handcuffsSummer vacations have started. It is the time of year where young people often end up on the wrong side of the law. Right, wrong or profiled, we must be prepared.

Criminal charges can be scary and demoralizing for a minor or young adult. There is the real possibility that this episode will adversely affect your child’s future.

Summer vacation is often a season of heart break as mischief  and misbehavior take over with the kids. Not all kids, but many will end up in situations they never imagined. Outside of setting clear boundaries on your expectation of behavior, understand what to do if the worst case scenario happens.

The number one goal is to prevent those consequences.

First deal with the following legal questions

  • Where is your child being held and by whom?
  • What exactly are the accusations or criminal charges?
  • Is your child detained for questioning or formally arrested?
  • Will your child be released to you? Will you need to post bond?
  • When is the first court date?
  • Is your child being charged as an adult for a serious felony?

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Parents often show up at the police department looking for their children, especially these days, when cell phones make communication so fast.There is no such thing as a right to a phone call, either, although in most cases a juvenile is allowed to make a call—or police will call parents—as long as the timing would not interfere with an investigation.

Pretty much the same things you would do yourself, but the most important one is to teach your child to tell the arresting police officer, “I want a lawyer.”

Teach the child not to touch or gesture towards the police.  Teach them to put their hands on their heads when they see a police officer.  Again, make it a game. “What do we do when we see a nice policeman?  We put our hands on our heads!”

As they get older, teach them the following things:

Don’t argue with the police. That’s what the lawyer is for.


Remember to tell your child:

Don’t run. Don’t run from or to the police. Move slowly if you have to move at all.

Don’t touch the police officer – even to catch yourself if you’re falling. Take the fall.

Don’t gesture towards the police, not even friendly gestures like waving or handshakes. Don’t flip them off, wave a finger at them, spit anywhere near them, wave your arms around, speak in ASL or other finger languages, or make any move the police didn’t specifically tell you to make – have the child put their hands on their head.

Don’t talk to the police. If your child is old enough to drive and they are driving a car when stopped, they must show driver’s license, registration, and insurance, but they don’t have to say anything.

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I hope your child is never arrested by the police for such spurious things as bringing a toy to school or scribbling on a desk, but we have proof that schools will call the police over these trivial things and police will follow through and arrest your child instead of telling the school this is an internal school affair and not a police matter.

If your child knows what to do, the trauma is reduced. Not eliminated, but reduced. You can not deal effectively if you are angry. The urge to throttle your child needs to be pout aside. They need you to be their advocate while you figure out the facts. If you have a spiritual adviser, call them. Reach out to your community.

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