My Child is in Jail: What should I Do?

If you have children, odds are you know they can be impulsive, giving into temptation without much thought to the consequences of their actions.

In fact, a research team at the “Society of Neuroscience”, reported teenagers react more impulsively to threatening situations than children or adults, just because their brains have to work harder to rein in their behavior. Given this information, it is to no surprise some teens can find themselves in particularly sticky situations regarding the law.

Watching your child get arrested can be traumatic for both your child, you, and your parenting partner. After your child’s apprehending, you may be flooded with guilt, anxiety, fear and wondering what to do next. In this article, you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the juvenile court system and what to do after you child has been arrested.

What is Juvenile Court?

Juvenile court is a separate court system that processes minors or those under the age of 18. Juvenile court will often make every effort to rehabilitate a child rather than choose incarceration. A juvenile case will have a judge for the adjudication hearing, instead of a jury of peers, and cannot have public trials. Juveniles also do not have the right to bail.

Under What Circumstances Can a Child Be Charged as an Adult?

In extreme cases, such as rape, kidnapping, arson, and murder, juveniles can be tried as an adult. In this case, the courts will hold a “fitness hearing” to decide whether or not the juvenile will be transferred and processed in the adult court system. According to juvenile lawyer George H. Ramos from San Diego, the court will base this decision off of the following factors:

  • Previous offenses
  • A child’s criminal sophistication
  • Seriousness of the offense
  • Previous rehabilitation attempts
  • Court’s belief that future rehabilitation attempts will be unsuccessful

What Should You Do Immediately Following Your Child’s Arrest?

  • Stay Calm
    • As difficult as it may be, you must try to remain calm. Keeping your composure while trying to figure out what is going on, what the charges are, and where your child is being held will ultimately help you in the end.
  • Talk to and Hire an Attorney
    • The first thing you should do after your child’s arrest is find a qualified juvenile attorney and schedule a free consultation. After a free consultation, you should have a better understanding of your child’s rights and whether or not the attorney is capable of handling your case.
    • If you are unable to afford a private attorney, the “American Bar Association” has various resources for low income families.
  • Respect the Police and All Legal Folk
    • At the time of the arrest and any time after, always uphold respect for the police; do not argue or engage in negative behavior. Doing so can create negative tension and can result in an unfavorable outcome for your child. Ultimately, the police are doing their job in upholding the law. The same goes for all legal clerks, attorneys, and judges you encounter during your child’s processing.
  • Explore Therapy or Support Groups
    • During the court processing, you may be trying to digest a lot of complex feelings. Finding a support group or talking to a licensed counselor or therapist can help you, and your family sort through the grief and trauma of your unique situation.
  • Find a Network of Care
    • If your child’s case goes to trial, you may be looking for weeks, possibly months, at the courts. You may consider hiring a caretaker or relying on other networks of care to help with your family, especially if you have another child.

No matter what your child has been arrested for, the experience itself would always be emotional and traumatic for all involved. Staying informed of your child’s legal rights and finding quality, help and support, can get you through this difficult time.