What to Do if Law Enforcement Has Contacted Your Child

Criminal investigations can be a harrowing and intimidating experience for adults suspected of having committed a crime, so it comes as no surprise that being the focus of a juvenile delinquency investigation can be scary to a minor and overwhelming to parents. Any minor brought before a court on a juvenile delinquency petition is entitled to a court-appointed attorney. However, by that point in a juvenile delinquency investigation and action there may have been interviews, waivers of the child’s rights, or even an arrest and detention at Juvenile Hall that could have been affected or averted by consulting an attorney experienced in juvenile delinquency law at as early a stage in the process as possible.

Children have the same constitutional right to remain silent as adults, but are often contacted by a law enforcement official, probation officer, or school employee in a setting – usually at the child’s school – where the minor has been taught that being honest and cooperating with authority figures is expected. Moreover, the official investigating  the situation may make promises about how the case will be handled that the District Attorney and Probation Department are not bound to follow. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have told us, “Teach Your Children Well.” It might seem counterintuitive since we bring our kids up to take responsibility for their mistakes, but when the stakes are raised by the prospect of law enforcement and court involvement, it is important for your preteen or teenager to know that she or he can politely tell an officer or school administrator to call Mom and Dad and not ask any more questions. 

Meeting with an attorney who practices juvenile delinquency defense before your child makes a statement to law enforcement, or, if that is not possible, then immediately thereafter, can help you and your child learn more about his or her rights, how to protect them, and the process moving forward. Janssen Malloy LLP can help you if your family is facing this situation in Humboldt County.