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So your child is arrested…now what?

Imagine it’s three o’clock in the morning and you get a phone call.  Your sixteen year old child has just been busted for drinking and driving, and they are calling you from the county jail.  This is a situation you never thought you’d have to face!  You are not alone. This is the experience for the parents of the 2.1 million juveniles who are arrested every single year in the U.S.

If your child is accused of a crime, the first thing most parents do is finger point at their child, their child’s friends, and the police officers involved.  As a parent, this can be a terrifying time.  It’s possibly life altering for your child, and the only thing you want to do is resolve the situation quickly.  Unfortunately, this is not usually a quick fix.  Here are some things you should know, as a parent, when your child has been charged with a crime:

Call an Attorney ASAP.

The first thing you should do is call a criminal defense attorney with experience in Juvenile Defense.  A lawyer can give you professional advice on your parental rights, the rights of your child, and assist with the legal damage control of the situation.  The last thing you want is more headache than what already comes with this predicament.  By letting a lawyer take care of the legal aspect, it eases the stress for you and your family.  Listen to what the lawyer is telling you to do; a good attorney will explain the situation and walk you through the process with your child’s best interests in mind.

As a parent, we want to lecture our child when they get into trouble – sometimes very loudly – Please Don’t!

The second thing you should do is remain calm!  A calm demeanor (although we understand you are upset) will serve your family best. Take a deep breath.  Then, find out what the charges are and your child’s role in the event.  Don’t inadvertently act as your child’s lawyer. It is crucial that your child obtains an attorney quickly and that you allow the attorney, alone, to act as your child’s representative.  Don’t encourage your child to incriminate himself or confess to the police without a lawyer present.  It’s best if you remain calm, also, so that you don’t unnecessarily scare the child into confessing to a crime.  As a rule of thumb, don’t speak unless a lawyer is present.  If you have the ability to be with your child while he/she is being interviewed, be quiet and allow the attorney -only- to speak.  Remember, your actions can impact the child’s case and record.

Parents often ask, “Will this offense on Junior’s record be permanent?”

The third thing you should know is that getting rid of a criminal juvenile record is not a “slam dunk,” easy process.  In Michigan, having a juvenile record expunged (kept private) is dependent on several factors including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime (felony vs. misdemeanor).  It is contingent on:

  • Not having any federal or criminal convictions in another state
  • Not having more than one crime that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult
  • Not having more than three misdemeanors.  Note: Having a criminal charge alters this to allow for only two misdemeanors.  The severity of the crime can impact whether the juvenile record can be expunged.  For example, the crime of murder cannot be expunged from a child’s record.

These are factors in which your child’s attorney will advise you.  Of course, there is also a waiting period before a child can submit forms to try and expunge a juvenile record.  Your lawyer will advise you of what forms can be submitted to try to remove your child’s juvenile record from the public eye.

It’s always a good thing to remember that no matter if your child goes to juvenile detention, gets let off with probation, or even is charged as an adult, obtaining an attorney gives your child a fighting chance in the courtroom.  Staying calm and seeking legal advice will, also, benefit your family.  Legal representation will steer you in the right direction and relieve some of your worries.  A lawyer can help with the expungement process of your child’s criminal record, which can benefit your daughter or son’s future as an adult.