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What to do if your child has been arrested

No parent wants to receive that dreaded phone call from the police informing them that their child has been arrested. It seems like the end of the world. Moreover, you may conclude that your child has ruined their life, and that all of your hard work in raising them has been for naught.

So cry, get angry, vent. That’s normal. However, after you have collected yourself, there are some definite things you can do to help your child and work toward a positive outcome of what is, admittedly, an unpleasant situation for everyone. What can you do?

Your child is neither an angel nor a devil

First, reconcile yourself to this fact. In 2014, over 1 million juveniles were arrested in the United States. Teens get into trouble. They make bad decisions. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or being with the wrong friends. Peer pressure is strong, and may influence your teen to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Your kid isn’t perfect, nor is he a lost cause.

Cooperate with the authorities

You may be very angry or simply be in disbelief, but the last thing you should do is argue with police or other authorities. While they are not necessarily on your side, they shouldn’t be against you, either. However, if you are argumentative or uncooperative, this could turn the tide and make your legal journey much more of an uphill climb.

Don’t try to be your child’s lawyer

Listen to your child and cooperate with authorities, but leave legal matters to those trained to handle them. Your advice to your child may we well intentioned: “Tell the nice police officer the truth, Johnny. Tell him everything that happened.” While you don’t want to encourage your child to lie, this may not be the best advice. An attorney will know best how to answer questions, including what and how much to say.

Speak with an attorney

When teens are arrested, they can be charged as a minor or as adult. There is a big difference, and an experienced attorney will best know how to proceed. You are naturally very protective of your child, but don’t be too demanding with the attorney; this is your advocate, and you should trust their judgment and let the attorney do the negotiating with judges and prosecutors.

Know your and your child’s rights

When arrested, minors should be read their rights. Police must have probable cause to search a minor. If questioned by the police, minors do not have the right to have their parents present (and parents do not have the right to be present). However, they can refuse to answer questions without an attorney present. Minors have a right to a phone call if arrested.

No one wants to hear that their child has been arrested. However, by remaining calm and seeking legal help, the best outcome can be achieved for your family. 

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