By Attorney Jennifer Schulte: Sometimes movies help us relate to real life. I don’t just mean the “reality” films but rather a good old fashioned action flick or love story. I recently saw the film “Snitch” starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Ric Roman Waugh. “Snitch” explores how a fundamental shift in the country’s anti-drug laws — including federal mandatory minimum sentencing and conspiracy provisions–has produced a culture of snitching that is in many cases rewarding the guiltiest and punishing the less guilty. The movie is about a young adult (18 years old) who finds himself in jail on a charge of distribution of narcotics. With the current federal minimum mandatory sentencing for this type of offense the kid is looking at ten years in prison.
The boy’s father pleads with the prosecutor to release his son and finally convinces the federal prosecutor to allow him (the dad) to help law enforcement set up some drug dealers. The movie is based on true events and portrays a divorced couple coping with their semi-adult son. The mother in the film has been a single mother working hard to raise the boy in a modest financial environment. The father has remarried, has a construction business that is doing quite well, has a young daughter and lives in a “mansion” in a very nice neighborhood. The boy holds resentment for what he perceives is his father moving on with his grand life while the mother and boy barely make ends meet. There are several touching scenes in which the father and son are able to work through life’s misunderstandings.
Being a family lawyer who also practices criminal defense work, I was excited by this film for many reasons. I have represented defendants facing mandatory minimum sentences before. I have been in a position to encourage a defendant to rat out a fellow drug dealer. The stigma associated with a snitch carries a lot of weight for years to come. But a defendant is placed in a position to either put his/her self first or evaluate morality but offering up a friend. I have had clients going through a divorce or post divorce that have had to figure out how to work together (think “co-parent”) when a child gets into trouble in school or with the law. All of a sudden, parents that can’t speak amicably on the phone to each other are thrust into a situation where they must act like adults. They must come together to pay for a lawyer or get the child into counseling. They must work together as a team (think “co-parent”) with the school or the legal system to get the best result for their child.
It is a difficult thing to take two feuding adults and require them to step it up for the best interests of their child. I’m happy to remark that the great majority of parents I have come across in this scenario do make it possible. Regardless of what your last name is post dissolution, there are family ties that bind and the root of any incident can be overcome with sincerity towards a common goal.