The juvenile justice system operates in Washington to adjudicate cases where people under age 18 face accusations for committing crimes. Just as they do with adults, police officers often interrogate minors. In January of this year, however, a new law requires police to provide a juvenile with access to an attorney before he or she waives his or her rights.
If police take your child into custody, there’s a lot you should know. First, police do not arrest minors. In such a case, they can place a juvenile into temporary custody. The more you know about Washington criminal laws for juveniles, the less stressful it might be for you to help your child navigate the system.
You need not be present for police to question your child
A police officer does not have to seek your permission or await your presence in order to question your child. Just as adults have protection under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, your child may also invoke this right. If you have questions regarding the status of your child’s case, you are free to inquire with law enforcement officers or legal advocates.
Exceptions to the new law
If police believe that waiting until your son or daughter consults with an attorney before questioning him or her would place another person in danger, they do not have to wait to begin an interrogation. Once a minor has attained legal support, an attorney can speak and act on the juvenile’s behalf in or out of court.
There are additional exceptions to the rules concerning whether it is lawful for law enforcement officers to question juveniles without first providing them an opportunity to consult an attorney. However, the fact remains that, as far as you, a parent or guardian are concerned, the laws that are currently on the books in Washington do not specifically state that police must wait until you are present in the room to question your minor son or daughter.
Helping your minor child get life back on track
Many Washington families have experienced stress, sorrow and worry when a juvenile in the household has been taken into temporary custody by police officers because of suspected criminal activity. If this has happened in your family, you may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that other families, most likely in your own community, have gone through similar circumstances.
The juvenile justice system is rehabilitative at its core, meaning that the central focus is on helping troubled youth restore their good standing in their communities and to seek counseling or treatment for additional problems they might have, such as substance abuse or mental disorders. As a parent, you need not ever hesitate to reach out for additional support to help your child get his or her life back on track.