Juvenile Delinquency: How To Mount Your Child’s Defense


It’s every responsible parent’s nightmare to have a child charged with a criminal offense. But certain parts of the culture actually glorify those young people who commit crimes. The Bling Ring, a feature film dramatization of real-life home invaders who targeted the homes of Paris Hilton and her entourage of celebrity friends, is one such example.

In the movie and the true story, young post-high school friends allegedly stole millions in jewelry, cash and clothing from their targets. Their crimes and the attention they got in the celebrity press may have been conflated in their minds with achieving actual Hollywood-style success. After their arrests, some of the perpetrators told the national press that peer pressure and the thrill of the crimes are what drove them.

At that age, some children lack the ability to clearly discern right from wrong. The California juvenile justice system is designed to truly emphasize treatment and rehabilitation, employing social service agencies, schools and other community-based organizations to deter them from future offenses.

Regardless of the type of crime, if your child is charged with a juvenile criminal offense, he or she has constitutionally guaranteed rights to a legal defense. Past offenses will be considered, including how well you parent and provide for a nurturing home life. Other considerations include your child's academic history, as well as disciplinary history within the school. Charges can result in your child being sent into juvenile detention, made to perform community service or attend educational classes and psychological counseling.

If your child is arrested, you need to take the following steps:

  • Remind your child that he or she has the right to remain silent. This is particularly important because law enforcement often attempt to interrogate juvenile suspects while at school due to the fact that a parent or guardian is unlikely to be present.
  • Consult with a juvenile criminal defense lawyer before speaking with law enforcement. You will naturally have many questions and the most appropriate people to ask are the people who also share your goals.  The arresting officer nor detective assigned are not one of these people.
  • Depending on the type of case, your child can benefit from a proactive response by you the parent after learning of your child's arrest.  Your response, as well as changes you intend to implement moving forward will be considered and scrutinized in juvenile court and by the probation department, and can influence the disposition of the case.  For example, if your child is arrested for possessing a controlled substance such as marijuana, proactively taking him or her to AA, NA (Narcotics Anonymous), or MA (Marijuana Anonymous) meetings before the court date can improve the chances of a dismissal through a juvenile diversion program.

Note that serious crimes or aggravated felonies (including murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, rape, drug crimes and escape from a juvenile detention facility) can force children as young as 14 to be tried as adults.

Topics:  Criminal Prosecution, Drug Treatment, Juveniles, Right to Remain Silent

Published In: Criminal Law Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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