My Child Was Arrested

“IF APPROACHED BY THE POLICE, YOUR CHILD SHOULD TELL THE POLICE THEIR NAME, AGE, AND HOW TO CONTACT YOU, BUT SAY NOTHING ELSE – ASSERT THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.”

The First Step: Police Contact

Police officers investigate when they suspect that someone has committed a crime. They talk to people who may know about the crime, and this could include your child. Police may search your child, handle your child roughly or require your child to go to a police station. Your child should stay calm and tell police, “I don’t want to talk.” Your child should not say anything more.

Tell your child NEVER to touch a police officer or become violent. Your child should not talk back or resist arrest. Tell your child to keep his or her hands where police can see them. If your child reaches into a pocket, police may think he or she has a weapon.

Police officers play a big role in deciding if a youth will go to the juvenile justice system or stay out of juvenile justice. Stay calm when you talk to police. When you are in control, it shows that you are able to supervise your child, and that you should be allowed to take your child home.

Tell police if your child has emotional problems or takes medication. This is important because it helps the police know how to treat your child. This also might encourage police to recommend that your child get counseling or treatment, instead of going to juvenile court (5).

“IF YOUR CHILD IS STOPPED IN PUBLIC OR FRISKED, BE SURE THAT
HE WRITES DOWN THE SPECIFIC DETAILS OF THE EVENT, AS WELL
AS THE OFFICER(S) NAME(S) AND BADGE NUMBER(S). OFTEN THE
EXACT SEQUENCE OF EVENTS WILL BE HELPFUL IN COURT
HEARINGS AND IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOUR CHILD HAVE THE
CLEAREST MEMORY OF THESE EVENTS THAT HE CAN.”

What Happens When Your Child Is Arrested?

If your child is arrested for allegedly committing a crime, the arresting officer may decide whether or not to send your child to the probation department. If your child is not sent to probation, then they may be released with just a warning or referred to some type of diversion program. If your child is sent to probation, the officer must also decide whether to release them with a promise to appear or whether to book them into juvenile hall. The court will considered how old your child is, how serious the crime is and the child’s criminal record, if any. The court can order that:

  • Your child live with you under court supervision.
  • Your child be put on probation. He or she may have to live with a relative, in a foster home or group home, or in an institution.
  • Your child be put on probation and sent to a probation camp or ranch.
  • Your child be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). If your child is tried in adult court, he or she will be sent to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Adult Operations (CDCR). (6)

If Your Child Is Arrested, The Police Can:

  • Make a record of the arrest and let your child go home.
  • Send your child to an agency that will shelter, care for, or counsel your child.
  • Make your child come back to the police station. This is called being “cited back.”
  • Give you and your child a Notice to Appear. Read the notice and do what it says.
  • Put your child in juvenile hall (this is called “detention”). Your child can make at least 2 phone calls within 1 hour of being arrested. One call must be to a parent, guardian, relative, or boss. The other call must be to a lawyer (6).

Getting a Notice to Appear

Read the Notice to Appear carefully. It will probably tell you to go to the probation department to meet with a probation officer. Four things can happen at the meeting. The probation officer may:

  • Lecture your child and let him or her go home.
  • Let your child do voluntary program instead of going to court. The program could be special classes, counseling, community service, or other activities. If your child finished the program, he or she will not have to go to court. You may have to sign a contract that says what the child has to do. The contract can last 6 months.
  • Send your child home and send the case to the district attorney. The district attorney will decide to file a petition (paper that means that your child will have to go to court) or not.
  • Keep your child locked up and send the case to the district attorney. This district attorney will then file a petition, usually within 2 days after the arrest. Your child will have a detention hearing on the next day the court is open. The court is closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

*If a petition is filed in court, your child’s case will be filed in the juvenile justice (delinquency) court (6).