Juvenile Defense Caution

Contrary to what you may have heard from other sources, detention is a real possibility for juvenile offenses. The most serious mistake you can make, if you are a juvenile, is that the Court will let you off the hook just because you have had no previous problems with the law. If you are a parent, the most serious mistake you can make is that the Court will share your unshakable belief that your child just needs a scolding for his first offense. The halls of juvenile detention facilities are full of young people who have suffered for these miscalculations.

Therefore, the same caution is required for juvenile cases as is required for adult cases. Juveniles and their parents must resist every temptation to talk to the police, prosecutor and victim. Once you have been arrested these people have taken the position that you must be prosecuted. Further, the participants in the arrest (the police, prosecutor and victim) will use anything you say to the juvenile’s disadvantage. In other words, even the most conciliatory statements or offers to pay damages will be considered admissions of guilt. Worse still, such actions may make the other participants feel as though the parent has encouraged the juvenile’s misconduct by creating a home life in which the parent has a history of minimizing misconduct and bailing the juvenile out of trouble.

In some situations, a police officer may tell the juvenile and parent that if the juvenile cooperates without contacting a lawyer, things will go easier. The officer may want the juvenile to become an informant. Perhaps the officer will want the juvenile to get evidence against other people. The officer may say that he can’t make you any promises but he will put in a good word for the juvenile with the prosecutor or judge. The officer may say you that you have to decide now, without an attorney, and that the train is leaving the station and you will miss the train if you do not cooperate now.

You must resist the temptation to make decisions without a lawyer. Without a lawyer you have absolutely no guarantee that your honest attempt to cooperate will be considered an honest attempt to cooperate. Without a lawyer you may have no written agreement with the police. Even if you do get something in writing, without a lawyer you have no way of knowing whether the written document fully protects you. Perhaps most importantly, without a lawyer you have no way of knowing whether the police have enough admissible evidence to prove their case against you, you have no way of knowing what your probable sentence would be, and you have no way of knowing how safe you will be from the people you will be cooperating against.

In other words, without a lawyer you are in a very weak negotiating position, you have too little information to make an informed and intelligent decision, and you may be placing your self at serious risk.

Therefore, you should not confess, make statements about the case to the police or prosecutor or anyone without the assistance of an attorney. Therefore, you should not agree to become an informant or act as an informant, before discussing your case with an attorney.

In short, when you are asked to make statements or decisions without an attorney you should politely decline to do so. Instead, tell the officer or prosecutor that you would like to consult with an attorney before making a decision.

If you have already made statements about your case to the police or prosecutor without the help of a lawyer, you need to consult with me now in order to minimize your risks.

This information begins to make you a true and equal partner in your defense. Now, let’s get to work.