If your child is in criminal trouble, you'll want to learn as much as you can about the juvenile justice process.
It's best to hire a lawyer to represent your child as soon as possible after you learn of the problem.
Remember, however, that the attorney represents the child and not the parent.
Arrest and Booking
If your child is taken into custody, he or she will likely be booked at the police station. Booking involves logging in his or her name and the reason for the arrest in police records. Your child's photo will be taken and he or she will be fingerprinted.
Statements made to law enforcement personnel during questioning can be held against your child.
Your child has the right to tell police he or she doesn't wish to speak with them. As a parent, you may also tell the police your child doesn't want to talk with them until you can find a juvenile attorney to represent your child during questioning.
Police Custody and Detention
Your child may be released into your custody pending a hearing, or detained in a juvenile facility for a short period of time.
Federal regulations prohibit holding juveniles in adult jail settings. Under federal standards, a child cannot be detained for longer than six hours in an adult jail setting, and must be kept in an area that is out of sight and sound of adult inmates.
Your child cannot be held very long in a juvenile detention facility without a detention hearing. The judge will review your child's case and decide whether your child should continue in juvenile detention.
Your child may be "diverted" into community rehabilitation programs or sent to counseling or social services organizations, without having to enter the juvenile justice system.
In some communities, juvenile offenders are sent to a "youth accountability board," sometimes called a "community accountability board," where community residents decide how the child can best be rehabilitated.
The Juvenile Justice Process
Each state's juvenile case processing is different, but generally you can expect the following: