Usually, any arrest is a traumatic experience. But when it's your child being put behind bars, it can be an overwhelming situation. It's normal to feel angry, shocked, and protective when your child is arrested – and the overwhelm created by these emotions can lead you to decisions that impact your child's case negatively. Despite the shock of the news of your child's arrest, you should become the voice of reason for your family and take the necessary steps to help your child. Here is what you should do when your child is arrested.
You have probably gone through a spectrum of emotions after learning that your child has been arrested for an offense. However, this is not the time to be angry or attempt to punish your daughter for the crime they allegedly committed.
Staying calm will help you take in what is going on and forge a clearer way out of the current mess. If you have trouble keeping calm, remind yourself that your child could be the victim of a false accusation or a wrongful charge.
Being calm is also important for your child, as it will be much easier to work together to protect their rights than when you are angry or emotionally overwhelmed.
Staying calm may also prevent you from getting yourself into more trouble. For example, if you watch a cop arrest your child and end up trying to stop them, you might end up being arrested alongside your child.
Hire a Juvenile Defense Attorney
The rule of thumb anytime your child is arrested is to hire an attorney. Most parents try to play lawyer when their children are arrested, which could turn out badly when they take actions that hurt, instead of help, their children’s cases.
Most parents who take on the role of the attorney for their children end up:
- Forcing their kids to talk to police and confess to the crimes
- Unnecessarily letting the police search your home
- Waiving important rights
Contact an attorney who works with juveniles to be present during the child’s questioning and to guide you through the juvenile court system.
Working with an attorney has several benefits:
- An attorney is a third party who can afford to be objective, unlike the parent
- The attorney is experienced in the law and can help your child avoid the common legal pitfalls
- An attorney will offer legal counsel and insights you may be unaware of
- An attorney will help protect the child’s rights
- An attorney can help speed up the process
- An attorney could help negotiate for your child to be charged as a minor instead of as an adult
When hiring an attorney, ensure that they are familiar with state juvenile laws and have previously worked with other juvenile offenders.
Note that you can ask for a public defender if you cannot afford to pay a private attorney for your child.
Once you begin working with an attorney, provide them with the relevant information and documents to help them defend your child in the best possible way. If your child has problems that might have influenced their participation in the alleged crime, notify your attorney.
For instance, a mental illness or another condition could explain their engagement in the alleged crime.
Find Out the Ways Your Child Could Be Released
Depending on your child's alleged offense, they may be released shortly after the arrest or be retained in custody awaiting a detention hearing.
The goal of a detention hearing is to determine whether to keep your child in custody until their first appearance or release them. The detention hearing occurs within 48 hours of being in custody if the minor has committed a non-violent or non-serious misdemeanor. If the alleged offense is a felony or violent misdemeanor, the minor will have a detention hearing in 72 hours (excluding weekends).
Judges rely on testimony from the prosecution, the defense, the child's parents, and the probation department to determine whether to release your child from custody.
Note that the court does not release minors on bail.
Comfort Your Child
It might be a traumatic experience for you when your child is arrested. However, your child is also going through a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges, and they may appreciate you providing a shoulder to lean on when they are arrested.
If you are not in a position to support your child after the arrest, find a responsible child counselor to help them work out through the challenges and fears they may
Note that taking your child for counseling might also help your case, especially when counseling or rehabilitation could help prevent the offense the child committed.
In addition to counseling, sit with your child to work out what happened for the underlying charges to arise. This discussion with your child should not focus on blaming them for engaging in actions that could ruin their future. Instead, you want to understand what situations led to the offense so you can both forge a way forward.
Reassure your child that you will support them as they work out through the juvenile court system and get their life in order. Identify the resources that could help them straighten out their act.
Appear for All Court Hearings
The juvenile court process involves several hearings. Being present in these hearings is a show of support for your child. It also allows you to understand what is happening with your child’s case. Depending on the case, your child may be involved in any of the following court hearings:
A detention hearing is the first hearing your child attends after being in custody for an alleged offense. The detention hearing is a requirement if the child remains in custody after an arrest. During the detention hearing, the court determines whether your child should stay in custody or whether to release them as they await the outcome of their case.
During the detention hearing, your child will be informed of the charges against them and their constitutional rights and enter a plea.
The court might choose to keep your child in custody if your child:
- Violated a juvenile court order
- Is a flight risk
- Has previously escaped from commitment to the juvenile court
- Needs to remain in custody to protect themselves and others
Attending juvenile detention hearings is one of your responsibilities as a parent. In fact, should the court fail to notify you of the hearings, you have the right to request another detention hearing.
A minor who commits a crime may be charged as an adult to face criminal charges. In most cases, transfer hearings, also known as fitness hearings, are necessary when minors commit violent misdemeanors or certain felonies.
Some of the factors that decide whether a child is fit to be charged in adult criminal court include:
- The seriousness of the charges
- The potential benefits the child is likely to receive from rehabilitation
- The child commits a crime listed in the Welfare and Institutions Code 707 (b) and is aged 16 or older
- The child’s delinquency history
- The degree of sophistication the minor displayed in the commission of the crime
If your child commits one of these offenses, the juvenile court will initiate transfer hearings:
- Murder and attempted murder
- Arson of an inhabited structure
- Arson causing great bodily injury
- Sodomy by force, threat, coercion
- Lewd or lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or younger
- Oral copulation by threat, force, or violence
- Kidnapping for a ransom, robbery, sexual assault, or with bodily harm
- Forcible sexual penetration
- Assault with a firearm or with force likely to produce great bodily injury
- Discharging a firearm in an inhabited area
- Offenses against a person aged 60 or older
- Dissuading a witness or bribing a witness
- Manufacturing a controlled substance [HS 11055 (e)]
- Committing a felony while involved in criminal gang activity
- Aggravated mayhem
- Kidnapping during a carjacking
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Using an explosive device with the intent to kill
- Drive-by shooting
In an adjudication hearing, the minor appears before the court to determine whether they violated the law. It is the equivalent of an adult criminal trial, except that a minor does not stand before a jury.
The goal of the adjudication hearing is to determine whether your child violated the law. This is based on sufficient evidence that the allegations against your child are true.
During the adjudication hearing, your minor has the chance to defend themselves against the allegations against them. The juvenile defense attorney will present witnesses and a defense to fight the allegations.
If the court finds the allegations true, the judge will sustain the petition and sentence your child at a disposition hearing. The judge will dismiss the case if they find the allegations to not be true.
A disposition hearing is the equivalent of a sentencing hearing in adult criminal proceedings. At the disposition hearing, the judge determines the best sentencing option to rehabilitate the minor in the best possible way.
Some of the sentencing options available to juvenile offenders include:
- Home on probation
- Placement in a foster home
- Commitment to the Division of Juvenile Justice
- Placement in probation camp
Attending your child's court hearing is a show of support to your child and allows you to be involved at every stage of the court process. Participating lets you offer advice and suggestions to your child's criminal defense attorney.
Identify Documents That Could Help Your Case
Your child’s character significantly influences the court’s decision. Therefore, you should gather documents that support your child’s character and help win a more favorable decision. Before you submit any documents, you must discuss them with your attorney. Also, refrain from being the person singing praises about your child. Instead, have character reference requests from third parties interacting with your child.
Other documents that could help your child include:
- Medical records (if your child has a medical condition that might have contributed to the commission of the crime)
- Certificates of participation in community or sporting activities
- Proof of counseling services received
Educate Yourself About Your Responsibilities and Potential Collateral Consequences
A child's arrest is an overwhelming process – whether or not you saw it coming. It's common for parents to feel overwhelmed and powerless when their minor child is facing allegations of an offense.
But, it might be comforting to know that you have rights when your child is in the juvenile justice system. Parents have the right to:
- Be notified of their child’s arrest
- Be informed of their child’s constitutional rights
- Request legal representation for their child
- Your child's court hearings are being kept confidential (this right varies based on the offense)
- Inspect their child’s juvenile court records and probation reports
In addition to these rights, parents also have certain responsibilities when their child is in the juvenile court system. they include:
- You must cover the costs incurred on your child when they are detained (food, clothing, and medical care)
- You must also cover the costs of electronic surveillance, legal services, and victim restitution
Educate yourself about your rights, responsibilities, and the potential collateral consequences of your child being involved in the juvenile court system.
Educate Your Child About their Rights
Despite allegedly committing an offense, your child still has rights they may not be aware of. It is your job as their parent to educate them about their rights and responsibilities. Some of the rights your child has while in the juvenile court system include:
- They have a right to remain silent if questioned without their parents present
- They have the right to legal representation
- They have the right to a phone call
- The right to be notified of the charges they are facing
- The right to cross-examine witnesses
- The right against self-incrimination
- The police must have probable cause before searching the minor
If your child is educated about their rights, they can make better decisions, especially when interacting with the police or the prosecution.
Encourage Your Child to Stay Out of Additional Trouble
It's common for juvenile offenders to re-offend. The most common reasons minors offend include:
- Substance abuse
- Dysfunctional family relationships
- Media influence
- Poor academic performance
- Mental health conditions
- Lack of boundaries
- No parental supervision
Addressing why your child has committed the offense is a good starting point when encouraging them to keep out of trouble with the law. Some of the things you can do to help include:
- Set reasonable rules and boundaries that your child should adhere to. Include reasonable punishment that must be enforced if these rules are broken. It’s a good idea to work with your child when setting these rules, as they are more likely to respond to mutually agreed-upon boundaries.
- Encourage your child to participate in academic and extracurricular activities.
- If your child got in trouble in an attempt to escape a dysfunctional family dynamic, this could be the best time to seek family therapy so that you can fix the problems between you and your child.
- Hold your child accountable for their actions – including not shielding them from the natural consequences of their actions.
- Educate your child about the long-term consequences of getting in trouble with the law. These consequences may include a criminal record if they continue offending into adulthood and problems finding productive work if they maintain a criminal record.
Seek Support (For Yourself)
Most of the advice so far has focused mainly on how you can be there for your child when they are arrested. We haven't talked about how you should take care of yourself during the process.
Feeling disappointed or even angry when your child commits a crime is perfectly okay. But working through these emotions while maintaining a strong front for your child is important. You can do this in a healthy way by seeking a support system for yourself.
Find a way to release your emotions and feelings. You can do this by:
- Talking to a therapist individually. (it's also wise to have group counseling sessions with your child if the two of you have a hard time working together during this time).
- Joining a support group of parents with delinquent children
It’s also common for parents to beat themselves up for the choices their children make. While some children end up delinquent due to their parents' erroneous parenting, it could be due to other reasons out of your control, such as negative peer influence or risky behavior that teenagers exhibit.
Be kind to yourself and find ways to support yourself and your child during and after the juvenile court process.
Find a Los Angeles Juvenile Defense Attorney Near Me
One of the most important things you can do when your child is arrested is to work with a juvenile defense attorney. The juvenile court process varies significantly from adult criminal courts, meaning that the rules and procedures differ. Although you may be disappointed in the offense your child allegedly committed, it serves both of your interests to find an experienced attorney who has previously handled juvenile cases. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has worked on juvenile delinquency cases, helping parents and their children navigate the juvenile court system to find the best possible ways to help their children. You can schedule a consultation at 310-564-2605.