If a youth is arrested

This section has general information about

  • What can happen if a youth (someone under 18) is arrested
  • Youth's and parent's rights and responsibilities
  • What happens if a youth gets a Notice to Appear

For more specific information or for legal advice, talk to a lawyer. A youth has a right to talk to a lawyer.

What happens when a youth is arrested

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.

Your child's legal rights (Miranda rights)

If a police officer (or other law enforcement officer) wants to talk to your child about what happened, they must tell your child about their legal rights (called “Miranda rights”). 

Youth age 17 and younger must speak with a lawyer before being questioned by police while under police control (called a custodial interrogation). Your child can't give up (waive) this right. But, there are some exceptions related to emergency situations. 

  • Miranda rights
    • Your child has the right to remain silent.
    • Anything your child says can be used against them in court.
    • Your child has the right to a lawyer.
    • If you or your child cannot pay for a lawyer, the court will appoint one.

Your child has the right to a lawyer who is effective and prepared. If you can't pay for a lawyer, the court will get a lawyer for your child. If your child does not have a lawyer, talk to the public defender or another lawyer for advice.

The lawyer a child gets is their lawyer. The lawyer represents the youth and their interests. You will likely get the chance to talk to your child's lawyer before any court date. But, in court, the lawyer will be speaking for your child, not for you. 

Parents also have rights and responsibilities

The police must also tell you as soon as your child is locked up. They have to tell you where your child is and what rights your child has. How soon the police can talk to you will depend on many circumstances (type of crime, location, others involved, even time of day). 

As a parent (or guardian) you have legal responsibilities. You may also have financial responsibilities for any damage caused by your child. You may have to pay the victim if the court orders “restitution.” Restitution is money to compensate for losses or damage caused by your child. For example, you may have to pay for what your child stole, or for the victim’s medical bills or lost wages.

You can ask the probation officer where to get help. You can also get help from your local school district, hospitals, or the mental health department. It's always a good idea to talk to a lawyer for help. But you probably will not need your own lawyer.

Getting a Notice to Appear

illustration of some paper forms with signature

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 them go home.
  • Let your child do a voluntary program instead of going to court. The program could be special classes, counseling, community service, or other activities. If your child finishes the program, they 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 whether to decide to file charges (called a Petition) or not.
  • Keep your child locked up and send the case to the district attorney. The 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, a Notice will be sent about the first court date

Read the Petition carefully so you know what your child is being charged with. If your child is 8 years old or older, they will also get a notice. 

This is the first of many court dates your child may have. You must go to the court dates. In court, the judge will decide what is best for your child. If you can prove to the court that your child listens to you and follows your rules, the judge may let your child go home with you. 

The next section has information about what can happen if the District Attorney files a petition and there is a court case. 

Go to juvenile justice court process

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