In 2016 alone, there were over 9,000 arrests of children 18 years of age or younger in Alabama1. There is a perception that any offenses committed by someone under 18 is automatically adjudicated in juvenile court. However, there are exceptions to this, and many children younger than 18 are tried as adults:
- If the child was 14 or older at the time and the conduct would constitute a criminal offense if committed by an adult, the judge could transfer the case to adult court. For example, a charge of truancy or juvenile delinquency would not be considered for someone over 18, but a charge of assault or theft would be.
- If the child is accused of committing certain crimes (including a capital offense, a class A felony, or a felony with a deadly weapon or involving death or serious physical injury), and was 16 or older at the time of the crime, the child will be automatically transferred from juvenile to adult court.
In Alabama, if a child is arrested, our laws require parents to be notified of the child’s location, reason they’re being detained, and the right of the child to remain silent. However, if your child waives his or her rights and agrees to be questioned without a parent or attorney, there is no requirement that you be notified, and law enforcement can proceed to interrogate your child without you, without an attorney, and without informing you that it’s happening.
In this situation, anything your child says can be used against him or her later if they are formally charged and the case goes to court. It is so important that you talk to your children and educate them from an early age about keeping quiet and asking for their parents if they are ever arrested, detained, or questioned by the police, even if they know they have done nothing wrong.
Parents, remember these 5 things:
- Stay calm, collected, and rational. Now is not the time to lose control. Your child needs you to be strong and needs you to make sure his or her rights are protected.
- Do not jump to conclusions. Do not assume the guilt or innocence of your child; it could be either.
- Keep an open mind about the situation and gather as much information from everyone involved as possible. Take good notes of everything—you may need them later.
- Have a criminal defense attorney’s contact information stored in your contacts list on your phone, in your planner, or wherever you keep important phone numbers. Call the attorney immediately upon being notified of your child’s arrest.
- Talk to your child and educate him or her about what to do should an arrest occur. Be proactive—make certain your child knows not to talk to ANYONE until you and/or his or her attorney is present.
Under Alabama law, a child is entitled to counsel at all stages of a juvenile court proceeding, just like adult criminal defendants. Children have a right to an attorney:
- When being questioned in custody;
- When detained at an intake office or detention facility; and
- When appearing in court for a delinquency proceeding.
It is important to have these conversations with your children early, before they find themselves in a new and scary situation and have no idea what to do.*
Need advice on a juvenile court matter? Call our attorneys today at 205-521-9929.
- “Crime In Alabama 2016”. Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. http://www.alea.gov/Documents/Documents/CrimeInAlabama-2016.pdf.