I’m sure that one of the scariest things you can have happen, as a parent, is having law enforcement approach you and ask to question your child about a crime. You may feel that you can trust law enforcement and the best thing to do is have your child be open and upfront.
Your Child Has Constitutional Rights
But just like adults, children have the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. They also have the 6th Amendment right to defense counsel upon formal proceedings against the child. Just as important as these constitutional rights, know that anything your child says to law enforcement can, and will, be used against him or her in prosecution of the crime.
While you may think your child needs to “learn his (or her) lesson," what you don’t know is what law enforcement has in mind when investigating your child. You may also not have thought through what implications a prosecution of your child may have for his or her future. That being difficulty in his or her educational or employment pursuits; and in very serious cases, his or her freedom.
If you’re approached by law enforcement and asked to be permitted to question your child (or you learn they are in fact interrogating your child), tell them you want an opportunity for your child to be advised of their rights by counsel. And until that’s done, you don’t want them questioned.
Assert Your Child's Rights
To be clear, asserting constitutional rights doesn’t have to be done in a rude or insulting manner. In fact, being “a jerk” is often times counter-productive. You can be firm while still demonstrating respect for law enforcement and the job they have to do.
However, when it comes to the criminal justice system, the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is simply false. In fact, words can be used against your child, and it can be the difference between guilt and innocence.