My Child Was Arrested: Now What Should I Do?
As a parent, one of your biggest fears is that something may happen to your child. That something can be an arrest. No one wants to deal with accusations of committing crimes and potential jail time. Unfortunately, teenagers can take silly, reckless, or dangerous steps that end with them in handcuffs. The range of charges and consequences is miles wide. The state may charge your child with a misdemeanor or felony and, despite being under eighteen, some prosecutors charge children as adults. If police arrested your child and you want to learn more about California’s juvenile delinquency laws, keep reading.
California Criminal Defense Attorneys
Has your child been charged with a criminal offense in California? If so, promptly discuss your situation with a skilled juvenile lawyer. My Rights Law is dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused. Our attorneys have extensive experience defending California clients, including those charged with juvenile delinquency crimes. If you or your child has been criminally charged in California, call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us by completing our secure web form for a free consultation.
What Are Juvenile Delinquency Crimes?
Juvenile delinquency crimes are crimes people commit when they’re under eighteen. In other words, crimes committed by minors. If your child is emancipated, she is not a minor for legal purposes. Also, although your child might be a minor when the crime occurred, the state may charge them as an adult under some circumstances.
Common crimes prosecutors accuse juveniles of committing are:
- Possession of an illegal substance
- Underage drinking
- Drunk driving
- Gang-related crimes
If a prosecutor accuses your child or you of committing a juvenile crime, contact an experienced California juvenile defense attorney immediately. Juveniles are particularly vulnerable to police interrogation methods. They often make false confessions (also known as involuntary confessions) in hopes of going home. Unfortunately, the police don’t release them once they confess. Instead, the police put them in handcuffs, officially charge them, and you’re left scrambling to make sense of it all.
You see, once an officer makes an arrest, they read your child her Miranda Rights. This reading informs your child that she has a right to remain silent and to an attorney. It also informs her that whatever she says can and will be used in court. People tend to believe that police are their friends—if they just tell the truth, everything will be okay. Sadly, statements can be misconstrued. Officers can easily deceive minors.
A false confession is a confession a person makes where she agrees to have committed a crime when she didn’t. A judge will consider whether an officer coerced a confession. When deciding this, a judge considers the accused’s age, education, mental capacity, experience (or lack thereof) with the law, etc. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people under eighteen are more likely to give false confessions. But involuntary confessions have resulted in countless convictions that juvenile offenders may spend years trying to get overturned.
What Are The Penalties For Juvenile Delinquency Crimes?
Without knowing more about the specifics of your case, it’s difficult to list every possible penalty. After all, in general, different crimes come with varying jail sentences, and some crimes remain on a criminal record longer than others. Furthermore, penalties vary depending on whether the state tries your child as a minor or adult. For example, misdemeanor assault comes with a penalty of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Rape, on the other hand, comes with a penalty of up to eight years and the possibility of mandatory sex offender registration. Regardless, a juvenile can spend months or years behind bars if convicted of a crime.
Foster Home Placement
Sometimes, a judge will rule that it’s in your child’s best interest to be placed in a foster home. Perhaps the judge believes the environment you provide at home increases your child’s likelihood of committing crimes. For example, if your home is known as a drug den or place where prostitutes frequent, your child may be taken away. Maybe the judge finds there aren’t any adults present in the child’s life who are fit to take care of them. Thus, as you can see, there’s the possibility you’ll lose temporary custody of your child if the state accuses them of criminal behavior.
A judge may sentence your child to other punishments, such as:
- Community service
- A youth program
- A diversion program
Tried As An Adult
Typically, a prosecutor has the discretion to decide whether to charge your child as a juvenile delinquent or as an adult. Yet, under California juvenile law, a prosecutor must charge your child as an adult when the child commits certain crimes and is older than fifteen. For more information, speak with a California criminal defense attorney for juvenile cases.
Otherwise, the court will conduct a fitness hearing for crimes where a prosecutor has discretion. Juvenile courts center on rehabilitating minors. Adult courts center on retribution. Thus, one of the first factors a judge considers is whether the system can rehabilitate the minor before they reach the age of majority. The judge considers the minor’s maturity during the criminal process. Whether this is your child’s first time in the juvenile delinquent system is another critical factor in this fitness test. If the juvenile court’s previous attempt to rehabilitate your child was unsuccessful, that’s more cause for the state to try them as an adult.
What Is Juvenile Court?
Let’s first discuss the similarities between adult court and juvenile court. Whether you’re the parent, legal guardian, or juvenile who’s accused, there are considerable differences between adult court and juvenile court that you should know about. For starters, the law entitles juveniles to legal representation. A juvenile may have their own attorney. Don’t assume that you’re privy to the communication between the juvenile and attorney just because you’re the parent. Regardless of who pays the attorney fees, neither the minor nor the attorney must tell you anything because of attorney-client privilege.
Like with adults, the law entitles juveniles to effective representation. With this in mind, juveniles—but not the adults in their life—have the right to decide which legal strategies they agree with their attorneys using. Juveniles have the final say in whether to take a plea or fight the charge. This means that anyone defending a juvenile must be just as thoroughly prepared as an attorney who represents gainfully-employed adults. This is all the more why you’ll want to consult with a trustworthy law firm that has handled hundreds of delinquency cases.
Now that we’ve covered those two matters, let’s discuss a few differences. You should also know that juvenile trials don’t have jurors. Their fate is left solely in the hands of one person—the judge. Some judges treat juveniles harshly (to teach them a lesson), while others treat them leniently. Equally important, juvenile cases don’t come with a bail attached. This means that your child will sit in a jail cell until the next court date or unless the judge says your teenager can wait for trial while at home. Some judges allow teenagers who’re accused of committing crimes to go free (so long as they continue to make their court appearances and aren’t a flight or safety risk), especially if this is their first offense. Usually, a good defense attorney can argue that your teenager should be free to continue their education.
How Can My Rights Law Help You?
If you’re under eighteen and the state alleges you’ve committed a crime, take it seriously. We have litigated enough juvenile cases to know they’re no cakewalk for the accused. For example, well before you go to trial, a judge may order you to sit in jail until your next court date. Some teenagers have sat in jail, awaiting trial, well into their 20s. Because there’s no bail arrangement for juvenile court, it’s difficult for attorneys and community organizers to demand your right to a speedy trial be exercised.
Not to mention, it’s challenging to finish school if you’re arrested or convicted. Many colleges and universities won’t accept students who have criminal records. Likewise, many employers frown upon applicants who have criminal convictions, be they misdemeanor or felony.
Not to mention, as we said earlier, you can’t get every conviction expunged or sealed. These are all the more reasons why you’ll want a seasoned, knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney on your side. We at My Rights Law. We’ll:
- Gather evidence
- Investigate whether police coerced a confession
- Subpoena favorable witnesses
- Secure favorable testimonies
- Negotiate to reduce your charge or sentence and
- Deal directly with the prosecutor, so you don’t have to.
Although we can’t promise you a specific outcome, we promise we’ll fight aggressively on your behalf. For a free consultation, call us at (888) 702-8882 or contact us through our secure web form.