Kids make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes result in an arrest. Except in severe cases, most minor children have their criminal cases handled in juvenile court. The goal is not to convict, but to make sure kids get the help they need to move on and better themselves. Still, it can be an overwhelming thing with which parents have to deal.

What can you expect if your minor child is in trouble with the law? What can you do as a parent to help him or her during this difficult time? What can you do for yourself?

What to expect

If arrested, the detention of your child will occur at a youth detention facility, not a regular jail. How long your child has to stay at the facility is up to a judge. Shortly after the arrest, you can expect:

  • A court hearing
  • Adjudication decision
  • Pre-disposition investigation
  • Disposition

If the District Attorney decides to pursue the case, you’ll receive information about court dates. At the court hearing, attorneys will go over case details, witnesses will testify if necessary and the judge will make a decision about adjudication or dismissal. There are two types of adjudication — delinquent and FINS; delinquent is more severe and will be treated as such. A predisposition investigation will help a judge decide the best punishment for the crime. The judge will look at the following items, among other things:

  • The child’s criminal record
  • Family life
  • Details of the crime
  • The victim impact statement
  • Recommendations from family services

The judge will enter his or her decision at the disposition, or sentencing, hearing.

Modification possible

Adjustment of your child’s disposition is possible at any time. Anyone involved in the case can request this. There are several reasons why a judge might agree to modify the sentence. Legal counsel can review those reasons with you.

What can you do to help your child?

The best thing you can do is just be there and get him or her the help he or she needs. Behind every behavior is an emotion and a reason. You may not understand why your child is in this position, but you can try to support him or her through it. 

What can you do for yourself?

You can take care of yourself. Having a child arrested and put through the system is stressful in more ways than one. The fight to protect your child will not be easy, but you’ll get through this.