It’s one of those nightmares you never want to face as a parent: a phone call telling you that your child was just arrested, or that he is being detained by police until you arrive. What follows that are charges of juvenile delinquency and court date in a Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. This is more common than you probably realize, and it happens to good families and good kids.
When your teenager faces juvenile delinquency charges, stay calm.
You’re the parent. You can’t get emotionally wrapped up in what has happened, and lose sight of your most important job: raising your children. Keep the big picture in mind — if you handle this well, it could be a lesson for your child or teenager that he or she will never forget, but also not have permanent negative legal consequences on you or your family. It can help to focus on the big picture here, and realize there are just some things out of your control.
Have your son or daughter who has been charged with delinquency write a letter to you.
Within about 24-48 hours after the incident, if your child is willing and is not in juvenile detention, ask him or her to hand-write a letter to you (not email, on paper) explaining what happened in every detail he can remember. Tell him to use full names of people involved, times, dates, and places, and write out the whole story. Tell him that if he lied to you or to the police, this letter is the time to just admit that, and be fully truthful. Let him know that this does not have to be an apology letter (though you may want that too!) but that you just need him to write out every detail he can remember in a letter to you. Make sure the letter begins with a greeting that indicates it is to you, like “Dear Mom” or “Dear Dad”. Also make sure he signs the letter and dates it. Lock it away in a safe place. Do not show it to anyone except the other parent or legal guardian, and your lawyer. When you have hired a lawyer and you meet with him in person, ask your child to show him the letter at the first meeting. Do not talk with police, investigators, or anyone from the state about the incident until after your son or daughter has a lawyer, and then only if he advises you to.
Hire an Attorney who will meet with you and your son or daughter, and communicate with you regularly.
You probably think defense attorneys are for hardened criminals. But there are Attorneys for kids and families too. They understand the unique situation your family is in when a child is charged with a delinquency issue. For some families this has been an ongoing struggle with their child, while other families are shocked when their child is arrested or charged. Either way, you do need an Attorney to guide you through this minefield of bureaucracy that is coming and to protect the long-term rights of your child. Some parents realize their child has committed the “crime” or delinquent act she is accused of, and want her to suffer appropriate consequences for that choice. That may be a wise decision in some cases. But even if it is in your child’s best interest to accept responsibility for an act, you still need an Attorney to protect his or her rights, and minimize the long-term impact this may have on your child or teenager’s future beyond this issue. A good juvenile law attorney will also explain how the process and system works, giving you great peace of mind. You need to hire an attorney soon after the incident; any delay can affect the number of options that will be available to you for resolving the matter. I do offer free consultations on juvenile law matters in Virginia, feel free to contact me.
Accept that your teenager may have a variety of responses to the juvenile delinquency incident.
Some older children and teenagers accused of crimes may feel sorry and accept what they have done. Others may truly be innocent of what they have been charged with — yet still feel a heavy sense of guilt or sorrow. Some teens experience anger or rage — again, this experience may be present regardless of whether the child actually committed the act he’s been accused of. Another very common reaction for teenagers is complete “shut-down” or withdraw. They may refuse to talk at all, and hide out at friend’s houses or in their bedroom most of the day. Still others may experience a feeling of hopelessness or fear; he or she may believe that this incident will ruin their life or their future. Maybe you have those fears too. When your child or teenager is cycling through extreme emotional reactions, so long as he or she is not hurting himself or others, stay calm. Be available to your child, but do not press them for information or lecture them about their choices at this point. When those emotions are still raw, he or she won’t internalize your message anyway.
Get help from a licensed counselor experienced in working with youth and juvenile delinquency.
Licensed Social Workers, Family Therapists, and Counselors can help your teenager and your family if you are struggling to deal with this issue, or with a repeating pattern of problems. Many of the feelings I’ve described above can be symptoms of serious mental health issues such as depression. There are resources provided by the state for families facing these issues. You may want to check into these resources provided by the State of Virginia, and also these resources provided by the National Alliance on Mental health.
Don’t blame yourself or others.
The fact is that most Virginia families who face juvenile delinquency issues grow from the experience, as difficult as it is in the moment. Blame isn’t helpful in resolving the problem and moving past it. If you made mistakes in raising your child, welcome to the club. So has every parent since the beginning of time. Every child has made mistakes too. Together we must learn and grow from our mistakes by being forward-looking and addressing the challenges that lay ahead after being charged with juvenile delinquency.
Juvenile law Attorneys experienced in these issues will take a holistic family approach.
Not every Attorney is experienced in working with families and juveniles in difficult times, but I am. This experience is invaluable in communicating with and understanding your teenager — and understanding how we can move forward protecting your child’s best interest while accomplishing your family’s goals too. Here is the honest deal: You can find lawyers who can represent you in juvenile court for less money than I will, perhaps much less. But don’t compare apples-to-oranges. I have experience working with teenagers and families. I will communicate with you, and meet with you and your child as much as needed to guide you through the process. I will invest time — not just in showing up for court hearings — but also in communicating with you and explaining this complex system of family law and courts.
Are you looking for a cheap, inexpensive lawyer?
If you want to talk with the cheapest juvenile law attorney in town, please do not call me. I will not be the least expensive juvenile law attorney, but I guarantee you’ll be happy with my representation of your child, and my availability to you and your family. The rates I charge are fair to us both, and allow me to provide you with excellent and responsive legal service. In some cases, I can offer payment plans to help you budget for dealing with this issue. My Juvenile Law schedule fills up fast, but I am still offering free telephone consultations. Contact me today and I’ll provide an explanation of the process you face and let you know what my charge would be to handle your issue.