How to Deal With My Teen Being Arrested

How to handle my teen being arrested? What steps to take when a teen is arrested and facing legal charges.

A parent’s worst fear is getting that phone call from school or in the middle of the night, notifying you that your teenager has been arrested or is facing legal issues. Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which this is a possibility.

Was it public intoxication, possession of drugs, theft, breaking and entering? Some of this sounds extreme, however the initial reaction for most parents goes to the worst-case scenario, or they think — not my child.

PixabayGavelFor many parents, we feel that we have a “good kid,” but how does that thinking change for the parents who get that call telling them that their child is in trouble with the law? In these situations, you have to attempt to keep your perspective.

One mistake does not make your kid a criminal or lead to a life of crime.

-Was your teen charged with possession of drugs?
-Stopped for driving while intoxicated? Underaged drinking?
-Charged with shoplifting?
-Arrested for burglary or assault?

Your teen may have been a victim of the situation that they mistakenly put themselves in, could be hanging with the wrong crowd, or may have been involved in a prank that took a bad turn.

Acting with an aggressive attitude, responding in a judgmental way or even avoiding the issue will not help anyone involved; not you or your teen. Remaining calm and acquiring as much information as possible before reacting is of the upmost importance when dealing with law enforcement.

What to Know If Your Teen is Arrested or Facing Legal Problems

Don’t panic. Stay objective and calm. Finally someone else is reprimanding your adolescent (e.g., police officer, probation officer, judge). This can be a good learning experience for an out-of-control adolescent. You have every right to be worried, but don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment.

You’re probably feeling hurt and disappointed – and that’s all understandable. But it’s important that you keep your head together for the sake of your teenager. At all times, remain calm and collected in order to protect your adolescent’s rights and to be the parent he needs you to be.

  • Throughout the legal process, it is important that you keep things in perspective and resist the urge to panic. As hard as it will be, don’t lecture or yell at your teen at this point. They are already feeling the consequences for their actions by being arrested.
  • Teach your teen to respect the police. Do not argue, taunt, or show disrespect. The best way to teach your teen to respect the police is for you to set the example. If you are ever pulled over make sure to demonstrate the conduct in interacting with the police that you want your child to have.
  • Regardless of the crime your adolescent allegedly committed, it is important that you take the issue seriously. All crimes, no matter how small, have the potential to wreak havoc on the family.
  • It’s typically not necessary to hire an attorney for the small stuff (e.g., truancy, curfew violation). If it is a minor issue, there’s no need to pay good money for an attorney. Also, most juvenile courts provide a public defender.
  • If your teen was arrested on a serious offense, it’s important to contact a lawyer or ask for a public defender. If your child is still being detained at the time you are contacted, tell the officer that you do not wish for them to speak to your child without an attorney present. The child is entitled to have their Miranda Rights read to them, and they should invoke Miranda and ask to have an attorney present. Children, oftentimes out of fear, speak too liberally with the police and help build the case against themselves.
  • If you’re not a lawyer, don’t play a lawyer. As a parent, you may want to intervene. Remember, you are not an attorney and may end up doing more harm than good. For instance, your teen may be lie in order to please you while communicating to the police because they want to hide the truth from you. This can end up hurting their case. Instead of treading uncertain water, hire the best attorney you can afford for your child and only talk about your case with your lawyer.
  • Teach your child about the fourth amendment and what it means today. It means that in order for a police officer to conduct a search it must be based on probable cause or on a warrant. So if a police officer pulls you over, asks to see a cell phone, or walks up to your house, make sure that your child knows to always contact a parent before allowing the police to conduct a search.

If you ever get the dreaded phone call saying that your teen is in custody, try to look at it as an opportunity to teach rather than a disaster that requires punishment. Depending upon the circumstances, it might be “the thing” that assists in getting your child the help they need.

Also read:

5 Benefits of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens

Goals of Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Where Can I Send My Troubled Teen?


If you have exhausted your local resources, they refused therapy or out-patient services, this might be your opportunity to have a judge require them to attend residential treatment. In many states the court will allow the parents to choose a facility – with a letter of acceptance from the program and the agreement from the court that your teen will complete it.  Contact us for more information on residential therapy. 

Sources: Legal Resources,

Image provided by Pixabay.


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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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