If you have been arrested or seen a loved one get arrested, you know just how frightening it can be. Feeling those cold metal handcuffs click into place on our wrists—might give you chills just thinking about it. More Americans are being arrested now than ever before.

America’s arrest and conviction rates are at an all-time high. Approximately 6.4% of people who were born before 1949 were arrested by age 26. Now, 23% of people born between 1979 and 1988 were arrested before they turned 26 years old.

Why is this a problem?

The biggest issue with the increased arrest and conviction rates is that the charges are for petty crime. Law enforcement is not taking down huge drug or weapon trafficking rings—its misdemeanor charges for drugs or alcohol consumption.

Of all arrests, 11% of women and 16% of men were apprehended for underage drinking. These petty crimes don’t pose a threat to American’s safety. These arrests do harm the underage kids. An arrest impacts education opportunities and jobs.

One study found that Americans who were arrested just one time before age 26, earn about $5,000 less than those not arrested, annually. This financial penalty could add up to $275,000 throughout the person’s lifetime.

What can you do?

You or your loved one can appeal the conviction. Those arrested and charged for underage drinking may not have understood the terms of a plea deal. Or, the appellate court may review the conviction and determine there were sentencing or procedural errors with your case.

You have options. It is your prerogative to protect and defend your rights. An experienced legal expert will be able to help you understand your options and plan your appeal.