What Can You Do When Your Teen is Arrested


One of the calls that a parent doesn't want to get: your teen has been arrested.

Your first instinct could be to rush to their rescue so that you can get them home safely. But is this the right decision?

What should your next step be?

Is there anyone you should call first before going to get your teen?

What to do when your teen is arrested

According to the ACLU, there could be as many as 60,000 teens under the age of eighteen who are incarcerated at any given time. The reason behind arrests is varied. Whether your teen has been arrested for a driving violation, for public intoxication, or something else entirely, the idea of them being a part of that statistic can be unsettling.

Talk with your teen before things get out of hand

While it can be hard to think about a future where your child will get himself into a situation where he gets arrested, it’s still important to have those important conversations. Getting arrested, no matter the confidence levels and personality of your teen, is going to likely leave him feeling overwhelmed and possibly a little bit scared.

However, if you’ve previously spoken to him about what he needs to do if he gets arrested, he will feel empowered to make the right decisions until you get to him.

Things to discuss with your teen before they are arrested:

  • Tell him not to make a statement.
  • He needs to ask for the police to call you when he is arrested.
  • Remind him not to react with anger or defiance.

In some situations, law enforcement may try to use confusing language or convince your teen that their friends have already confessed. This is why it is so important that your teen waits until you arrive at the police station before speaking to law enforcement.

Should you consider legal counsel?

In some situations, seeking legal counsel should be the first step if your teen has been arrested. While television shows and movies often get many things about the law wrong, it is true that if you ask for a lawyer, the police need to stop asking questions. This is particularly true if the individual is underage.

Beyond that, legal counsel can also offer you and your teen guidance about what the next steps should be. In situations that may become complicated, you cannot face legal proceedings without a lawyer. The lawyer will be able to help to prepare your teen for any interview with law enforcement, and for any court dates that they may have.

You shouldn’t try to navigate complicated legal proceedings with your teen without the guidance of a lawyer. If your teen has been arrested for something like a curfew violation or truancy, legal counsel may not be needed. Quite often, these are “slap on the wrist” type warnings or a small fine.

If you cannot afford an attorney, most will offer a free consultation that may prove helpful. There is also the option of a public defender, which will not cost you anything. Your teen may not get as much personal attention with a public defender as he would with a private lawyer, but they may be necessary depending on the circumstances.

What to expect when your teen is arrested

Laws can vary across city, county, and state lines. The way that your teen was arrested will have an impact on if or how he is charged. The arresting office could issue a warning and then release your teen into your custody. They could also issue a citation, requiring your teen to go to court and appear in front of a judge.

What happens when your teen is arrested and what takes place next will largely depend on three primary factors:

  • 1. The nature of the crime that was committed.
  • 2. The severity of the crime.
  • 3. Whether the teen already has an arrest record.

Underage drinking and other concerns that are only considered to be illegal because of the age of the teen are typically what are known as status offenses.

Did your teen commit a misdemeanor or a felony?

Does he have a history of criminal behavior that can now be held against him?

Remember that in some cases, minors can be charged and tried as adults if the severity of the crime calls for it. However, first-time offenses may not necessarily meet the prosecutor’s criteria for referring your teen to the adult justice system.

Should you bail him out?

This is a tough question to consider. Most of us want to protect our children, no matter their age, from any discomfort or danger. If you have been dealing with a rebellious and troubled teen, it can be tempting to take the tough love route and let him spend a night in jail. However, jail can be scary and potentially dangerous.

Weigh your options, speak to a bail bond agent about the costs, and make the decision that you feel will best benefit your teen and the well-being of your entire family.

Find out the truth

To best help your teen, you need to know the truth about what led to his arrest. Your teen may be reluctant to open up to you, but you must get to the bottom of the situation so that you can find the best resolution.

You may need to speak to law enforcement about the circumstances surrounding his arrest. You may also need to speak to the parents of other teens who may have been arrested at the same time.

Knowing what happened will help you to decide the next steps for your teen and your family.

Keep your wits about you

Getting a phone call telling you that your teen has been arrested can immediately get your blood pressure up. You may experience a range of emotions from anger to fear and sadness. It is important that you keep a clear head when you are approaching this family crisis. You should evaluate all of the facts and make logical decisions that are based upon those facts.

This is also not necessarily the right time for you to yell at or lecture your teenager for making stupid decisions. This is the time to let clearer heads prevail for your sake and for the sake of your teenager, who may be feeling quite remorseful.

Dealing with the aftermath of the arrest

You’ve got your teen home after their arrest. Now what?

If there are upcoming court appearances to prepare for, you will need to make sure that your teen is ready to stand before the judge.

Most importantly, you need to consider how this arrest will impact the trust that you once had in your teen. For example, if he has been arrested for a violation on the road, does this mean that you should temporarily take away his ability to drive himself around?

If the arrest was for something minor, should you issue consequences for the poor decision-making and behavior?

First and foremost, ensure that every member of your family can be kept safe. If your teen is genuinely remorseful for their arrest, you could consider easing some of their restrictions in time. It can take some time to rebuild that trust, and your teen needs to be aware of this.

Getting help for your teen and your whole family

Navigating these types of family concerns can be difficult without the right professional help and guidance. Getting your teen into individual and family counseling can prove beneficial.

Teens who may be a bit more defiant and reluctant to work on their behavior at home could find the right targeted help in a residential treatment center staffed with mental healthcare professionals. At Liahona Treatment Center, we can connect your family with the resources you need to get through this challenging period.

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