Teaching your child about interacting with the police should be toward the top of your list of skills to teach as your children get into their teens. All children, even those who seem like they will never be troublemakers, should know how to interact politely with law enforcement officers. Children should also know that they have juvenile justice rights and how to invoke them. It can be an excellent way to teach children about civic involvement and the Constitution.
If you have questions about your children’s rights in the New Jersey juvenile justice system that this article does not answer, please call the experienced juvenile defense attorneys at Mallon & Tranger. Contact us online or call us at 732-702-0333. Your first consultation is free.
- Just like adults, minors have a Constitutional right to get a lawyer if they ask for one.
The right to have an attorney begins at birth and at the moment of arrest or detention. If a minor says, “I want a lawyer,” the police are obligated to stop questioning the child and make whatever phone calls are necessary to bring a juvenile defense lawyer into the conversation.
- Children have Miranda rights.
“You have the right to …” If you have ever watched a TV crime drama, you have heard the “Miranda warnings.” These come from a famous U.S. Supreme Court, and minors have all of these rights as well. The first Miranda right on the little card that police often read from is “the right to remain silent.” Because minors may struggle to stay quiet in response to questions from someone in a position of authority, you can help as a parent by giving your child a standard sentence to say to the police if necessary. Something like, “I want my parent and a lawyer, please.” They don’t have to say anything else.
- Children are never actually “arrested,” “charged” with a crime, or “convicted” of a crime.
This is more helpful for parents to know than children. Police may say things like, “We’ve arrested your child” or “your child is being charged with a very serious crime.” The juvenile justice system actually doesn’t work that way. If your child is in custody, then he or she is being “detained on suspicion of committing a delinquent act.” This is true except in the case of very serious charges like homicide, sexual assault or child abuse. There are important legal distinctions between being arrested and being detained, and between being accused of a crime and being accused of committing a delinquent act.
- If the police have detained your child, it does not automatically mean that he or she will have to spend time in a juvenile detention center.
Unless the minor is under suspicion of committing a violent act, most juvenile court judges prefer to let a child wait for his or her hearing at home, in the custody of and under the supervision of the parents.
- Just because juvenile records are sealed, it is still very serious business to be adjudged a juvenile delinquent.
A bad outcome in juvenile court can follow a child his or her whole life. Even though juvenile records are sealed, law enforcement officers will still know that your child has a juvenile record. Make sure your child understands that this is one of many reasons to stay on the right side of the law and to act respectfully towards police.
Check out the national nonprofit organization Juvenile Justice Information Exchange for answers to many other questions about juvenile justice and juvenile defense.
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Don’t hesitate to contact Mallon & Tranger for a free consultation if you need more information about the juvenile justice system or if your child needs legal representation.