According to the National Institute of Justice, the adolescent arrest rates throughout the United States have fallen by 55 percent. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean your kids won't stay out of trouble. Whether it's an incident as minor as a traffic ticket, or something more serious, getting the call your teen has been arrested can be scary. Before you make a mistake that could potentially make an unfortunate situation even worse, here are a few tips for what to do next when you find out your teen has been arrested:
What Happens Next & What You Need to Do First
As a parent, chances are your first instinct will be to run to your teenager and do whatever is necessary to get them back into your arms, and away from the police. This could include fighting with the authorities. However, before you march into the police station demanding custody of your teenager, it's vital to first take a breath and find out exactly why your child was arrested.
Depending on the state, you will either be notified immediately after the arrest, or within a few hours. It is then at the discretion of the authorities whether or not to charge your teenager, or allow them to leave.
If it was a minor offense, such as disorderly conduct or loitering, chances are they will be released to you immediately with a stern warning. However, if the offense was more serious, your teenager will be processed—and might even have to spend a few hours in jail.
At this point, you need to ask yourself if you should try to bail out your teenager, or teach them a lesson by allowing them to stay at the police station for a few hours. If this isn't your teenager's first offense, and you're concerned your punishments are not making an impact, you might consider allowing them to stew in a jail cell. Just make sure you know they're safe and being taken care of.
When to Contact an Attorney
The juvenile court system in the United States is much different than the adult court system, and it's important to learn the basic differences. For example, if a prosecutor wants to charge your teen, the window of opportunity for them to do so is limited, depending on the state.
If you're unsure about the rules and regulation associated with the juvenile court, and your teen wasn't immediately released, it's time to contact an attorney for more information on how to move forward.
Once again, the seriousness of the crime should be another factor to consider before hiring an attorney, but if there is a chance your teenager could be sent to a juvenile facility, it's time to call a lawyer. No matter what state you live in, you can be present when your teenager is questioned. In addition, if your teenager must attend family court, your attorney will be the only lawyer allowed to speak.
After the Trial
If the charges are minor, chances are your teenager won't need to go before a judge in family court. However, if they are more serious, the judge will generally consider a variety of factors before rendering a judgment, including:
- Your teenager's age and how serious the crime was
- Your teenager's criminal and school record
- Evidence of any crime
Once again, the judge will take these factors into consideration and if they aren't released to you, they will either be sentenced to community service, placed in a rehabilitation program if the offense is related to drugs or alcohol. In most extreme cases, they will be sent to a juvenile detention facility.
Whatever the sentence, it's important to keep your emotions in check and allow your attorney to do their job. If you become too emotional or argumentative, it will only hurt your teenager's case.
Receiving a phone call that your teenager has been arrested can feel like the end of the world, but it doesn't have to be. It's important in the few minutes and hours after the arrest to remain calm, support your teenager and prepare yourself for whatever comes next.