What to Do if the Police Want to Question Your Teenager

Can you guess the number one reason why my husband and I get panicked phone calls from friends and acquaintances late at night?

It’s not for advice on how to get their kids to sleep. We have yet to figure out how to get a kid to sleep (and we’ve had four tries). All four of our kids are terrible sleepers and on any random night you can find one or two (or more) of them sleeping in our room (no judgement please, they have other good qualities).

It’s because their teenager has committed, witnessed, or been a victim of a crime and the police want to question them.

And we are the only lawyers they know.

While neither one of us is a criminal lawyer, we know plenty of lawyers who are and have gotten some good really advice from them as to what to tell a panicked parent in the middle of the night.

The number one piece of advice being to call an actual criminal lawyer and not the mom who reviews contracts at her kitchen table and the closest she’s ever been to a police investigation is a Law and Order marathon.

So what have I learned from talking to criminal lawyers? What should you do if the police want to question your child?

Believe it or not, but the police are free to approach and question any child. They don’t have to ask permission from a parent and they can question a child without a parent being present.

But, just like an adult, your child can refuse to answer questions and request that a lawyer or their parent be present during questioning. If the police begin questioning your child, the moment your child requests for a lawyer or their parent to be present, they must immediately stop and grant the the request. This is true regardless of whether the police are officers on the street or school officers.

If a parent is present, the parent can refuse to allow the child to be interviewed (a lawyer can also do this on the child’s behalf).

Why would you NOT want your child to be questioned by the police?

For one thing, being part of a police investigation can be a traumatic experience for your child or you may worry about someone retaliating against your child if your child was a witness to, or victim of, a crime. You may need time to consider how to keep your child calm and safe before you allow your child to be questioned.

If your child is suspected of committing a crime, you may not want them to incriminate themselves before you have spoken to a criminal defense attorney.

So what advice are two lawyer parents going to give their teenagers about what to do if they are approached by the police about a crime?

In a nutshell:

  • Stay calm and put. Don’t leave until the police officer says it’s okay to leave (and be sure to politely ask him).
  • Be polite and respectful towards the police officer. If arrested, do not resist, no matter how innocent you are.
  • Politely refuse to allow the police officer to search your person or your belongings.
  • Ask to call your parents and to have them present. If you can’t reach mom or dad, ask to have a lawyer present.
  • Refuse to answer any questions other than your name until your parents or a lawyer are present.

What would you do if the police wanted to question your child? Is the answer different whether or not your child is suspected of a crime or was a witness or a victim of a crime?  Leave a comment or send me an email.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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