The New York Criminal Law Blog

What Happens When a Child Gets Arrested?

When a child gets caught up in mischief that might actually be an illegal crime, parents often wonder: What happens when a child gets arrested?

In New York, a juvenile is age 16 or under. When juveniles are arrested, they go through the juvenile justice system.

Cases of juvenile delinquency involve children who violated the law that, if committed by an adult, would be considered a crime.

After a juvenile offender is arrested, it's up to the police whether to release the kid to his or her parents, or take the offender to juvenile hall. The Probation Department handles further placement and responsibility for that child.

Juvenile proceedings differ from adult criminal proceedings. They don't have all of the same constitutional rights as adults do. For example, juvenile hearings are heard by judges because young offenders don't have the right to a trial by jury of their peers. They also don't have the right to bail or to a public trial.

But juveniles do have extra protections that they wouldn't get in an adult criminal court. In most cases, their records are sealed; when the juvenile turns 18, the records are usually expunged (i.e., erased) if he or she has met certain conditions.

Like adult criminal proceedings, the right to counsel exists in the juvenile justice system. A child has a right to an attorney. If the juvenile offender's parents can't afford one, the child will receive a court-appointed attorney.

In both juvenile dependency and delinquency hearings, parents also have a right to an attorney. If the parents of a juvenile offender can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint a lawyer for them. This is because the child's attorney only represents the child, and not the parents.

Even if parents aren't directly involved in a crime, they can often be held vicariously liable for the unlawful actions of their children. Parental vicarious liability traces its rationale to a parent's responsibility to supervise and educate a child.

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