the legal system in South Carolina.