Once your child is in the criminal justice system, it is only natural that you would have questions about what to do next. First of all, it is important to know what information you are entitled to. Well-intentioned law enforcement officers will invariably share facts of the case with you – and you shouldn’t be surprised when their version corroborates their decision to arrest.
Under Texas Family Code Section 61.102(a), there are things you are entitled to know as soon as possible after your child is referred to the juvenile system. Those things are:
1) date and time of the offense;
2) date and time the child was taken into custody;
3) the name of the offense and its penal category (Class A Misdemeanor, Class B Misdemeanor, State Jail Felony, Third-Degree Felony, etc.);
4) the type of weapon, if any, that was used;
5) the type of property that was taken or damaged and the extent of damage, if any;
6) the physical injuries if any, to the victim of the offense;
7) whether there is reason to believe that the offense was gang-related;
8) whether there is reason to believe that the offense was related to consumption of alcohol or use of an illegal controlled substance;
9) if the child was taken into custody with adults or other juveniles, the names of those persons;
10) the aspects of the juvenile court process that apply to the child;
11) if the child is in detention, the visitation policy of the detention facility that applies to the child;
12) the child’s right to be represented by an attorney and the local standards and procedures for determining whether the parent qualifies for appointment of counsel to represent the child; and
13) the methods by which the parent can assist the child with the legal process.
Always get an attorney for a juvenile arrest. Well-intentioned people in the law enforcement community will give you their uninformed opinion about how to handle the case, but these are people who won’t have to live with the consequences of decisions made going forward. An attorney will be able to not only answer your immediate questions, but also explain the process to you in a detailed way that may put some of your fears to rest. An attorney will be able to scrutinize your child’s case to determine if the arrest was unlawful, if the police officer made an error in his report or investigation, or if your child’s rights were otherwise violated in some way. Attorneys see these types of cases every day and are very good at sorting out weaknesses in the State’s case against your child. Further, even if their case against your child is ironclad, you need an attorney to help negotiate any type of plea deal that your child may want to take.
Regardless of whether or not your child made a mistake – an attorney can properly advise of steps to take to mitigate consequences such as drug rehabilitation or community service.
Know your rights, get an attorney, and help your child be pro-active!