One of the most common ways that a juvenile gets into trouble is when the juvenile starts using drugs or becomes involved with friends who use or traffic in drugs. Drug use can change a juvenile’s personality, and your previously studious and considerate child may become erratic and volatile under the influence of illegal drugs.
Drug use often can overlap with mental health issues in an adolescent, with the youth choosing to use drugs as a form of self-medication when mental health disorders haven’t been diagnosed or treated. According to the study, some common warning signs that your teen might be using illicit drugs include:
- Changes in behavior or irrational behavior
- Frequent changes in friends
- Withdrawal or moodiness
- Curfew violations
- Poor performance in school
- Stealing money or things to sell to buy drugs
- Neglected personal hygiene
- Wearing long sleeves to hide needle track marks
- Physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, dilated or pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, or sudden weight loss or weight gain
When a teen uses drugs or gets involved in drug trafficking, that may lead to the teen being arrested and charged with delinquency in a juvenile court. Additionally, if drug use results in truancy or curfew violations, the teen may be charged in Ohio with “unruly acts,” which are offenses that are violations because of the minor’s age.
In addition to the potential for charges related to drug use or trafficking, drugs can lead a juvenile to get in trouble in other ways. According to a 2011 study in the medical journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, there is a correlation between teen drug use and:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Suicidal thoughts
- Dropping out of school
- Risky sexual activity that can lead to sexually transmitted infections or teen pregnancy
- Youth violence
- Other crimes such as theft
If your child or teenager faces a charge of delinquency or unruly acts, an experienced Ohio juvenile defense lawyer can help. Your juvenile may need resources to address substance abuse or to resolve underlying problems that led to the substance abuse, such as an undiagnosed mental illness. A lawyer can represent your juvenile through the juvenile court process, and also work to see that your juvenile gets the resources he or she needs to break free of a drug habit and stabilize his or her life.
Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings and Possible Outcomes
The juvenile justice system is set up a little differently than an adult criminal court. When a juvenile commits an offense that would be a crime if committed by an adult, the juvenile is charged with delinquency and goes through a set of hearings not unlike a trial. The hearings involve similar processes to an adult criminal trial — the juvenile enters a plea, and the court considers evidence and testimony to determine whether the juvenile committed the underlying drug offense. However, the goals and outcomes are different.
The reason a juvenile is charged with the catchall offense of delinquency instead of with a specific crime is that Ohio juvenile courts are designed to rehabilitate juveniles instead of to punish them for committing a crime. The juvenile justice system recognizes that juveniles may not have the maturity to make the kinds of responsible decisions that society expects from adults. The outcomes in the juvenile system are intended to leave the juvenile in a position to make better decisions in the future.
Because the system is designed with rehabilitation in mind, there are a number of alternatives to detention that may result from a juvenile delinquency proceeding. In the case of a drug offense, the juvenile may have to serve probation and complete substance abuse treatment if that’s in the best interest of the juvenile and in the best interests of public safety.
If an offense if very serious, such as large-scale drug trafficking or when the underlying drug offense cause the injury or death of another person, the juvenile may be confined to a secure detention facility — or tried as an adult and face the same criminal punishments an adult would be subject to if convicted.
Common Juvenile Drug Offenses
Ohio criminalizes a number of different types of drug offenses. A violation of any one by a juvenile could result in a charge of delinquency. Common drug offenses committed by juveniles may include:
- Possession of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD
- Illegal possession of prescription drugs such as Vicodin, Xanax, Valium, Ritalin, or OxyContin
- Cultivation of marijuana
- Manufacturing methamphetamine or possession of precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine
- Selling or trafficking in marijuana, meth, heroin, or other drugs
- Selling or trafficking in counterfeit drugs
- Corrupting another with drugs
- Possession of drug abuse instruments
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Defending Cincinnati Juvenile Drug Charges
When your child or teen is arrested on drug charges and faces delinquency proceedings, it’s important to seek help from a compassionate and skilled Cincinnati juvenile criminal lawyer. A lawyer can be your juvenile’s voice in the process and work to ensure that he or she gets the outcome that is in the juvenile’s best interests.
A good juvenile defense lawyer may be able to get your adolescent’s charge dismissed, or convince an Ohio juvenile court judge that one of the many alternatives to detention is appropriate. Additionally, an experienced Cincinnati juvenile criminal attorney can advocate for your child or juvenile to get the resources he or she needs to move on from any drug abuse problems and have a happy and healthy life.