As a parent, you only want the best for child, but unfortunately, parenthood comes with some bumpy times. One of the worst-case scenarios for teens’ parents is getting a call that your child has been arrested. So what do you do when you face this situation, which is more common than you might realize? What should you know about the juvenile justice system? The following are some key points to keep in mind if your teen is arrested and facing criminal charges.
Reasons Teens Are Commonly Arrested
There are some reasons that teens are commonly arrested. These include:
- Drug abuse and violations related to alcohol use such as DUI or drunkenness
- Disorderly conduct and vandalism
It’s estimated around 30% of young people in the U.S. will get arrested before they’re 23. Even when parents feel their teen is a “good” kid, teens face peer pressure and other situations that may put them in situations that can lead to legal trouble.
It’s Traumatic for Your Teen
If your teen gets arrested, it’s natural to feel anger, but you do have to realize it will be traumatic for your child. Kids make mistakes, and while some can have more serious consequences than others, they are part of learning. While you don’t have to condone your teen’s mistakes, you should understand the trauma and mental health factors that often come both before and after an arrest.
Your Child’s Rights
Your child does have rights in the juvenile court system. For example, the police have to have probable cause to search a minor. Probable cause means the officer has sufficient reason to believe the teen has committed a crime. There’s an exception to this. If a parent or school official knows of an offense and then goes on to involve the police, the police don’t need to establish probable cause. A minor also has the right to make a phone call after being arrested.
Your child, if they are arrested as a minor, has the right to counsel. When you’re angry at your child after an arrest, you may feel tempted not to hire a criminal defense attorney for them, but this can be a big mistake. A lawyer is ultimately going to be one of the most important resources for your child. Moving through the court system is intimidating, and the outcome of what happens after a teen’s arrest can follow them for the rest of their life.
A good lawyer can help mitigate some of the damage. Your teen should be provided with notice of any charges he or she faces as well. A minor doesn’t have the right to seek bail. In most states, a minor can be released to a parent or guardian before the court decides on the case. However, if a judge thinks it’s best, they can hold a child in detention pending the evaluation of evidence or until the case is reviewed in court. Minors don’t have the right to bail and, as such, can be held indefinitely.
The Juvenile Court System
Laws regarding juvenile offenders vary by state. For the most part, anyone between the ages of 10 and 18 is considered a juvenile offender. In some states, a 16-year-old might be treated as an adult. Other factors play a role in whether a young person is treated as an adult or juvenile, including the crime’s seriousness.
Some differences between juvenile and adult court include:
- An adult has the right to a jury trial, but a juvenile doesn’t. In a juvenile court, a judge hears the case and determines whether or not the young person is guilty.
- During an adult’s criminal proceedings, it’s open to the public. Juvenile proceedings are closed to the public.
- It’s easier for a juvenile’s record to be expunged than an adult’s.
In both scenarios, the accused person has the right to a hearing or trial, the right to an attorney, and the right to call witnesses. If a juvenile is convicted of a crime, they might not be able to return to school or participate in certain activities.
If a teen is arrested because a police officer believes they have committed a crime, there are actually different options they can take. The officer can issue a warning and then release your teen, in which case you don’t have to go through juvenile court. The officer could also send the teen to a diversion service like a probation department. They can issue a citation and require the teen to then appear in juvenile court, or they can take the teen to juvenile hall.