There are few things more startling than a phone call (or worse, a visit) informing you that your child has been arrested. If this ever happens to you, it's essential that you understand a few things about juvenile crime and know what you and your child should and should not do going forward.
Retain a defense lawyer right away
Often, police officers will tell parents in these situations that they don't need a lawyer. They may say they only want to talk to your child and get the honest truth about the issue at hand.
However, if your child has been arrested, the same rules apply as those for adults, specifically the Miranda rights: Anything your child says can and will be used against him or her in juvenile court.
Your child does not have to (and shouldn't) talk to the police
Usually, juveniles don't fully understand their rights if they are arrested. Your child has the right to not talk to police. However, law enforcement officers often try to get children who have been arrested to give evidence that corroborates the reason for their arrest before they're able to talk to parents or an experienced attorney.
Police may perform an interrogation at your child's school where there is less of a chance he or she will be properly advised of his or her rights. They might also interrogate your child at the police station, where there may be hidden cameras or tape recorders.
What about a public defender?
In the state of California, judges can appoint public defenders to juveniles. This happens after charges have been filed, during the initial court date. By this time, you have already missed several key opportunities during the investigation and pre-filing stage, where you can potentially avoid court altogether by working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
A skilled defense lawyer may be able to get your child's case resolved informally, rejected for filing, or even dismissed. Some of the things a juvenile defense lawyer can do before the case starts include:
- Requesting your child's release so you can bring him or her home
- Talk with probation to prevent a petition from being filed against your child and possibly to provide informal supervision without filing charges
- Suggest a rehabilitation program in place of juvenile detention
- Convince the district attorney to reduce, not file, or dismiss charges, or to try the case informally without court proceedings
- Should the case go to trial, fight to have your child acquitted of charges
Act quickly to give your child the best chance
If your child is arrested, it's important to secure legal representation as soon as possible. Many of the opportunities to reduce or dismiss the possible charges against your child are during the investigation and pre-filing stage.
Vitaly Sigal, an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, delivers aggressive defense representation for people who have been arrested and charged with crimes, including juveniles. To discuss find out how he can help you and your child, contact our law office today.