When Teenagers Get Arrested: 12 Tips for Parents

There are some  areas where seemingly small transgressions can easily become huge legal problems for a teenager. About 15 percent of all adolescent males get arrested, and 24 percent of all minority adolescent males get arrested.

When kids enter the teen years, they will naturally begin to rebel. Some adolescents choose to change their hair color or get a tattoo, but others become more rebellious. This struggle for independence can lead to trouble for the adolescent. This trouble can then lead to an arrest. If this happens with your youngster, follow these steps to learn to deal with the adolescent getting arrested:

1. Be sure your adolescents knows their legal rights. They do not have to talk to a police officer without a lawyer present. They do not have to submit to a search without a warrant. They do not have to answer questions.

2. Determine if your adolescent is alright. Is he in jail? Is he in a safe jail? Some communities have safe jails, other communities have unsafe jails. If it is safe, you might want to leave your adolescent in jail for the night. If he is unsafe, get him out as soon as possible.

3. If it is a minor issue, do not hire your youngster a lawyer. Let your adolescent know that you will find him a lawyer, but he will have to arrange with the lawyer how the lawyer will get paid.

4. Don't yell at - or question - your adolescent. This problem is your adolescent's problem, not yours. Let your adolescent take responsibility for his own mistake, not you. The more the parent yells, the more the parent takes responsibility for the adolescent's behavior. The less the parent yells, the more the adolescent realizes this is between him and the law.

5. If your adolescent is a cooperative, cheerful adolescent, never in trouble, and protests that he is innocent, he might be.

6. Listen intently to the adolescent when he tries to explain the arrest. Moms and dads have a tendency in times of crisis to turn off their listening skills. This is a mistake, and you will miss an opportunity to really listen to your youngster. The mother or father should make note of the body language of the adolescent. If the adolescent is truly remorseful, his body language will be withdrawn and sullen. If the body language is relaxed and nonchalant it, may signal that the adolescent is still having issues realizing that he has a problem.

7. Realize that this is not about you. Too many times moms and dads ignore the cry for help from the adolescent and make the arrest about themselves. This creates a feeling of neglect in the adolescent. They will feel that the parents care more about their reputation than what is going on with their youngster. This increases the chances the adolescent will act out again.

8. Relax. Finally someone else is yelling at your adolescent: a police officer or a judge. Not a parent. This is a good learning experience for a rebellious adolescent.

9. Show the adolescent that you still love and accept him, but that there will be consequences for his actions. This will obviously depend on the severity of the crime but responsibility and love should be your focus after the arrest.

10. Stay away from blaming any other adolescents involved in the arrest. Too many times moms and dads will search for others to blame for their kid's behavior. It is a major mistake to shift the blame to another youngster and not focus on why your youngster chose to do this. The adolescent will also try to blame others for the arrest and you need to make sure he and you take responsibility for the arrest.

11. Help your adolescent stay out of trouble in the future. Find out what went wrong, and allow him to learn from this mistake. This is a “learning opportunity” – not a “failure” on the child’s - or parents’ - part.

12. Try to understand the root cause of the arrest. The root cause is not the criminal offense that resulted in the arrest. It is the underlying emotion the adolescent felt that made him commit the offense. For instance, many adolescents will shoplift in order to fill their emotional needs through the danger and material satisfaction of the crime. Moms and dads often focus on the surface of the crime, totally missing the underlying cause.

A Message To Your Teenager—

In some U.S. states, any adolescent who has attained the age of seventeen years who commits a crime will be charged immediately in adult court – and they will face the adult penalties. Kids of lower ages may be "waived" into adult court depending upon the nature of the offense, the age of the youngster, and the youngster's record. Adolescent behavior that in years past might have been shrugged off as "boys being boys" is now considered to be criminal behavior.

1. Alcohol— In Wisconsin it is against the law for an individual who has not attained the age of twenty-one years to consume alcoholic beverages except in the immediate presence of a parent or guardian. In other words, it is legal for a parent or a guardian to allow a youngster who is not yet twenty-one years old to consume alcohol- as long as the drinking is in the immediate presence of the parent.

When you are not in the presence of your parent or guardian you may not possess or consume alcoholic beverages. As a practical matter, if a police officer finds an adolescent in public with alcohol on his or her breath, even though no alcoholic beverages present, there is going to be a problem. This is primarily because many police officers do not understand that it is legal for an adolescent to drink alcohol in the presence of their moms and dads. The more experienced police officers, though, will first question the adolescent about where he was when he consumed the alcohol. If the answer is anything other than "at home with my moms and dads" a ticket is going to be issued. The penalty for under-aged consumption or possession of alcohol is a forfeiture of money and/or a suspension of driver's license. Repeat offenders will certainly lose their driver's licenses.

2. Cars— Moms and dads may not be able to keep their children away from every party, but they should make every effort to avoid putting their child into a situation where he/she could easily face a serious felony charge. Allowing an adolescent to have his/her own car, to be used at any time, is a recipe for disaster. Lawyers joke that they will never let their adolescents drive with friends. They know that there could be a car-load of young people, all of whom went to the same party, all whom drank the same amount of beer, and all whom chanted for the driver to "go a hundred miles an hour." But when that car hits the tree killing or injuring the occupants, it will be the driver who is charged with a felony and sent to prison while the passengers are all wrapped in the cloak of victim-hood.

There are no adolescent car accidents anymore. There are homicides and recklessly causing injury charges. There are prison sentences and lawsuits. Additionally, it is a fact that the police would be unable to make approximately one-third of the arrests they currently make if it were not for cars. The police may pull over an automobile on a public roadway for almost any reason. If it is a slow night, any cop will tell you that all they need to do is to find a car-load of adolescents and pull them over. It will usually yield some under-aged drinking tickets and a bag of pot or two.

If you are not old enough to drink, you may not drive a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in your system. This even includes any alcohol consumed in the presence of your mom or dad. The moral of story is for adolescents to walk to where they are going (and I fully realize that this is advice that will be accepted by exactly no one).

3. Drugs— Of the children who wind up in legal trouble because of drugs, it is usually alcohol and cannabis. It is so obvious that possessing or selling heroin, crack, cocaine, LSD, or ecstasy is such a serious legal matter that it is truly beyond the scope of this article. If you are caught with these drugs, you will most-likely find yourself obtaining your GED in prison.

4. Cannabis (marijuana)— It is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, for an individual to possess cannabis. One may be found to have "possessed" cannabis even if the police officer does not find it in one's pocket. I’ve heard many teenagers complain that they should not be charged with possession of cannabis because the cop found the weed under the passenger seat and "I was sitting behind the driver in the back." Under the law, an individual "possesses" all items that are known to them to be present in an area that is under the person's "dominion and control" (i.e., in an area where the person could go get the item if one so desired). So the fact that is was "dude's weed" and he threw it under the seat is not much of a defense.

It is a felony to deliver cannabis to another person. The law does not require there to be a "sale" in order to charge a felony. All that is required is that the defendant transferred possession of the cannabis from themselves to another person. Therefore, one commits a felony by simply passing the bowl to a friend. Such behavior is not usually charged as a felony; however, the point is that it could be charged as a felony by a zealous prosecutor.

You may have heard of people getting a "ticket" for possessing cannabis. Most municipalities have ordinances prohibiting the possession of cannabis. One cannot be put in jail for a municipal ordinance violation. If a small amount of cannabis is found and if the defendant has no prior record, the police officer may decide to issue a ticket rather than to refer the matter to the district attorney for criminal charges. You do not have a right, though, to be given a ticket. This is in the police officer's discretion. Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, it will normally be to your advantage to be as courteous and as cooperative with the police officer as you can.

There are two significant consequences of being convicted of a "state charge" of cannabis possession as opposed to a municipal ordinance violation. First, a municipal ordinance violation for possession will not disqualify you for federal financial aid for college, whereas a state charge will disqualify you. Second, a second state conviction for possession of cannabis is a felony. However, a municipal ordinance violation for possession of cannabis does not count as a first offense.

5. Sex— It is remarkable how few moms and dads understand the truly life-shattering consequences of adolescent sexual behavior. It is a fairly common occurrence for a sixteen year-old sophomore boy to be dating a freshman girl who may be as young as fourteen. This is an absolute legal mine-field for the boy and his mom or dad. Whether it seems fair or not, the truth of the matter is that in the case of adolescents having sexual intercourse or sexual contact, it is the boy who will be charged and the girl who will be considered the "victim". The penalties for a boy having sexual contact with a fourteen year-old girl can ruin a young man's life permanently.

The statutory definitions of "sexual intercourse" and "sexual contact" include activity beyond the normal meanings of the phrases. It includes almost any intentional touching of another's sex organ for the purpose of sexual gratification. What moms and dads called "petting" in their day can very easily be a serious felony in this day.

Any person who has sexual intercourse or sexual contact with an individual who has not attained the age of sixteen years is guilty of a Class C felony. The maximum penalty for such a crime is a fine not to exceed $100,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 40 years. This is an offense that will put the boy on the sex offender registry for life. Even when the girl turns sixteen there are still problems. It is a Class A misdemeanor to have sexual intercourse with an individual who has attained the age of sixteen years, but who has not attained the age of eighteen years. The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. It is absolutely critical that moms and dads talk to their adolescents about the legal problems that sex between adolescents will cause. This, of this, of course, is not to mention the family problems of pregnancy, paternity actions, and child support.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Delinquent Teenagers

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