I’ve been arrested. Once, when I was fourteen years old. That’s right. Your RFM legal writer has a criminal record.
Surprised? Probably not. Many law-abiding, hard-working parents have had a brief run-in with law enforcement, most likely during those rebellious teen years, and most likely involving some sort of minor offense.
Mine was a curfew violation. And, believe it or not, it was the first time I had done anything like it. A group of gal pals and I decided we would sneak out during a slumber party and take a stroll around the block. Some neighbor probably saw us and called the police to report the threat. After all, we must have looked pretty menacing in our pink and lavender Hello Kitty jackets, permed hair, and glitter lipgloss (yes, folks, that is an accurate description).
Long story short, we all got arrested. And we all got juvenile records, which, unlike our appearances, were no laughing matter.
I had the opportunity to sit down with legal eagle Brad Goodwin, a partner at Reid Goodwin, P.L.C., who specializes in criminal defense and family law. Having helped many children and their parents navigate the repercussions of a criminal arrest, he had this advice to offer.
For the kids:
When dealing with law-enforcement officers, be polite and respectful. “I cannot stress this enough,” Goodwin says. Mouthing off or otherwise displaying blatant disrespect can only result in negative consequences – so be courteous.
You can respectfully decline to speak. Remember that anything you say can be used against you, including statements made before arrest. Goodwin warns youth to “be cooperative, but not to the extent that it’s incriminating.” In other words, you can choose to refrain from talking, stating something like, “I would like to Decline from speaking anymore.”
For the parents:
Hire an attorney. If your child gets arrested, turn to the professionals for help. There are usually alternatives available in the juvenile courts that most of us are unaware of, and a lawyer can best help protect your child’s legal interests.
Be prepared to defer to the lawyer. You may not be a major player at meetings with the lawyer. Despite the fact that you will likely be footing the legal bill, your child and the attorney have attorneyclient privilege, which would be broken if you were included in every conversation. Goodwin warns that you will probably be asked to leave the room during certain parts of a legal meeting, which is for the protection of your child.
Arm the attorney with information that could help your child in court. Goodwin suggests providing good school records and assurances of at-home consequences for delinquent behavior, such as loss of driving privileges. Also, a willingness on the part of the child to participate in alternative service, such as volunteering for a local nonprofit, can help. An attorney can use that information to try and facilitate a more beneficial legal outcome for your child.
Of course, none of this sounds appealing to a parent. Whether the result of mischief or something worse, a late-night phone call from law enforcement stating they have your child in custody is scary, serious business. Knowing these pointers in advance can help.