In Trouble with the Law

My Child Got in Trouble with the Law: Now What?

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If you have seen any of the recent documentaries about the American justice system, particularly how it treats juveniles, you might be wondering, “What can I do if my kid finds him- or herself in a legal situation?” Few teens and preteens fully understand the consequences of their actions — and what to do if they find themselves dealing with law enforcement in the juvenile justice system.

Keep these five tips in mind and talk to your kids about them so that your family understands their rights if you find yourselves dealing with a juvenile legal matter.

1. Obtain a juvenile defense lawyer.

Don’t try to handle this alone. If your child is in trouble with the law, this is more than an opportunity for parental discipline. This is serious and can have long-lasting effects on your child’s future, into adulthood. You need professional help to help you navigate children’s rights. An experienced attorney with knowledge of the juvenile justice and court system will be able to advocate for your child’s best present and future interests.

2. Write a declaration of facts.

Ask your child to write down a detailed account of what happened from his or her perspective. This will be valuable if you need to take legal action down the road. It will also help your child if he or she is struggling to piece together a verbal account for you due to anger or fear.

3. Only speak with an attorney present.

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

4. Research juvenile delinquency programs.

Embrace support services provided to your child and your family. The juvenile justice system generally tries to work with children to help them deal with the issues that led to this legal problem. Support and counseling services can help not only the child but also the parents.

5. Monitor your child's social media.

If your child gets in trouble with the law, shut down all his or her social media sites immediately. Prosecutors specializing in juvenile law are patrolling social media sites to see what the 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.

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