The only thing more terrifying than being arrested yourself is learning that your child has been arrested. You will be worried, anxious, and scared about what this will mean for their promising future. It is crucial that you speak with a lawyer as quickly as possible so their rights will be fully protected. Here are some things that you likely will want to think about if facing this dreadful scenario.

  1. Can My Child Face A Criminal Record And Charges As An Adult?

Yes. What’s most important to consider at this stage is how serious the allegations against your child are. The more serious the offenses, the more opportunity the government has to proceed against your child as though he or she is an adult. Homicide, Robbery, Burglary, Arson, Kidnapping, or many Sex Offenses are all typically serious enough that even if your child is as young as thirteen (13), he or she could be facing serious adult penalties.

Even if this is your child’s first criminal charge it is possible that the decision as to whether your child will forever be saddled with the label of “felon” may rest with the discretion of a judge.

New York has also undergone some changes with how it handles children under the age of 19.

  1. Can Law Enforcement Question My Child Without My Consent?

Yes. Law enforcement is not required to stop the questioning of a child even if you are present and ask that they not speak to your child. While your child will be read their Miranda rights, presuming they are being interrogated while in custody, if they waive their rights, you generally cannot invoke them for your child.

Thus, if your child is being questioned, there may be little you can do yourself short of calling a lawyer immediately and asking the lawyer to call the police station to stop the questioning. Telling the police that you are their parent and wish to speak your child, that you want police to stop questioning your child, that your child is under the age of 18, that your child has never been in trouble before, that the police are “violating your rights”, or that you can/will sue the police if they don’t let you see your child are all ineffective at stopping the questioning. Rather, call a lawyer immediately.

  1. Can Law Enforcement Speak To My Child Even After I’ve Spoken To A Lawyer?

Yes, unless the lawyer contacts the police and tells them he/she is your child’s lawyer. Critically, there is a difference between you indicating that you want to get your child a lawyer, and a lawyer showing up, being physically present, or calling the police station and indicating they have been retained by you and wish to speak to your child confidentially.

Your best option is to retain a criminal lawyer immediately, and the lawyer should contact the police station and stop the questioning.

Police are focused in that moment on the investigation and resolution of a potential crime or incident. To them, you are a hinderance that they can navigate and avoid. By retaining a lawyer, you may be able to stop the questioning of your child.

  1. Even If The Matter Remains Outside Of Criminal Court, Are There Court Orders That Can Impact My Child?

Yes. Even outside criminal court, your child may be subjected to an order of protection. Orders of protection typically require your child to stay away from one or more people or places.

At first glance, an order of protection may seem reasonable and something you wish your child to do anyway. However, children face additional hurdles that we as adults may not consider, including:

  • Attending school
  • Sporting events or other extracurricular activities
  • Social media involvement
  • Comingled close-knit friends’ groups
  • Additional educational prep courses
  • Retail or similar work

With an order of protection, your child is restricted in all these things, while the protected person is not. Your child may need any one or more of the above as they prepare for college or enjoy the last year of their high school education. Whatever judge your child ultimately appears in front of, an order can be put in place quickly, potentially the same day the police arrest your child. It is important that a criminal lawyer know what is most important for your child so that the lawyer can attempt to carve out allowances in the order that will ensure your child can continue participating as much as possible.

  1. Should I Cooperate With The Police And Tell My Child To Cooperate With The Police So We Don’t Look Guilty?

There is no doubt you will want to do everything you can to help you child. Unfortunately, sometimes the best intentions lead to disastrous effects: and

Beyond a scenario like the above, police could convince you to allow them to search your child’s room, car, or backpack. They may question you about facts and circumstances that seem to be of little concern, but could have a huge impact on what happens to your child. There is absolutely no doubt you care about your child and want to help. However, the police will often manipulate your good intentions in building a case against your child.

Finally, police are not required to handle underage children with any special care. Police interviews can be scary enough to an adult, let alone a child. Police have auras of authority, they may be armed and in uniform, the room may be intimidating, and your child could be in their custody for hours. Couple this with all the tactics law enforcement have at their disposal, including the ability to lie, and your child can easily be persuaded to say things against their interest even when those things may not even be true.

Under any circumstances when the police want to talk to your child, your first step should be to immediately contact a lawyer.