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My Child Was Arrested: Now What?

Q: My 17-year-old daughter was arrested and is in custody.  How do I get her out?
 Within 72 hours after your daughter is in custody, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether she should be released from detention. To make their decision, judges weigh several different factors, including her age and the type of offense committed. Since your child is under age 18, her case most likely will be decided in juvenile court.

Q: Does my daughter need an attorney?
 Assuming your daughter is in the court’s custody, she has the right to an attorney, although she may waive that right in certain cases.  However, a child whose parent, guardian or custodian cannot appear with him or her must be provided with an attorney. If your daughter is not in the court’s custody, you and your child will have to decide whether you believe an attorney’s advice would be helpful.  You should be aware that court staff members are not allowed to provide legal advice, so seeking legal counsel may be in your daughter’s best interest. 

Q: What if I can't afford an attorney?
After reviewing the family’s finances, the judge will determine whether your daughter is eligible to receive aid from a court-appointed attorney. Some fees may apply.

Q: What are the steps in the legal process?
 After the complaint is filed, an arraignment is scheduled.  At this time, your child will appear before the court with you (parent, guardian or custodian) to be informed of the charges in the complaint, her legal rights, and the possible dispositions (punishments).  Your child will also tell the court whether she is admitting or denying the charges (the equivalent of pleading “guilty” or “not guilty”).  Then the case will be scheduled for further hearings such as pre-trials or a trial, depending on the case.  As her parent, you must attend all court proceedings regarding your child.  If you fail to appear, the court may find you in contempt.

Q: What punishment could my daughter face?
 Some of the punishments juvenile offenders may face punishments include a driver’s license suspension, fines, up to 500 hours of community service, admission to a juvenile detention facility for up to 90 days, foster care, probation, or any other reasonable requirement the court finds necessary. Children who commit felony type crimes may face up to six months in detention or remain in detention until their 21st birthday. Once in a while, depending on the seriousness of the offense and other factors, the case of a child under 18 is moved to an adult court, where the rules and punishments differ from juvenile court. 

Q: Who will be involved in my daughter’s case?
 The following are people and agencies you will most likely come across during your child's case:
• Children Services, a public agency that works with families to provide safe, stable homes for children and temporary foster homes, counseling, and mental health services for parents and children;
• a juvenile court judge, who is in charge of your child’s case and runs the courtroom, makes rulings and orders, and finally determines the proper punishment during the disposition; a magistrate may also be involved and has similar functions; • the prosecutor, who represents the state in most court proceedings and is an advocate for justice, helping to properly carry out dispositions;
• a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), who investigates your child’s best interest, serves as the “eyes and ears” of the court, speaks with parents, schools, and other people in your child's life to ensure she is safe and healthy.  (The GAL prepares reports that the court often considers before making any final decisions on the child’s punishment.  A GAL is not appointed in every case.)   It is important to understand that a GAL advocates for your child’s best interests, but is not your child’s attorney.

Q: Can I be held criminally responsible for what my daughter did?
 Yes. Parents, guardians, and custodians of minors can be held liable to any victim of their child for up to $10,000 and court costs. In some cases, the parent may be able to perform community service instead of paying monetary damages.

Q: Can my daughter’s juvenile record be sealed?
Yes. Two years after the case is adjudicated, your daughter may ask the court to seal her records. If she does not make the request, or her request is denied, the records will remain on file indefinitely.


This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association.  It was prepared by Lima attorney Nicole M. Winget, who focuses on criminal and family law, and Matthew Gwin, a student at the University of Dayton School of Law.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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