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Teaching Your Teenager Their Rights

“Unless appropriate due process of law is followed, even the juvenile who has violated the law may not feel that he is being fairly treated and may therefore resist the rehabilitative efforts of court personnel.”

In re Gault (1967), 387 U.S. 1

What Are Your Teenager’s Basic Rights?

  • The right to be given the Miranda Warning.
  • The right to receive advance notice of the charges within a reasonable amount of time before hearing.
  • The right to have an attorney present during the hearing.
  • The right to a trial.
  • The right against self-incrimination.
  • The right to appeal the case and have an attorney appointed to assist.

Miranda Warning and Right Against Self-Incrimination

The Miranda Warning informs your teenager that they have the right to remain silent, and anything they say can be used against them in the court of law.  Teenagers have the right to an attorney. If they cannot afford an attorney, teens will be appointed one before questioning if they request an attorney.

Remember to tell your teenager that they do not have to speak unless they want to. Sometimes police officers will ask questions that manipulate the individual to answer. They can say things like, “If you answer honestly, you will be free to go home,” or “If you tell me what your friends did, nothing will happen to you.” These phrases may make the teenager phrase information in a way that incriminates them. Although police officers may promise the teenager something, nothing is guaranteed. Your child could be charged or kept for longer interrogation if they respond to officer’s promises. If teenagers know their rights, they can be wise about what they say before an attorney is present.

The right against self-incrimination means that your teenager doesn’t have to say nor do anything that might help the state prove its case against them. This protection applies both when the police ask questions and during their trial. They do not have to testify at their trial. If they are being asked questions during a criminal prosecution that could incriminate them because of the context, they do not have to answer those questions.

Rights During a Hearing

Your teenager has the right to receive a notice of the charges against him or her within a reasonable time before the hearing. This notice of charges allows a teenager to prepare for the hearing. The complaint must list all of the charges that will be brought up in court. The complaint must also contain enough detail that your teenager knows their alleged actions after reading the complaint.

If asked whether or not you want to “waive counsel,” make sure your teenager says no. Answering no to this question allows your teenager to have an attorney. If he or she waives counsel, he or she agrees to give up the right to have an attorney appointed to the case. Once your teenager has an attorney, the attorney can answer any questions your teenager may have.

The attorney explains to your child anything he or she does not understand. Remember, if your child wants an attorney, the court will appoint one.

Rights During a Trial

Your teenager has the right to a trial, and the court will ask him or her to admit or deny the charges against your teenager. If he or she admits to these charges, your child gives up the right to a trial. With a trial, your attorney could present evidence and use witnesses to prove your child’s innocence. If your teenager denies the charges, the state will have to prove its case before convicting your child.

Your teenager will not have the right to a jury if he or she is being charged as a juvenile.

Your teenager has the right to appeal to a court of a higher power. He or she has this right if the teenager had a trial or pled to the charges against them. Your child only has the right for his or her appeal to be heard for thirty days after the court’s final decision.  If he or she does not appeal within those thirty days, your teenager may lose the right to appeal.

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