You ended up in the county jail after being arrested for drug possession at a party on Saturday night. Your friends had handed you their stashes to hold and then vanished. Now, the detective said something about you holding enough drugs to be facing a felony charge.

No way, you think. It should be simple possession. And you’re still in high school, so they’ll just call your parents and you’ll be home by noon. Right? Wrong.

The criminal justice system is not built to forgive you for a simple mistake. Your eighteenth birthday was a couple weeks ago. You are no longer a juvenile. Instead of giving you a lecture and facing a lighter juvenile sentence, the detective has you sitting in an interrogation room asking about dealers. What should you do?

You need to call a lawyer for assistance and do so immediately. Eric Holder, the former Attorney General for the United States recently wrote about the disparate sentences many young individuals face for non-violent drug offenses.

Are charges accurate?

Your criminal defense attorney will review all of the facts available, and with their experience, know exactly for what you can and cannot be held responsible. They won’t allow the police or prosecutors the chance to bully you into admitting to something that didn’t happen the way they said it did. They’ll keep the discussion factual and accurate, protecting you from potentially overzealous prosecution.

Public defenders might be unable to give you the help you need

When the court assigns you a lawyer, the public defender has many other cases on their docket at the same time. They are more often than not overwhelmed by a criminal court system that is underfunded and designed to send people who made simple mistakes to prison for far too long. You need somebody in your corner who has the time necessary to devote to your case.

It’s your freedom on the line

With mandatory sentencing for many drug charges on the books, a mistake that did not involve violence in any form could see you sent to prison for a decade or longer. Can you imagine? You went to a party, had some fun and now you’re behind bars because you didn’t take the time to get all the help you needed.

When sentencing standards are created to satisfy political hot topic buttons, not to protect the interest of somebody who made a simple poor decision or mistake, it is crucial that you contact an expert as soon as possible who can fight for you. If you don’t want a choice you made as a young adult to negatively affect the rest of your life, make the call for expert help instead of relying on the system to save you.