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juvenile crime

According to the ACLU, 60,000 minors are currently incarcerated in the United States. While counting your child among them is a nightmare scenario, it does happen to many families. If you don’t know your rights and determine the next steps, this situation could rip your family apart.

Luckily, a high-quality attorney may help you prove your child’s innocence or negotiate a lesser sentence. Read on to learn some things to know when your child is accused of a juvenile crime.

Know the Offense

There are several different offenses that juveniles can be charged with. Many of them are similar to those that adult offenders commit. Others will be based more on their age (such as underage drinking.)

Stealing is one of the most common juvenile offenses. Most target items that kids steal are small and inexpensive, so they would only be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony in these cases. Petty theft is the most common crime that kids commit because they believe that shoplifting won’t be reported.

Many kids also make illegal purchases like cigarettes and alcohol. Fake IDs are criminal, as are using them to get into adult-only venues like bars and clubs. Other age-based crimes like possession of illegal drugs and underage drinking can cause criminal charges.

Another age-based charge may be truancy if they miss too many days of school. Curfew violations may also cause arrest if they stay out too late.

Assault is another common juvenile crime. This can happen when any violence takes place, even simple schoolyard bullying. The same applies to vandalism – common petty forms include graffiti in bathroom stalls and intentionally breaking things at school.

Of course, these are just a few examples. There are also more serious crimes like violent crime, gang offenses, and sexual assault. It’s important to talk with an attorney ASAP about the severity of the charge so that you can accurately determine the next steps.

Know Your Child’s Rights

Many parents don’t think of their child getting arrested, so they’re not well versed in what to do after their child commits a criminal offense. It’s important to immediately research your child’s rights after they get arrested. This is the #1 way to help them by making sure that no illegal proceedings take place.

For example, minors are always allowed to make a phone call after being arrested. They also have a right to counsel. They need to be read their Miranda rights and get notice of what charges they face.

Police also must have probable cause to search minors. However, children don’t have a right to seek bail, and they can be held for an indefinite period.

When it comes to convictions, children are innocent until proven guilty just as adults are. The charges need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt in order for them to be sentenced.

Create a Record

With the help of a lawyer, start piecing together a record of your child’s crime.

First, create a timeline for the incident before your child was arrested. You need to remember everything, and writing it down is a surefire way to retain relevant information. Document:

  • The time of the alleged crime
  • The location where the alleged crime took place
  • Any key details that could prove your child’s innocence
  • Possible eyewitnesses for lawyers to help you track down

The second step is to find and preserve any evidence that may help your child. If you have an alibi for them, figure out how you can prove that they were at home or in another location. If not, assemble photographs, messages, and records of clubs and sports that they would have attended during that timeframe.

Then, identify the key people involved in your case.

Your child’s lawyer is going to be the most important person on your side. However, others will have a relationship with your case, too. Some of these individuals will be the prosecutor, anyone who was/should have been supervising your child, property owners where the crime took place, authorities who made the arrest, and others who committed the crime alongside your child.

Avoid Common Mistakes

Parents who don’t know better can accidentally make mistakes that seriously harm their child’s chances of reaching a favorable verdict. One of the most common is obviously punishing your child for the incident. Grounding your kid may seem like a natural step after they’re accused of a crime, but it’s a bad idea that may show you think they’re guilty.

Make sure that you don’t speak to authorities, either. Don’t fight them or argue with them, but don’t agree to an interview. Cooperating may seem like a good idea, but police intend to ensure a conviction, and it will be easy for them to trip you or your child up.

A lawyer can help you and your child talk with attorneys in an appropriate and productive way.

It’s also critical that no one talks about the case on social media. It’s normal for kids to want to post about it online or text their friends about it. However, recording case details in writing could mean those details will be used against them in court, even in messages that they believed to be private.

Find an Experienced Lawyer

Whether you’re contending with petty larceny or underage drinking charges, a top attorney can help your child get an innocent verdict or a low sentence.

Some things to look for in a lawyer include:

  • Past experience with juvenile offenses
  • 25+ years of experience
  • A quality educational background
  • Extensive trial practice
  • Willingness to communicate
  • Transparency and openness

Make sure that your lawyer is someone you’re comfortable talking to. You’ll be communicating with them a lot, so it’s important that you can develop a positive working relationship.

Take Action After Your Child Is Charged With a Crime

Now that you know what to look for in a juvenile crime attorney, it’s time to hire a lawyer to help you through this stressful time. Our team understands the fear that comes with the prospect of a child losing their freedom. We have worked with children accused of crimes before and understand the ins and outs of juvenile offenses.

Schedule a consultation with attorney Mark Nicewicz to begin helping your child reach a favorable case outcome.

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Traffic Violations
  • Reckless Driving
  • Felonies and Misdemeanors

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, 1985
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


  • University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia
    • J.D. - 1985
  • Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • B.A. magna cum laude - 1982
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Major: Economics & Philosophy
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