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What to do if your child is facing criminal charges

If your child is facing criminal charges, this can be an extremely stressful and upsetting time. You may have a whole range of difficult emotions to deal with as well as the practical aspect of dealing with the court case, lawyers and financial issues and, of course, your child’s wellbeing. Although this is likely to be a completely overwhelming time, it’s important to try and stay composed and organized in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Try to remain calm

A call from the police is something that any parent or carer dreads, but remaining calm will allow you to deal with the situation more effectively. The procedure for dealing with juvenile criminals differs from the procedure for adult criminals, so it’s important to stay aware and respond to what police inform you to do. You may feel very angry or upset with your child, or even feel guilty about something you think you have done, but if you can try and put these thoughts out of your mind for now, and not jump to any conclusions, it will help both you and your child at this point.

Complying with the police is always a good idea, but as a parent you don’t have to play lawyer and your child doesn’t have to say or admit to anything. They can verbally identify themselves and comply with reasonable orders from police, but it’s important to remember the police are not on yours on anyone’s side. Although they will pay attention to what is said or done. It’s important to be polite and respectful, and ask for a lawyer. After that, there need be no more questioning by the police until a lawyer is present.

Appoint a lawyer

Children's court lawyers have experience and knowledge in this particular area of law, and are your best asset when it comes to helping your child deal with a criminal conviction. In most cases, children arrested for a crime are tried in a juvenile court and this whole procedure is different to when adults are tried and convicted. A lawyer experienced in juvenile law will be familiar with the situation you’re facing and knowledgeable about the relevant laws.

A lawyer who has been well recommended, has a good relationship with local police and the community is the ideal lawyer to have on your side. Interview the defence lawyer to assess how well they ask questions, and to establish how well they will deal with your particular situation, what they can and can’t do for you and to find out the costs involved.  It’s usually necessary to pay a retainer of several thousand dollars for a lawyer, so you want to be sure, and always feel free to talk to another lawyer if you’re having doubts about your original choice.

Be informed

The best way to prepare for such a situation is to be educated, and to inform your child about what they should do. Children in custody have the right to have a lawyer present, but not always a parent or guardian, so it’s important to remember that dealing with these issues may change the rights you have towards your child, especially depending on their age. In some cases, a juvenile could be tried as an adult, which changes the situation again, and reading up and being informed on this situation is helpful as well. Knowing what to expect, knowing your rights and behaving appropriately can help the situation immensely, as well as allowing you to feel as composed as possible in the situations you are likely to encounter.

Be prepared

When your child is facing criminal charges it’s extremely draining on your time, finances and emotions. You may need to put up a large amount of money to secure a lawyer and take time off work to go to the hearing or to assist your child. You may feel extremely stressed and need help around the house to cook meals or look after other children.

Should this situation ever arise, it's important to prepare for the process, as this could reduce the strain on you and your family as you make it through this difficult time.

Doogue O’Brien George, Criminal Lawyers, Melbourne

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 7th December 2015
(Last updated 28th March 2018)

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