In the state of Florida, any person under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile. State law requires police to notify you if they have your child in custody. Whether they wait for you to arrive before they question your child is another matter.
By law, police in Florida may interrogate a juvenile without a legal guardian present and leave it up to a judge to determine whether the interview will be admissible in court. This is a great risk to take, and if your child is prone to getting into trouble, you may warn him or her ahead of time to keep quiet until you arrive if he or she is ever arrested.
When should I call an attorney?
Your child has the legal right to request that a lawyer be present during any police interview. Your child may not need a lawyer if he or she is under arrest for a minor offense. However, there are some circumstances in which it would be a great risk to allow police to interrogate your child without an attorney present:
- If police suspect your child has committed a serious property crime: arson, burglary, motor vehicle theft, etc.
- If police suspect your child has committed a crime against a person: assault, rape, murder, etc.
- If your child is already under court supervision: probation, house arrest, treatment program, etc.
Keep in mind that, if you hire an attorney for your child, whatever your child tells the attorney is confidential, so that his or her attorney will not be able to share with you what your child reveals. It is important to trust that a lawyer is working for your child's best interests.
What if police charge my child for a crime?
If police determine that they have enough probable cause to charge your child with a crime, they will usually contact the Department of Juvenile Justice to assess your child's case. The DJJ will decide the appropriate action for the circumstances:
- Releasing your child to your custody
- Placing your child under house arrest
- Holding your child in a detention facility
At this point, if you have not already secured an attorney for your child, you may wish to do so as quickly as possible.
Protecting your child's future
You will want to find an attorney who has successful experience working with the juvenile court systems. An attorney will work diligently to protect your child from incarceration by advocating for counseling or treatment programs.
Your child has rights, and the police and investigators may not always respect those rights. A dedicated attorney will always keep your child's best interests as the top priority.