It’s the call every parent dreads. The good news? Your child is safe. The bad news? They’ve been arrested. Although laws vary from state-to-state across the country, juvenile laws are radically different from the ones governing adult criminal cases. Navigating the system isn’t easy. So what do you do if your kid gets arrested?
The differences between juvenile and adult criminal law begin with the arrest. While adult cases generally require a warrant, a juvenile can be arrested based on probable cause. Basically, if a police officer thinks your child was engaged in delinquent conduct they can take them into custody.
In Texas, this is “conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a penal law of this state or of the United States punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail.” There is no requirement that an officer obtain an arrest warrant as is generally the case with adults. Once your child is taken into custody, the law requires that they be taken “without unnecessary delay” to a juvenile processing office. Within 48 hours from when the accused was taken into custody (including weekends and holidays), a court or a magistrate must conduct a detention hearing. This will decide whether your child gets released, or is held in a juvenile facility until their scheduled court date. Keep in mind this is not a bail hearing. There is no bail for juveniles.
Hopefully, long before those two days expire, you’ll be able to do several things. Most importantly, talk to your child. It’s normal to be agitated; it’s also extremely unhelpful. All you know is what the police have told you. You don’t know the circumstances, nor do you know if your child is guilty. However, emphasize to them that they are not to discuss the case with any officers or other juveniles being held in the facility. Even if you are meeting with them alone, avoid discussing the case in the police station.
Juvenile and adult criminal law are identical in one respect. Your child should have been read their Miranda rights, and if the police want to talk to them about what happened –– your child has the right to remain silent and anything they say can be used against them in court.
Getting Professional Help
Do not make the mistake of acting as their lawyer. Even if you are a licensed attorney, you shouldn’t be handling your own child’s case. Allowing a search, verifying timelines, or doing anything to help the state build a case against your child is a grave error.
Instead, you need to speak to a skilled attorney, like the ones at Chris Lewis & Associates. Juvenile law is very different from other types of criminal law. Only lawyers experienced in its vagaries should handle your case. Although you can have a court-appointed attorney for free, these attorneys generally juggle dozens of cases. If you want your child to receive the attention they need, you should consider hiring a private attorney.
In Texas, those accused of a crime are prosecuted as juveniles until their 17th birthday. After that, they are prosecuted as adults. Juveniles can also be prosecuted as adults for certain crimes, like murder or kidnapping. The thing to remember is that the Juvenile Justice Code isn’t designed just for punishment or to protect the public. It is also about
rehabilitation, accountability, and responsibility –– for both you and your child.
So, getting your child professional legal help will do more than help them avoid prison. If your child is actually guilty of the offense, the right attorney can get them the assistance they need. Recalling one case, an attorney described a drug-addicted teen who after being arrested got the treatment needed to become sober. So, whether your child is guilty or innocent, there are many ways you can help after they have been arrested.