In the past, we might have said that minors who get arrested and put into the King County juvenile justice system are “bad” and need to be “taught a lesson” to control their behavior. Today, we know that research has shown the truth: the vast majority of minors who get in trouble the law is dealing with some form of mental health disorder.

According to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, at some points of contact between minors and the juvenile justice system, 70 percent of youths have a diagnosable mental illness or condition, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Addiction
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Of the children in juvenile lockup, two-thirds are believed to have at least one mental health condition. Overall, somewhere between nine and 22 percent of the nation’s minors have a mental condition.

Possible connections between mental health and violence

The relationship between mental health and juvenile crime is complex and not fully understood. However, it appears that certain behaviors associated with some mental health conditions, such as aggression, excessive risk-taking and hyperactivity, can be factors in youth violence. Unfortunately, once inside a juvenile detention facility, youths with mental illness often do not receive adequate resources for dealing with their condition.

Defending your child against criminal charges

Issues like these require solutions that go beyond legal representation in juvenile court. A sensitive defense attorney will also have psychologists and substance abuse treatment providers work with a teenage client, when necessary, to make sure they have the proper help they need.

If your teenager has been arrested, you need to take action to protect their rights. Talk to a criminal defense attorney about the juvenile justice system and what they can do to represent your child’s best interests.