At some point in their lives, every child defies the boundaries and the law. However, when such defiance results in an arrest, the consequences become all too real. Most children break the law by bringing a weapon to school, getting caught shoplifting in a store or getting into a serious fight. The United States Department of Justice notes that approximately 3,940 children for every 100,000 were arrested in 2012.
When a parent is notified that their child has been arrested, the first thing they may think about is what they should do to remedy the situation. The answer can differ in each case. This article discusses the important steps parents can and should take if their child has been arrested for breaking the law.
When Can the Police Arrest a Juvenile?
A juvenile may be arrested or detained for either a felony or misdemeanor offense. However, unlike adults, the police do not have to personally witness a misdemeanor to arrest or detain a juvenile. The police only need probable cause to believe the misdemeanor was committed in order to take a child into custody. The reason is there is a lower threshold for a juvenile arrest.
Once a police officer has probable cause for an arrest, he has several options as to how he will handle the situation:
- Release the juvenile with a simple warning and refer him or her to appear before a community agency for counseling
- Release the juvenile and issue a citation to appear before a Probation Officer for further action
- Directly take the juvenile into custody
Regardless of what option the officer chooses, the child cannot be placed in detention with adult offenders.
Important Tips to Consider If Your Child Gets Into Trouble With the Law
Once a child has been detained in custody, the officer is required to immediately notify the minor’s parents or guardians. The juvenile is allowed to make two phone calls. Upon arriving at the detention facility, you should consider the following:
- Remain calm. It is important to remain calm and not jump to conclusions or think the situation is better or worse than it is.
Be respectful to the police. Cooperation with the police can go a long way. Respecting the officers and refraining from calling them names will be more beneficial to both you and your child.
- Remain silent. Similar to adults, juveniles have a right to remain silent. It is best for both the juvenile and the parent to remain silent because any information provided to the police can and often is used against the child.
- Ask for a lawyer. If your child is in custody and requests a lawyer, the police must stop asking him or her questions. However, it is important to note that asking for a parent is not the same thing as asking for an attorney.