What familes need to know when a child is arrested - parent gripping hands


When you learn that your child has been arrested, it is natural for an irrational response to take over. Anger, fear and concern take over before rationality, especially when you know little about how the justice system in California treats minors.

The best thing you can do when you first find out about your child’s arrest is act calmly and seek legal help. No matter what happens, your child will likely need an attorney to help ensure that his or her future is not affected by the arrest. It is also important to educate yourself on what to expect from the proceedings and what you need to know about the incrimination of minors:

You and Your Child Have Rights

Just as any adult has rights when arrested, your child has the same rights and will be read his or her Miranda rights immediately. It is important to note that your child cannot be arrested unless there is legitimate probable cause to believe he or she broke the law. Probable cause exceeds mere suspicion, and suspicion only gives an officer the right to question a minor, not arrest.

Your child has the right to remain silent until he or she has proper representation and advice. If you have the opportunity to speak to him or her upon arrest, it is wise to advise them in this direction. Any miscommunication can be used as incriminating evidence, and you want your child to have the best chance at a clean record and successful future.

They will be Questioned

A common misconception about juvenile arrest is that minors cannot be questioned without parental permission. This is not true in California, and officers can question your child whether they are arrested or not. However, no matter the case, your child is not required to answer any questions he or she is uncomfortable with or thinks is a leading question.

Confessions Absolutely Must be Voluntary

If your child is questioned and confesses to a crime or gives a statement that is interpreted as incriminating, the statement may not hold legality in a court of law depending on whether it was voluntary.
What does a voluntary statement look like? It cannot have been coerced out of the minor, with physical force, threats, promises, withheld rights, sensory deprivation or other unfair methods of questioning. The only way such a statement in questioning can be used against the child is if he or she offered the information willingly and openly. This is why it is important to assert the legal right to representation, to ensure your child knows what they can and cannot say in questioning and to allow your child the opportunity to have another adult present during interrogation.

Note: If your child requests your presence during interrogation and is denied, the voluntariness of his or her statements is usually put into question by the judge. However, whether it is the best decision to have parental help during a questioning is up for debate. You may not always know the best way to help your child in a legal proceeding and should always elicit an attorney’s help before advising your child in any way. Further, often when you think an officer is giving you alone time with a child, they may be listening in on your conversation. Keep conversation brief and advise your child to give as little information as possible until an attorney is present.

If your child is questioned at school, they are still allowed the same rights as in any other situation. They must be recited their Miranda rights and given the same treatment as if they were under custody. Often, officers use school grounds as an excuse to evade Miranda recitations, but because children are not allowed to leave school grounds, they should be treated as though they are in official custody.

They may be Tried as Adults

Depending on the case surrounding your child’s arrest, he or she might be tried as an adult. In certain cases, he or she must be tried as an adult, including crimes like murder and sex offenses like rape, forcible sexual penetration, lewd acts on a child, sodomy or particular cases of arson. Because these crimes are serious and present a danger to the community, your child (of at least 14 years of age) will certainly be tried in an adult court in these situations.

Certain crimes can be tried in adult courts if the defense pushes the case. These crimes might include any of the following:

  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Arson
  • Rape and other sexual crimes
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping, for ransom, robbery or with bodily harm inflicted
  • Assault in several cases
  • Shooting a firearm into a building that is occupied
  • Felony with a weapon
  • Drug use or sale
  • Voluntary manslaughter.

These are just a few examples of the crimes that can likely be filed to be heard in an adult court. There is a legal process that needs to be kept in order to “direct file” against a minor, and these proceedings vary depending on your child’s age.

What You Can Do

If your child is arrested, stay calm and call help. The best assistance you can give your child is to provide them with an attorney that is willing to fight for his or her freedom and give them the best chance at a bright future. Arrest does not have to be the end of the road for a minor, but it can lead to terrible consequences if dealt with improperly. A lawyer who knows what it takes to secure your child’s freedom can make all the difference in giving you and your family peace of mind and ease during such a trying time.

At the Law Offices of Alisha A. Wood, our excellent team of experienced attorneys is committed to giving clients the best outcome in their cases to ensure their freedoms. If your child has been arrested and you need legal help and advice, call our San Diego offices today: (619) 867-0755.

Posted in minors.