In Trouble with the Law

Is It A Prank or A Crime? What You Can Do if Your Teen Lands in Legal Trouble

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Most teenagers are responsible, law-abiding people – fortunately or unfortunately, having a messy bedroom isn’t against the law. However, sometimes they do get into trouble. Even things that are seen by teens as “harmless fun” can turn into serious problems fairly quickly.

In some of these cases, the police get involved. When that happens, your teen could be charged with a civil infraction, a misdemeanor or worse.

For instance, a civil infraction example could be a school prank that goes too far. A misdemeanor could be the decision to drink at a party, resulting in a public intoxication charge. Or a seemingly lighthearted online post about a classmate is viewed as sexual harassment. The decisions teens and young adults make — and the consequences of those decisions — can have lasting impacts on their lives.

How to be prepared if your kids end up in legal trouble

Keep these five things in mind so you’re prepared if your son or daughter has a lapse in judgment that may result in legal consequences:

1. Don't try to handle the matter alone.

If your child is in trouble with the law, this is more than an opportunity for parental discipline and guidance. Depending on the seriousness of the criminal charge (misdemeanor vs. felony, for example), it can have long-lasting effects on your child’s future, into adulthood. Consult an attorney with knowledge of the juvenile law system in your area who will be able to advocate for your child’s best present and future interests.

2. Only speak with an attorney present.

If you receive a phone call letting you know that your child has been arrested, let the person know that your child will be consulting with an attorney before speaking to school officials or members of law enforcement. Do not let him or her speak to anyone or make a written statement until the attorney is present.

3. Disable social media accounts.

If your child gets in trouble with the law, shut down all his or her social media sites immediately. Prosecutors review social media sites to see what kids are doing/saying/posting after the alleged crime and before the case goes to trial. Posts that reference the case (whether bragging about it or making derogatory comments about others involved) can result in additional charges, extension of a penalty and can even be considered a violation of parole.

4. Pay attention to who your child associates with.

Sometimes kids can be found guilty by association if they get mixed up in the wrong crowd. These children also tend to make repeat visits to the juvenile court system. Don’t be afraid to inquire about who he or she is hanging out with and how they are spending their time in school, at someone’s home or online.

5. Keep the lines of communication open.

Be proactive and talk with your kids about potential situations they may encounter — and what the legal and personal consequences of their actions could be. Also, make sure they know you are someone they can turn to for guidance if they find themselves in trouble.

A legal plan can help

If you have a legal plan, make sure you use its benefits to the fullest. A legal insurance plan from ARAG® can offer you:  

  • Access to network attorneys who can provide legal counsel, document review and representation in court.
  • A wide range of coverages with network attorney fees that are 100 percent paid in full for most covered matters.
  • Online educational articles and guidebooks that provide legal and financial tips to help protect your family from legal and financial matters that come up in life.

When you need to take action for legal matters in life, start by calling one of our ARAG customer care specialists at 800-247-4184, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time. They’re here to help you identify your needs, figure out next steps and help you connect with local network attorneys.

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