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What happens if your minor child is arrested?

One of a parent's biggest nightmares is getting a call from the police letting them know that their minor child is under arrest for some reason -- yet it can easily happen these days.

A lot of kids get into legal trouble for behavior that would have been dealt with through the school administration in prior years or simply overlooked. A fight after school or a threat uttered in anger against a rival can now land a teenager in jail. Even preteens can get caught up in problems over things that seem like "kid stuff" to parents.

When your child has been arrested, what can you expect next?

1. The justice system for juveniles is not at all like the adult justice system. Ideally, your child's case will stay in the juvenile system, where defendants receive more lenient treatment. It makes good sense to consult a criminal defense attorney for advice and support as soon as possible.

2. An intake officer will generally assess the case. The goal is to determine what direction the case should go. Sometimes the situation is resolved quickly and your child will be released to your care, possibly pending future involvement with social services. Alternately, the case may be referred directly to juvenile court and your child will be detained.

3. If your child is detained, he or she could be transferred to a juvenile detention facility, a group home, a halfway house or even foster care, depending on the circumstances of the case.

4. If your child is accused of a non-violent crime, the case will probably stay in the juvenile system as long as he or she is aged 17 or under in North Carolina. If your child is accused of a violent crime and is aged 13 or older, the case could be sent to the prosecutor's office to determine if the case needs to be heard in an adult court.

At that point, the process begins to diverge sharply and you'll need guidance to help you process what happens next. What's most important to remember is that you need to listen carefully to what's being said, stay calm and seek legal help if you need it.

Source: FindLaw, "What to Expect: Juvenile Court Chronology," accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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