Episode 101 - Best Advice that Parents Can Give Their Children When Dealing with Law Enforcement with Paul Ghanouni
When it comes to children, the legal landscape has really changed. With zero tolerance laws and an abundance of cameras recording our every move, it seems like common sense and discretion have been thrown out the window. We want our children to respect law enforcement, who already have a tough job of keeping us safe. And, at the same time, we do not want our children to ruin their future hopes and dreams over a simple mistake (or something they had no control over). Paul Ghanouni, the founder of Ghanouni Teen and Adult Defense Law Firm, has come back on the show to share with us the best, and worst, advice you can give your kids on how to properly communicate with law enforcement that shows respect while protecting their rights.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio, on the New Talk 106.7. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com. Actually, we're going to go in a little bit more beyond divorce today.
Todd Orston: More beyond divorce?
Leh Meriwether: More beyond divorce.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Today we're going to talk about grammar, and we're going to go more beyond English. With me today is ... You're still pointing at me like you're surprised. "And with me is ... Ooh, hello. I didn't realize you were there."
Leh Meriwether: All right.
Todd Orston: All right. We'll be serious.
Leh Meriwether: Serious.
Todd Orston: This is a serious ... Actually ...
Leh Meriwether: Actually, this is really serious.
Todd Orston: What are we talking about today?
Leh Meriwether: Today we've got Paul Ghanouni back in the studio with us, because we're getting back into teenage, teen and young adult defense situations.
Paul Ghanouni: Leh, I appreciate you having me back here today. I've wanted to have the opportunity to come and try to talk about some of the worst advice parents can give their kids about the law. It's a presentation I've given to a number of PTAs, parent groups, community groups, schools, things like that, and so I'm really excited about it. I think it will be really helpful information. I think that any of your clients, people working with your firm or otherwise, who are parents of children, it's really valuable information that can help them and help make sure they protect their kids.
Leh Meriwether: Yep. Before we get into that, I did want to let everyone know that Paul's been on the show before. If you missed him coming on the show, you definitely want to go back and check out that episode. I think it's Episode 88, and you can find it in iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify. Well, no, we don't have it on YouTube yet, but you can go back and listen to that show, because when Paul came on, he talked about some really interesting situations where kids can get in trouble and not even know it, teenagers, because we're in a different world today where the police handle situations differently. There's this zero tolerance. It's a lot different than when we grew up.
You have a passion for helping kids get through this when they may make a mistake and violate the law and not even realize it. You want to make sure that mistake doesn't impact them for the rest of their lives. You have a great story, and we've got a lot to cover, but we went into your story in the last show, so I just wanted to share that.
Paul Ghanouni: No, I appreciate that, and if you don't listen to any other of their shows, you should definitely listen to the other one I was on. No, but to follow up with what Leh said, what I want to make clear anytime I talk about this stuff, this is definitely not an anti-policing, not an anti-law enforcement type talk that I give here. I have a lot of respect for law enforcement. Actually, I have family who's in law enforcement here in the State of Georgia as well, and most of them do their jobs really well with the resource that's allowed to them, but we want to make sure that we are covering the other end. While they're doing their jobs well, you as parents want to make sure that you're doing what you can to protect your kids and make sure you're taking all the steps necessary to protect them. That's what this is about here.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I'm a former prosecutor. This is not anti-police. It's not anti-law enforcement, absolutely, but we have all read about or seen the situation where a child makes a mistake, hopefully, it's not too serious a mistake, yet they are punished severely, all right? Maybe more severely than is appropriate. We are in a different world. I agree with you. I think you and the work that you do is so important, because a simple mistake shouldn't result in a life-long sentence. I don't mean a true sentence, but you know what I'm saying, but a sentence that follows you for the rest of your life.
Paul Ghanouni: No, that's exactly, as Leh said. By the time I finished high school, I had been frisked by the police, I'd been laid on a police car and searched, I'd ridden involuntarily in the back of a police car. I did a lot of foolish stuff.
Todd Orston: All right, this show is over. Thank you for coming. Security will show you the door.
Paul Ghanouni: But I was fortunate that none of those carried some of the long-lasting consequences, and, very frankly, from a different era of policing, where it was situations where it was more of a talking to, it was more of a try to educate you versus there's a lot more these days of just putting people into the juvenile court system, expelling them from school, those types of things than we had back then.
Going to your point there, it's a life-long issue, that's one of the big, key things I talk about. The big four areas that I usually talk to parents about when I'm talking to them are, about the mistakes that they make or the worst advice they give their kids about the law. One is, it's just a shoplifting, drinking, marijuana, whatever charge here, it's not a big deal, and that misconception, because that's one of the problems that can come out of that.
The other areas I'm hoping to cover, they are going to be the misconception or the misguided advice to tell the police everything about a situation or to do whatever the police say, or, "You made the mistake, son or daughter. You figure out how to deal with it." Really focusing back into the idea of it's just the whatever offense, once you're arrested, that booking photo is out there forever, and it appears oftentimes in the paper with some of these magazines that I don't think very highly of.
If you're convicted of a crime, that conviction's on your criminal history forever. College job applications, professional licenses, are often asking more thorough questions than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago about arrests and convictions, and even things under the First Offender Act, cases that might otherwise might not be a conviction for Georgia law purposes and even background checks that employers are doing are not just checking official criminal history records but also looking at court records, which can disclose information to people.
Coming back to that, most people don't realize that in Georgia you're an adult at 17 for criminal law purposes. I know we talked about that a little bit last time, but I think that's so important to say, because so many parents say, "Well, my child's only 17, so at least they weren't 18 when this happened." They don't realize that for most purposes, that effectively is the same as being 18, 20, 40, whatever, whatever else from there. Talking about those long-lasting consequences.
Oftentimes, and at least with a lot of the parents that we work with and the kids that we work with, the attitude seems to be, the punishment that the court wants to dish out is not an inappropriate punishment for the activity, assuming it's something that they actually did and something that took place there. It is those longer-lasting consequences disqualifying them from jobs and from college and things like that.
The way I usually break it down for people is, if you have two identical twins and one of them has an arrest or conviction and the other one doesn't and everything else is equal and they're applying for one position for a job, there's one spot left at that college, I'm sure, even outside of the one spot being left, you guys see it, whether it's in adoption cases, whether it's in divorce cases, child custody cases, these things can come back up five, 10, 15, 20, 30 years later and create problems.
Leh Meriwether: I think there was an adoption we were working on where someone's criminal history did come up. It was 20 years ago, and I will say that they said, "Well, that was 20 years ago," but it had to be addressed.
Todd Orston: It was still a topic of conversation. There aren't really any other things that happened 20 years ago that end up becoming a topic of conversation or something that's being considered, so it does carry with you. We've had clients many times where we have to have at least have the conversation of, "Hey, something happened to me six years ago ... ten years ago ... 15 years ago," and a lot of times in the context of a divorce or a family law matter, it doesn't really have any bearing, but a child that gets into some serious trouble and it carries with them, you're right, jobs, college, other things ...
Leh Meriwether: Law school.
Todd Orston: We'd be lying if we didn't think it was going to impact them.
Paul Ghanouni: We saw a case one time where a young man who was, when he was in college, was charged with a DUI, and he had a lawyer represent him in the DUI, and he was under 21, came up with a negotiation, which was a pretty unusual negotiation, and probably seemed really good in the moment, where he pled guilty to disorderly conduct out of a DUI, so he didn't have a license suspension, no issues, didn't get put on probation, successfully did everything he was supposed to, didn't get in any other trouble, got his bachelor's degree, got his master's degree in early childhood, I think it was education and counseling. He started applying to schools to be a high school counselor. That was his life's purpose, what he wanted to do, what he was passionate about, and the school started denying him because they said that disorderly conduct was considered a crime of violence for their standards.
Leh Meriwether: Whoa.
Paul Ghanouni: He actually asked them if he had been convicted of DUI if he would have the same problems. They said, "No, we'd be able to hire you with a DUI. We just can't hire you with this disorderly conduct."
Leh Meriwether: Wow.
Paul Ghanouni: Even these situations where you may think, "Man, this sounds great" in the moment, if you're not looking at and thinking through the longer term consequences and the ways that these things can be viewed, it can have some huge impacts.
Leh Meriwether: Wow. That's really sad, because that was his passion. That's what he wanted to do, and that's not really what happened, but yet now he's being denied his passion because of something like that.
Paul Ghanouni: We were fortunate in that case. We were able to actually to go back up and open up a five-year-old case and get them to change that to a stop sign violation from the disorderly conduct.
Todd Orston: Really?
Leh Meriwether: Oh, wow.
Paul Ghanouni: Get all of those court records sealed as well.
Todd Orston: That's amazing to go back five years earlier, wow.
Paul Ghanouni: To the credit, the prosecutor's office that was involved in that case, we couldn't have done it without their cooperation. They understood the whole situation, and they were great to work with, but, yeah, so he was able to do that. Now he's been able to get applications in and pursue that career path.
Todd Orston: That's wonderful, but not every story has the happy ending.
Paul Ghanouni: No, and I told him and his dad when they contacted our office, "We probably can't do this, but at least we should try."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. It's good that you've got a great demeanor about you, Paul, so you probably had a great relationship already with the prosecutor's office, which opened that door to go back in there and make an adjustment to what was recorded.
Hey, up next, we're going to get into why you shouldn't actually tell the police everything.
Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online, in AtlantaDivorceTeam.com. In studio today we have Paul Ghanouni, who is the founder of the Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm. He's passionate about helping kids avoid having a mistake ruin the rest of their lives.
Man, you gave us a great, a scary story, with a happy ending, which you don't get all the time, in the last segment, dealing with somebody that almost couldn't follow his passion because he thought he'd negotiated a great deal years ago, and it turned out not to be such a great deal. We talked about, these things aren't just ... That sounds like, oh, well, a DUI, that doesn't sound serious. The landscape of everything has changed so much that these things can be serious.
I'll give you an example. That wasn't necessarily a teenage, but I know somebody, you're in college or even in law school, a school like University of Florida, and you're at that school and you go out drinking and you're not driving, but there happens to be an open container law. I'll give this quick thing. A law student that I know had, he got a ticket for having a beer in his hand when everybody ... Everybody was tailgating, but I guess he walked into an area where you're not supposed to have a drink, and he got a ticket for it.
He didn't think anything of it, and then when he went to apply for the bar, because alcoholism is such a big issue in the legal field, that the State Bar of Florida was actually preventing him from becoming a lawyer. Even though he passed all his bars, he had to go through all these alcohol evaluations and everything. It took him another six or eight months before he finally got his license, because of that, what seemed like nothing, because everybody out was drinking at the college football game. I'll never forget that.
Todd Orston: We can say it's ridiculous, and we could say a lot of these things. Growing up, I think you could get a disorderly conduct charge while you're teaching at the school and keep your job, but times have changed, so I can say that that's ridiculous. I could say that it's ridiculous to say that a five-year, six-year, seven-year-old disorderly conduct charge should impact your ability to teach kids if that's your dream, but that's the reality, and that's really what we're talking about. Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, these things carry with you. Nowadays it's much more impactful.
Leh Meriwether: Paul, let's talk about the other thing that you think, another mistake you see parents make is the parents tell the kids, "Well, just tell the police everything."
Paul Ghanouni: Right. Again, we all grow up being taught that we need to respect, trust and honor the police, that they're there to help us, which, again, in many circumstances, they may be, unless you're the subject of their investigation, right?
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Paul Ghanouni: I think we all have that, initial, at least, for many of us, the inherent desire to talk to them. I've seen parents show up on scenes where the police are there and tell their kids, "Now, you're completely honest with him. You tell that officer everything that happened" or even set up interviews for their kids to go in and tell their side of the story to give the officer the opportunity to try to, to be honest, those type of things. There's a time and a place for accepting responsibility in a situation. Certainly I'm not saying that people shouldn't accept responsibility for their actions or things like that, but it's usually not in the interrogation room with the officer, on the side of the road when being questioned.
I always talk with this advice. You want to make sure that anytime you are dealing with law enforcement you're being polite. You always want to be polite. You're always going to get further being polite and respectful than you are going to be rude and disrespectful, but I always want to remind parents to remind their teens, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all." Even to that end, parents, if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all to the police.
We've seen situations where Little Johnny gets arrested or charged with possession of marijuana. Mom and Dad come out on the scene to talk to the officer. "I've been telling him for months he needs to stop smoking that pot, and he just keeps doing it, and he won't listen to me," doesn't help the whole situation in that instance. I understand why they might be expressing that frustration and feeling that frustration. Also, I always want to remind people, you never want to lie to the police either. People may not be aware of this, police can lie to you, but you can get legally in trouble for lying to them.
I think another important reason that this is so important is that parents don't realize, in many circumstances, the police, or even schools, can question your children or ask them to write statements without you being there. One of the things I always try to talk to parents about, whether you agree with my advice or direction or not, make sure you have a plan. You're going to educate your kids on how to address situations that they're going to come into with life, often situations that you hope they never will have to deal with. This is one of those same types of things where they may have a situation, you're going to hope they never have to deal with it, where they're a witness, a subject to an investigation, but you need to address how to handle these situations.
What we recommend to parents and what we recommend that they teach their teens to say is, "I don't wish to make any statements without an attorney," just a clear, concise statement of that nature, and not, "Maybe I should have a lawyer here." "Do you think I need a lawyer?" "Should my parents be here?" "I'm not sure if I should talk," because, legally speaking, all of those types of comments allow law enforcement in many circumstances to continue asking questions, but that clear statement is one of the ones that can prevent it.
Leh Meriwether: One thing that people may not think about but I've been observing is, a lot of law enforcement have body cams now, because it's really to protect them, because they get accused of certain thing. So they said, "Well, all right, we're going to ..." because I think it protects both sides to have a body cam. If you record a statement, in the past I know police officers have said, "You know what? I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that, and I'm going to give you a warning, and you need to not do this again." But when it's recorded, they can't do that. They can't say, "I'm going to pretend," because this can be observed in a later investigation or that sort of thing, so they have to act on a statement. It's best just to say, "I do not wish to make any statements without an attorney," and if they say, "Are you sure about that," just keep repeating that same statement politely.
Paul Ghanouni: Politely, yeah. I always tell them, "Be respectful. Be polite about it." The other thing that you see is confusion. As I'm sure y'all know, in human communication, not everything is ... When I'm expressing something, the person hearing it doesn't always receive it the same way.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Paul Ghanouni: I have literally seen police reports that are inconsistent with the audio recordings of a video, and I understand what the officer thought the person meant and why the officer said what he said, but it wasn't what the person actually meant. The unfortunate cases are those ones where there aren't the recordings, and somebody's saying, "That's not what I said," and the officer saying that is what he or she said. The best way to protect yourself from that is just not to say anything.
Todd Orston: Going back to the original point in this segment, you have to understand that the policeman's job, and I'm all about cooperating with the police, I'm all about being cordial and polite and all of those things, they have one job and one job only. It is to make sure that laws aren't being broken, and if a law has been broken, to investigate and potentially set it up so that a charge can be brought against that person. Your desire to cooperate, keep in mind, you're working with somebody whose job it is to keep the peace and maintain order and to bring a charge against you if you've committed a crime.
It's not their job to feel bad for you. It's not their job to say, "Well, I'll let you go this time." Nowadays, to your point, Lee, with more and more things being recorded, a lot of that ability to just say, what was it, the street policing, the neighborhood policing, where they could just be like, "All right, Johnny, be good and don't do it again," you can't really do that anymore, because a lot of it's being recorded, and if they've caught you doing something, at that point they have no choice but to bring you in.
Paul Ghanouni: It's wild stuff. This is why I tell some extreme examples, but they're real examples, because I think it helps educate people. We once saw a case where a mom called the police on her 12-year-old because she wanted the police to give him a talking to, basically, because he was acting unruly in the house, doing things he shouldn't have been doing. Nothing crazy. He threw some tape at his mom and poured a soda on her and wasn't listening to directions. But the police charged him, and then they had to go through the juvenile court process with that whole situation, which blew the parents away that that was the end result of that.
Granted, I'm sure there are plenty of scenarios where police go out. They make contact. They use their discretion, and we don't end up in these situations in those scenarios. I just don't ever see those scenarios, because they're not in court. We're not seeing them happen. I just use that to say, that's another extreme example of why sometimes it's just best to not involve police if it's not necessary or not say things that could be harmful or that could be a crime or cause police to need to make sure that they don't look like they weren't doing their job in not pursuing it.
Todd Orston: You can even have situations where your son or daughter wasn't doing anything wrong, but they happened to be with the wrong crowd, and because they're with the wrong crowd, it's almost guilt by association, but they could say, "I'm going to cooperate because I didn't do anything wrong," but they're going to arrest, they could potentially arrest your daughter or son just because they were in a crowd where there was marijuana or maybe some kind of drug, because you're next to it or in the car with it. It's just better just to not say anything.
We're going to talk about that next, Leh, that scenario.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Up next we're going to talk about that and why you should not do whatever the police say.
Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com.
Today we've got Paul Ghanouni in studio with us, and we are going through scenarios with kids, especially teenagers, where they can, the parents tell them to do certain things, and that advice actually is not good advice based on the current environment. We're not trying to bash police or say that police aren't good and law enforcement isn't good. We're not trying to say that at all, but the landscape of law enforcement has changed. There's these zero tolerance policies that can create really some maybe draconian punishments for kids that were making an innocent mistake.
We're talking about when kids get in a situation where they're confronted with the police, how to handle it, how to be polite, how to be respectful, but at the same time not saying something that can wind up causing them a lifetime of pain.
Paul Ghanouni: One of the other areas that we see and I think that's important to note in these types of situations is the common thought process of, "Do whatever the police say. Whatever the police asks, you're going to say yes to. You're going to do whatever they say." Again, that's one of those areas that it's not always the best scenario. Like you said, you always want to be polite. You always want to be respectful, and you want to follow any lawful instructions that you're given by the police, but you want to make sure you're not doing things that you're not required to do either.
People may say, "If I don't have anything to hide, if I'm not trying to, if I haven't done anything wrong, why would I not agree? Why would I not agree to, for example, having my car searched?" It may not be a situation that you're doing something wrong. You could be driving in the car. You could be driving the car. Your friend could be in the passenger seat. All of a sudden the blue lights come on behind you for a minor traffic offense, nothing that you think is blown out of proportion, and what you don't know is your friend who's in the passenger seat ... I'm using "friend" in air quotes for those who can't see that on the radio, who's in the passenger seat, takes whatever's in their pocket, which happens to some bag of drugs, and drops it between the seats.
The next thing you know police say, "Hey, can I search the car?" You're saying, "Yeah, of course you can search the car. I got nothing to hide." Next thing you know you're in handcuffs. Your friend's in handcuffs and anybody else who's in the car is in handcuffs. They found drugs and they don't know whose they are.
I think that's really important. We've even seen scenarios where there's teenagers who share cars. There's brothers and sisters who share cars, and one of them will leave something in the car, and the other one won't know it's there and end up agreeing to a search of the car and getting charged with something that's in a car, all kind of scenarios that you just don't know what's going to happen, what's going to come out of the situation.
When we're talking about this kind of stuff, we want to make sure that people say, they ask the right kind of questions, like, "Am I required to do this? If so, I'm going to comply. I'll follow your instructions. If not, I don't want to do that." Make it clear that if they're wanting to ask for consent to search, to say, "I don't consent to a search of my person, property or vehicle without a valid warrant." This doesn't mean you want to be an obstructionist, right? If they say, "We're going to search your car," you're not going to jump up and throw your arms in front of it and say, "No, no, you're not." You're just going to make it clear, though, that you're not agreeing to it. You don't want to have an argument, a fight, with an officer on the side of the road or somewhere else. They've got a gun. They've got a taser, and they've got handcuffs and arrest power. It's not going to end well for you.
Todd Orston: That's not a party I want to go to.
Paul Ghanouni: You just want to make it clear that you're not agreeing in those situations, but you're not being an obstructionist. You step aside, and if they say, "Well, I still think I can search," or, "I'm going to do this," you let them do it, and then you save any battles for the courtroom.
Todd Orston: I think that that's the important point, because there are times when you have a legitimate ability to say, "No, I don't agree to a search of my car or a search of my person." But then there are other times when police can come up with a ... When I say, "Come up," I don't mean just make it up, that there are valid reasons why a search of the car is appropriate, for safety reasons or if there's a furtive movement or something happens where the police say, "Yeah, I have the ability to do it." You're basically saying, express what you think your right is to reject their request, and if they then decide to move forward with it and to search the car or search your person, so be it. Have your attorney then deal with it in the end.
Paul Ghanouni: In court, right. They may have a hundred percent valid lawful ability to do it or they may not have. That's what the courts are there to decide in that situation. But in a lot of scenarios if you agree to it, even if they didn't have a lawful reason, at that point it's looked at as, "Well, you agreed to it," so there's nothing to bring up in court.
Leh Meriwether: You never know. Maybe the police officer, you're driving a white Honda Accord, and the police officer got a notice that they thought there was a drug exchange, and the person who picked up the drugs was driving a white Honda Accord, so they may have a perfectly good reason, and they pull you over, and they ask, so they've got valid reasons, but it doesn't mean you have to just suddenly agree to it.
Paul Ghanouni: Like I think everybody said, and if they have a valid reason that allows them to do it under the law without your permission, then they'll do it. If they don't, then they won't, or if they think they do. They may not actually, but if they think they do, then they will, and you just need to step out of the way and let them do what they think the right thing to do is and deal with it later.
Leh Meriwether: That's that cooperation part.
Todd Orston: Let's emphasize that, because what you don't want to do is say, "I know my rights. You can't search." "Well, yes, we do have a reason to search," and then you're still sticking to your proverbial guns, and they're sticking to their real guns, and ... Yeah. The proverbial ones don't do much.
Leh Meriwether: No.
Paul Ghanouni: Yeah, that's a hundred percent clear. Yeah, you don't want to get in the way. You don't want to physically stop ... and you don't want to be yelling and screaming at them, "I told you no. Don't search. You're not allowed to search." You just make it clear, "I am not giving you permission to do this, but if you're telling me you have the ability to do this, I'm stepping aside and following whatever instructions you're telling me I have to follow," right?
I think the other thing, another area is, sometimes people don't realize when they're legally allowed to leave situations with police, and so I think a real important question to make sure that people know is to say, "If I'm not under arrest, I'd like to leave as soon as I'm free to do so. Please tell me as soon as I'm free to leave."
Todd Orston: That happened to me once when I was in college, and I got pulled over. I was of course driving the speed limit. The police officer kept me, put me in his car. Now, it was weird, because it was the middle of the night and I was driving from school back home, and kept me in his car for an hour and a half while he was going through code violation books and doing all sorts of stuff and asking me all sorts of questions.
Finally, I think it was just because I was tired, I just said to him, "Am I under arrest for something, because, with all due respect, it's two in the morning now. Can you just write me whatever ticket you're going to write me and let me go?" He got a little bit miffed at that, but then he gave me a ticket. I had a motorcycle and a car, and I put the motorcycle sticker on the car plate and the car sticker on the motorcycle plate. He was like, "Well, you're doing that to do ..." They're both valid, but he wanted to keep me there and question me. Columbo. Anyway, the point is, yeah, I finally said, "If you're going to charge me, charge me with something. Otherwise, let me go to sleep."
Leh Meriwether: The three phrases I'm hearing are, "Am I required to do that? If so, I'll follow your instructions. If not, I don't want to do that." "I do not consent to a search warrant of my person, property or vehicle without a valid warrant."
Paul Ghanouni: Let's make that clear. "I do not consent to a search of my person, property or vehicle without a valid warrant."
Leh Meriwether: What did I say?
Paul Ghanouni: You said, "I don't consent to a search warrant."
Todd Orston: "And you can tell the judge that."
Leh Meriwether: Glad you corrected me on that. "If I am not under arrest, I would like to leave as soon as I am free to do so. Please tell me as soon as I'm free to leave."
Paul Ghanouni: Again, these aren't magic words. These aren't magic responses, but they're a way that you assert your rights. Then you comply, and if there's an issue to be brought up, it can be dealt with in court later. Again, this is about protecting a young person's long-term ... If you say no to a search and you create an issue that allows something not to be on somebody's record 20 years from now, that's what we're trying to do here, is not have foolish offenses or bad decisions or bad situations derail somebody's opportunity to achieve their full potential, to be the best person that they can be.
Leh Meriwether: We had mentioned at the last segment, was there a scenario where somebody was arrested and they had nothing to do with it?
Paul Ghanouni: Yes. One scenario that I kind of alluded to was a sibling's drugs in the car.
Leh Meriwether: A sibling's drugs in the car?
Paul Ghanouni: It was a sibling, shared the car with her brother, and she was in the car with her boyfriend, and the boyfriend and she both got charged with the drugs that were found in the car, because the police came in contact with them and just simply said, "Hey, can we search the car," and they both said, "Yeah, you can search the car. We've got nothing to hide."
Leh Meriwether: Wow.
Todd Orston: As a prosecutor, I had several of those cases where it usually was a drug case but where basically there's numerous people in a car or numerous people in a home, in a room drugs are found. Luckily, I guess I would say, as a prosecutor, I did what I needed to do to really try and figure out who the culprit was, who the wrongdoer was, but they were all arrested, so they were all arrested. Whatever statements were made were made. All of them could have charges against them.
Leh Meriwether: Wow.
Todd Orston: While I would like to pat myself on the back and say I tried to find the truth, sometimes that gets a little muddy, finding the truth, and people just get charged and convicted.
Leh Meriwether: Man, it wasn't even her ... It was her brother's, and she just didn't have a clue.
Todd Orston: I never liked the brother, I'll be honest with you. Shifty eyes.
Leh Meriwether: Up next, we're going to talk about why, "You made the mistake. You figure out how to deal with it" is not good advice.
Todd, while we're on a break, let's take a moment to speak just with our podcast listeners.
Todd Orston: Great idea, Leh. First, thank you for listening. If you're a client of ours, thank you for taking the time to educate yourself. It really helps us help you.
Leh Meriwether: I wanted to thank those that recently took a moment to review our podcast. We really appreciate it. If you feel like you're gaining a value from the show, please take a moment to post a review. The reviews help others find the show, which allows us to help even more people.
Todd Orston: If you're not sure how to post a review, our web masters put together a simple explanation on our web page. You can find it at MTLawOffice.com/ReviewIt. That's M as in Mary, T as in Tom, LawOffice.com/ReviewIt.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com.
Today we have in studio Paul Ghanouni, and he is the owner, the founder, of the Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, and we are going through how do we help educate our children on how to handle encounters with police, because things have changed. We want our kids to be respectful. We want our kids to be responsible, but at some level we don't want that taking responsibility for what could have been just a simple mistake to suddenly just ruin their lives or potentially prevent them from going into a field that they are passionate about, so we don't want that mistake to ruin their lives.
Paul's passionate about it, and we have been talking about some of the mistakes that parents make on what they tell their kids to do, and so we're on the last one, the last big mistake. What is that last big mistake that parents make?
Paul Ghanouni: It's the parents who tell the young person, "You made the mistake. You figure out how to deal with it." Let's just think this through for a second, right? The person who made the decision that caused them to get arrested or charged or otherwise in trouble with the law, that's the person whose thinking you want to figure out how to get out of the situation. It doesn't always play out in the best way possible. Some situations we see where parents end up leaving somebody in jail or asking us, "Should we leave them in jail to teach them a lesson?" My general answer to that is no.
Todd Orston: I'd be scared to tell my kids, "You figure it out" when talking about what they're eating for dinner, let alone, "Oh, police are questioning you? Best of luck. High five."
Leh Meriwether: If you were talking to my two-and-a-half-old, she'd tell you what she's having for dinner. She'd go make it herself too.
Todd Orston: Can she talk to my 15-year-old and 13-year-old?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, probably in ways that you don't want her to.
Paul Ghanouni: In seriousness, with getting them out of jail, and I have a couple of exceptions to this when I talk about bonding them out of jail in a relatively expeditious manner, and those exceptions are, we do come across the parent who says, "Listen, my son or daughter's a heroin addict," or some other addict, "And if they're out on the street, I don't know if they're going to wake up tomorrow." That's an exception there. Or you've got some other issue.
Are you getting choked up over this, Leh?
Todd Orston: Yeah, I know, right.
Paul Ghanouni: If it's hitting too close to home, you can let me know.
Leh Meriwether: I'm tearing up.
Paul Ghanouni: If that's the situation, then I get that, when to leave somebody in jail. Or if it's a situation that you're, maybe there's a mental health situation. I'll tell you, I've spoken to some parents who are parents of addicts who are in recovery groups, and they talk about, "Well, this is the antithesis of what we get taught, which is that we need to let them ... We can't be the ones who come in and save them, because that teaches them bad ..."
Todd Orston: There's a middle ground.
Paul Ghanouni: Right.
Todd Orston: There's a middle ground, because I'll never forget when I was a prosecutor in ... I worked in Troup County and in the Coweta District, and ...
Leh Meriwether: Is that mid-Georgia?
Todd Orston: It's actually, Troup County is on the Alabama border.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, okay.
Todd Orston: Down 85. Basically, the people, the family, lovely family that I rented from, had an issue like that. When I met the son, who was about my age, he introduced himself, "Hi, my name is, and I'm a recovering heroin addict," and the story that I was ultimately told is that he was hooked on drugs, stealing from his parents. It was a horrible situation. He went to jail. They kept him there, didn't bail him out right away, because of what you're talking about, but they didn't abandon him when it came to his legal defense and things like that.
Paul Ghanouni: There's ways that you can address that too, right? We've had parents who've expressed that. What we do is kind of come together with even a consent bond order that puts conditions on the person being out on bond, where, "Nobody's going to bond you out unless you're willing to agree to these conditions. Are you willing to agree to these conditions," and make them part of actually a court order, whether it's treatment, whether it's living with the parents, whether it's checking in, having a curfew, whatever else. So there's ways that you can create, if you're thinking outside the box, that you can create structure and still have them outside of jail if it's the best thing.
The flip side of that is the one, the kid who goes in there for something minor. The young person who goes in for something minor and can't get out of jail, their goal is to get out of jail as quickly as possible. A lot of courts have fast-track programs where they just try to get you into court, plead you guilty and get out of there, and maybe that's a quick, simple way to get out of jail, but then we come to back to those long-term consequences, that conviction following you around for the rest of your life.
I will say, if you want to leave them for a day to teach them a lesson, that's all up to you as far as parenting goes, but I'm talking about in the extended stays, is what I'm really talking about there.
Leh Meriwether: What's important, I'm hearing there, is, don't let them go to a hearing where they can just plead guilty and get out, because that will be on their record.
Paul Ghanouni: Correct, yeah. That's one of the big issues that we see is people not realizing the longer-term consequence. It may sound good to them, "Hey, you want to go plead guilty to this misdemeanor? You get time served and you're out of jail and you're off the hook, and you don't got to worry about this anymore," and that sounds pretty compelling to somebody who's eating baloney sandwiches and having to sleep in a room with 300 other people.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Except for what some people don't realize is that when they're then asking to sleep on your couch because they can't get a job because they have that criminal conviction, so it's really self-preservation. You need to get them out of jail and get them some representation.
Leh Meriwether: Especially if you're the parent, because that could be your couch.
Todd Orston: That's right. That's what I mean.
Paul Ghanouni: The other part of that comment, and I'll tell you all this, is we have had teens, 20-year-olds, come into our office who will tell us, we'll ask them, "Are your parents involved in your life?" "Yeah, they are." "Have you told them about this situation?" "No, I haven't." "Why not?" "They told me if I ever got into any trouble I had to deal with it myself, so I'm dealing with it myself." Then the parents find out about it, and they are aghast that their kid didn't come to them for help, because they could have helped them with the financial aspects of making sure they got a quality law firm, with making sure that it didn't blow up in a situation that could have been handled better.
You've got to be cautious as a parent what the message is that you're sending. If you're sending that message, you could actually end up hurting your child in a way that you don't mean, because every one of those parents that I talked to later on, who either found out about it later or we got their kid to think through it to say, "Maybe I should involve my parents," it was like, "I am so glad you told me, because I would not want this to be a situation that derails your life, prevents you from doing things that you want to do."
Leh Meriwether: That's an excellent piece of advice. In fact, I think I'm going to go home tonight and talk to both my sons and let them know that if they do anything wrong, if they get arrested, come talk to me or my wife, don't worry that we're going to get angry or be disappointed. Just come talk to us, that we'll help them get through it. That's some excellent advice right there. I could see that. I could see my kids, my son, sometimes he doesn't want to tell me about a bad grade, because I'll be like, "Wait. What? How'd you get that? Come on, man. You know this." I could see, he gets in trouble with the police. That is much, much worse. I could see how he might want to keep that secret.
Paul Ghanouni: The other issue that we say in that same arena that I think is important to educate kids on is, and I think we talked about this last time, but in case we didn't, is if they get a ticket, and most things in Georgia, those are still misdemeanors. We're seeing some law enforcement agencies writing shoplifting charges, possession of marijuana charges, on traffic citations, but they're still technically charges that can carry up to 12 months in jail. They can carry, have those longer-term impacts. But people see a physical ticket and think, "It's just a ticket. It's not a big deal."
Outside of that, I always encourage people to hire a law firm quickly. Hire a quality law firm. This is not one of those places that you want to go cheap if spending ... Saving a couple thousand dollars now could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of somebody's professional career of inability to get jobs and the ability to make sure that the cases are handled correctly.
We talked about earlier on, about things being on your record. In Georgia there's very limited ways that a case can be sealed on somebody's record, and how a case is resolved can impact if and when that case can be sealed. You want to make sure that any law firm you're working with is very forward thinking in that arena.
Todd Orston: Very quickly, let me just say, just like you said, cutting costs by getting a inexpensive attorney may be a poor choice. Expensive doesn't mean good either.
Paul Ghanouni: Very fair.
Todd Orston: Ask the right questions. We've done shows in the family law context how to pick and choose the right attorney for you. You have to educate yourself and ask the right questions.
Paul Ghanouni: No, I definitely agree with that. That's a very valid point.
Leh Meriwether: Paul, we're just about out of time. We're going to need to wrap it up, but I didn't want to end the show without you sharing how people can get ahold of you if they've got, if they know, have a son or a daughter that may need your help.
Paul Ghanouni: Definitely. I appreciate that, Leh. I'm actually going to do one better for your listeners, because I really appreciate you having me out here. I think this is really important information. We have little cards that we actually give to our clients that go over, have all these rights on them. Not only if you have a situation that we can help you with, but if you know a community group or if there's somebody that we can talk to, or if you just want one of those cards, just let our office know that you heard about, heard of this on this show, and we'll be willing to come out and do a complementary presentation to your parent group, community group, send you some of those complementary cards. You can call our office at 770-720-6336, or you can visit our website at TeenAndYoungAdultDefense.com.
Leh Meriwether: Awesome. Paul, thanks so much for coming on. This has been another great show.
Everyone, thanks so much for listening. Definitely take this advice to heart. Talk to your kids tonight. Make sure they know that they come to talk to you, and help them get through a situation if they've been confronted with a situation, because we don't want one mistake to impact the rest of their lives. Thanks so much for listening.
Male: This audio program does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Meriwether & Tharp.