Parents of children arrested and charged with a crime are likely to face some very difficult decisions. They need to determine what information is best for their child to be made aware of, and how to act when the case goes to trial.
There’s never a good time to learn you have a criminal record. So when you hear your child has been arrested, it’s not just the immediate shock of hearing about an arrest that matters; it’s also the lingering aftershocks from that initial shock.
You can’t change your past, but you can protect your family from its repercussions. Here are some steps to take after learning about an arrest:
The arrest process
Your child will be arrested if a police officer thinks they have committed a serious offence (an indictable offence). They could also be arrested if they refuse to give their name and address when asked, or if they are found somewhere doing something illegal (this is called ‘breach of the peace’).
Your child will be taken to a police station where an officer at the station will talk to them in private. They will then decide whether or not your child should be charged.
Call the court
Call the court and ask what charges have been filed against your child. If it’s a misdemeanour, ask if there will be a court appearance and if so, when. If it’s a felony charge, ask if there will be a preliminary hearing, which is typically held within five to 10 days of an arrest to determine whether probable cause exists to hold your son or daughter on charges of the offence being charged.
If your child is arrested and charged
If your child is under 14 they can’t be arrested. If they’re 14 or over, the police may arrest them if they’re suspected of committing an offence. The police don’t need to arrest your child in every case, though.
If your child is arrested and charged, the police must tell you as soon as possible – unless there’s a good reason to keep it secret. They can’t keep your child for more than 24 hours without charging them.
You can influence how your child is treated and the outcome of his or her case. The police will work on your child’s behalf, and you can help by providing them with information.
If your child is charged with a crime, you have some rights, but there are limits to what you can do.
You have a right to know all information about your child’s case. In many states, the police must give you this information in writing within 24 hours of the arrest. If they don’t, you should get an attorney to ask for it.
You also have a right to be involved in the decision-making process if your child is tried as an adult or sentenced to a long prison term. In many states, you may be able to seek a court hearing to change these conditions.
What happens if your child gets in trouble?
If your child is arrested by the police, he or she will be taken to either a police station or a courthouse for questioning. The purpose of this questioning is to obtain information about the suspected crime and determine whether there is enough evidence to charge your child with an offence.
The police can only question your child if he or she has been charged with an offence or there are reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has committed an offence. If there are no reasonable grounds, then your child will not be questioned by the police and you should not allow them to question him or her without a criminal lawyer present.
If your child is arrested and charged with a criminal offence, they will usually be bailed to return back to their home address. If this is not suitable, the police or court may release them into your care or the care of another responsible adult at their bail address.
They will have to attend the Youth Court on their next court date. You may also be asked to attend court with them.
If your child is charged with a criminal offence, you can be ordered to take part in a parenting programme or follow a Parenting Contract. These are voluntary agreements reached between the police, social workers and your family.
Parenting programmes and Parenting Contracts are used when there are concerns about the way young people are being brought up in their families. The programmes help parents build up their confidence and skills in dealing with difficult behaviour by their children. As well as taking part in the programme, parents will be asked to sign an agreement promising not to use any physical punishment towards their children (e.g smacking).
Parents who refuse to participate won’t automatically be prosecuted for the neglect of their children.
A child’s rights
If your child is arrested and charged with a crime, they have the same rights as an adult. Their rights include:
-The right to silence
-The right to legal representation
-The right to know why he was detained and arrested
Their police interview should be recorded on video, not audio. A parent or guardian can be present during the interview. If you’re not allowed in the room, ask for a reason. For example, if the police say your presence will upset your child, tell them you’ll stay outside but want them to know you’re there.
If you can’t afford a lawyer one will be provided for your child. It’s important that your child understands they don’t have to say anything other than their name and address until they’ve spoken to a lawyer. But if they choose not to say anything it could affect the case against them.
We believe that these tips have been useful to you and that it is clear to you that it is not the end of the world when a problem occurs. There is a solution for everything!