If your child has been arrested at school or faces charges for a crime, you want to know how to help. Will your child face serious consequences? Do you need to hire a lawyer? Can you get in trouble for something your child did?
Your most important duty is to support your child during this challenging time, and understanding the law will help you determine the best way to provide that support. Once you grasp what punishment they could face and how serious the charges may be, you can act to assist your child. You can still help your child have a bright future and protect yourself after your kid is charged with a crime.
Common Crimes Committed on School Grounds
Often crimes committed by juveniles occur on school grounds, even if school is not in session. Here are a few of the most common situations we assist clients with:
- My kid brought a weapon to school.
- My child was caught stealing at school.
- My kid was caught smoking weed at school.
- My child got in a fight while in school.
- My kid vandalized property in school.
Crimes committed at school are subject to the same penalties as those committed anywhere else. Delaware schools uphold the same laws as the rest of the state. Kids may be suspended or expelled from school. Such a punishment can impact their future, and a criminal record can as well. Bear in mind that a school administrator isn’t necessarily required to have a parent present when the child is questioned. If you get a call from the school, demand that the child not be questioned without your presence and then, it’s always best to refuse to allow the child to give a statement until you’ve consulted with an attorney.
Punishment After a Crime Committed at School
Most punishments for criminal activity fall into the five main categories of incapacitation, deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and restoration. For youth cases in Delaware, punishments often focus on deterrence and rehabilitation, discouraging a child from acting the same way in the future and encouraging them to make different choices. Assigning community service, for instance, or putting someone on probation can serve as deterrents and opportunities for rehabilitation.
But punishment for a crime committed at school can also involve a second component. The school can hand down penalties, such as suspension or expulsion, which are unrelated to charges your child faces.
Juvenile Justice Process
The aim of the juvenile justice process is to determine how a child should proceed through the system. If a child doesn’t have someone to advocate for them, for some serious crimes they may be tried as an adult or face harsh punishment.
Youth cases automatically go to Family Court, unless Family Court determines the defendant is not amenable, which means the case will go to Superior Court and your child will be tried as an adult. Serious charges, such as murder or rape, generally head to Superior Court.
Once they have completed the terms of their sentence, your child may be eligible for juvenile expungement, which means their record will be expunged if they meet certain conditions.
Being Charged, Going to Trial, Probation and Transfer to Adult Criminal Court
If there is not enough evidence, the case will not proceed. If the prosecutor feels there is enough evidence to result in a conviction, your child may be brought up on charges.
They may go to trial for the crime, though not everyone who is charged stands trial. Often charges involving minors are settled out of court when the two sides can agree on charges, usually involving probation or another type of punishment. During a trial, the prosecutor must prove by presenting evidence and witnesses that your child committed the crime they claim. An effective defense uses strategies to counter these claims.
Probation handed down by Family Court is generally one year. Other punishments could include being sent to a residential treatment facility for six months or more. During probation, your child will check in with an officer to ensure they stay out of trouble and continue to work toward rehabilitation, doing things like pursuing their education or getting a steady part-time job.
There are two ways a child in Delaware may have their case sent to Superior Court and tried as an adult:
- Child found non-amenable to Family Court process
- Mandatory exclusive jurisdiction in Superior Court
Your Child’s Rights While at School
Your child remains entitled to their rights at school even after being charged with a crime. A lawyer can advise you on steps to take with the school administration. They can also ensure your child is not treated unfairly.
Lawyers help protect minors’ rights during the process. They can look into the investigation that led to your child’s arrest, seeing if all regulations were met and searches were conducted lawfully. In some cases, seizure of backpacks or searches of lockers on school grounds are not done properly. Such circumstances could help to resolve your child’s case favorably.
Are Parents Liable For Their Children’s Crimes?
Parents have a duty to their children to supervise them and stop them from committing crimes. While any parent knows that entirely controlling their child’s actions is impossible, you could face liability for a child’s juvenile crimes in the form of restitution for victim’s losses.
Most often, a parent is not held responsible for a child’s actions.
All juvenile justice cases involve a high degree of nuance, since every family and every crime is different. You should consider helping the child by provideing the best possible representation in their criminal case. Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is the first step to offering them the best defense.