Raising kids is not easy and anyone who ever said it was, well, they have to be out of their minds. These walking, talking extensions of us, are by far the most challenging and most rewarding parts of life. You can plan in advance, try to instill important values and moral codes, try to give them all tools you know of to make the right decision, but they will never cease to surprise us with the unexpected.
As parents, most of us have ideas in our heads of things we would rather not have to deal with, but it is rare that we aren’t faced with at least a few of these instances during our role as parent. It is a safe assumption, that your teenager getting arrested might top the list of what you would prefer not to deal with.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, just over 1.6 million juveniles were arrested in 2010. The most prevalent juvenile crimes were theft, assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and plenty of curfew violations. Approximately 12,030 individuals under 18 managed to get arrested for DUIs regardless of the fact that the legal drinking age is 21. Another group of non-law abiding juveniles, 12,700, were arrested for drunkenness. A recent study found that 30.2 percent of people, in the United States, will be arrested by the young age of just 23 years. This means that nearly 1/3 of young adults with be struck with an arrest record.
For many parents, we feel that we have a “good kid,” but how does that thinking change for the parents who get that call telling them that their child is in trouble with the law? In these situations, you have to attempt to keep your perspective. One mistake does not make your kid a criminal or lead to a life of crime. Your child may have been a victim of the situation that they mistakenly put themselves in, could be hanging with the wrong crown, or may have been involved in a prank that took a bad turn. Acting with an aggressive attitude, responding in a judgmental way or even avoiding the issue will not help anyone involved; not you or your child. Remaining calm and acquiring as much information as possible before reacting is of the upmost importance when dealing with law enforcement.
Oddly enough, when a juvenile is suspected of criminal activity, there is no set national procedure that has to be followed. Each state has their own unique laws and policies vary from one department to the next. Police officers, generally speaking, make a custodial arrest, followed by a juvenile summons, or, make a custodial arrest based on a search warrant, or make a custodial arrest followed by a transfer to juvenile detention. Parents are usually notified upon arrest of the child’s whereabouts, what they are being charged with and what course of action law enforcement will then take. Being taken into custody means that your child will be booked (fingerprinted and photographed) and interviewed and this is often the scariest part of the process for the parent because you have little to no control or decision making ability on your child’s behalf. It is important to know that if your child, a juvenile, is arrested while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may be medically screened upon their arrest.
In most situations, officers allow parents to speak with their child, and some departments will allow a parent or guardian to stay during formal questioning. However, a federal right for parents to be present, does not exist. While juveniles may not be able to have mom or dad or a guardian present, they do have the right to have an attorney there, and all questioning must cease if they clearly state they want one. In fact, getting a criminal defense lawyer involved early in the process is the single best thing you can do to help your child. While parents usually mean well, it is important for the parent or guardian to restrict their role to just listening and to restrict themselves from the temptation to act as legal counsel to their child. A well-meaning parent could easily get a child in greater trouble with the law by pushing them to “tell the truth.” A child, and especially a teenager, put into a difficult and sometimes scary situation might say anything to please their parents or to do what they think will help put an end to the situation at hand. Saying something incriminating or false can be very damaging the outcome of the case – and whether your child has a permanent record.
The best way to find a lawyer is by asking people you trust for referrals. This includes friends, family members and non-criminal defense attorneys that you may be associated with in some way. These individuals are a great resource because you can ask questions about their experiences. If you are concerned about privacy or are not comfortable with people close to you knowing that your child is facing criminal charges, there are a number of websites that you can refer to instead. Always remember to look for an attorney who has worked with juveniles in criminal defense matters, this is incredibly important because the laws vary so widely from state to state. The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Association of Federal Defense Attorneys and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are a few resources to start with when looking for a criminal defense lawyer.
A great deal of lawyers and law firms offer a free initial consultation, but absolutely worth paying a reasonable fee to provide your child the best possible defense and chance of a future without a criminal record. A good criminal defense lawyer is experienced in how to communicate with the police officers, prosecutors, and the attorneys representing other or even opposing parties. Your attorney may be able to arrange a plea bargain, they can explain all the possible consequences and scenarios to you and your child, and they may even be able to have your child released into your custody rather than having to post a bond or bail. It doesn’t matter whether your child is found guilty of a crime or the charges are dropped, the fact that they were arrested is a matter of public record and can affect their future negatively. Some records can be sealed for juveniles, while others may be eligible for expungement, but these processes are difficult to successfully navigate without a lawyer and often require additional fees down the road.
If you ever get the dreaded phone call saying that your child is in custody, try to look at it as an opportunity to teach rather than a disaster that requires punishment. Depending upon the circumstances, it might be “the thing” that assists in getting your child the help they need. There are many support groups out there that are great resources for parents who are struggling with teen issues, it is important to remember to take care of yourself and your well-being in these instances.
By Dan Carman, Attorney at Law, PLLC