Being a parent is a tough business. There’s no way you can monitor every single move your child makes. Of course, you want the very best for him or her and you want them to stay out of trouble.
Then comes the day when you notice something a bit out of the ordinary. Maybe your son has a bike in the garage that you haven’t seen before. Or maybe he suddenly has several new video games or an iPhone that you don’t remember him buying. Perhaps one of your prescription drugs is suddenly missing from the medicine cabinet.
If your youngster simply gives you a shrug or some vague answer about these kinds of things, he is waving a red flag right in your face. The reality is, he may be involved in some type of illegal activity, warranting juvenile delinquency charges for offenses like:
- Drunk driving: DWI, OWI, OWI
- Shoplifting, theft, burglary, and other property crimes
- Drug crimes: possession, sale, trafficking, or transport of cocaine, methamphetamine (a.k.a. Crystal meth), THC, cocaine, MDMA, heroin, or marijuana
- Sex crimes: Statutory rape, or consensual sex with a minor
- Simple battery, aggravated battery, domestic assault and battery
According to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, in 2010, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies made 74,852 juvenile arrests, at a rate of 5,618 arrests per 100,000 residents. Juveniles made up 18 percent of all arrests compared with adult arrests at 82 percent.
One particularly noteworthy finding in their report was that an increase in arrests occurs as juveniles get older which does not taper off until age 24 and this is true across all races and arrest categories.
But these are just the facts and figures. We’re talking about real people here, perhaps your child – and you may be completely unaware of what’s going on.
In our office, we’ve seen an increase in cases involving theft and re-sale of prescription drugs. We also see plenty of related cases involving theft and burglary of property where the juvenile is trying to support a drug habit.
While the penalties in juvenile court are certainly different than they are in adult court, they can still have a harsh impact on the families involved. It may include the involvement of a social worker, court sanctions for oversight and supervision by the county. These are third part sanctions that may result in action that you or your child certainly don’t want but they become necessary once your child has gotten out of control.
So, what’s a parent to do?
First and foremost, BE A PARENT! Look into what your youngster is doing. Look through his room and make sure there aren’t things going on that you don’t know about. Make sure that things aren’t missing from your home or grandma and grandpa’s house such as prescription drugs.
Knowing if and when to call the police is always a tough call. I’ve seen parents waiver on that but, if you find yourself in that position, you can always put yourself in the victim’s place. What about the young person who is missing their bike or missing their game console? What if you strongly suspect that your child has developed a drug habit or hangs out with other kids who are involved in illegal activities?
If necessary, take advantage of the tools available through your county, such as the social worker. If the problem seems to originate at school, work with your school’s resources to bring your child back into line.
Without a doubt, there is a very fine line between parenting and enabling. But there comes a time when that line simply must be drawn.
About Attorney Mark Powers
Attorney Mark Powers is a partner at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha. Previously, Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office as well as a municipal judge in North Prairie. He currently focuses in the area of criminal defense, and has handled many cases involving operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, domestic disputes, and drug offenses.
Powers attended Valparaiso University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Prior to law school, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse where he received his bachelor of science in Political Science.