child arrested

Like adults, juveniles have the right to an attorney, and early representation for juvenile criminal charges is essential to ensure that your child can get the best possible outcome. Below you will find a summary of rights that apply to juveniles in delinquency proceedings. Some of these rights may vary by state.

The right to an attorney: Minors are entitled to an attorney in juvenile proceedings.

Right to Remain Silent: In juvenile court proceedings minors cannot be forced to testify against him or herself. This is known as asserting the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Probable cause: Police officers may require probable cause to search and arrest a minor. However, public school officials only need a “reasonable suspicion” of suspicious activity to search and temporarily detail a minor.

Phone call: In the event that your child is held in custody and it appears that he or she will not be released timely, your child should be permitted to call a parent or guardian. Juvenile defendants are allowed to have an adult present during questioning by law enforcement. Usually, a child will contact their parent or guardian, who can then call an attorney. However, this right, similar to the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, can be waived.

The right to cross-examine witnesses: The minor, through their attorney, has the right to question witnesses in order challenge their testimony. While a juvenile adjudication hearing is not a formal criminal trial as it would be in adult criminal court, a minor still has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

Can my child be charged as an adult?

When your child is arrested, you may wonder if there is a chance that he or she could be charged as an adult. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • The severity of the criminal offense.
  • Previous efforts to rehabilitate the child.
  • The circumstances surrounding the offense.

In some states, minors as young as 14 can be tried as adults if the crime they commit is murder, gang-related crimes, certain sex offenses and repeated offenses.

According to the law in Pennsylvania, a juvenile who is 13 years or older can be charged as an adult if the crime is serious enough. At that point, the District Attorney has the ability to charge the juvenile as an adult. Examples of serious offenses that could lead to a juvenile being charged as an adult include violent crimes such as:

  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Some sexual offenses

It is important to note that even though your child may be “charged” as an adult, that does not necessarily mean that he or she will stay in the adult criminal system. Through a process called “de–certification,” the child’s attorney can attempt to have the case moved back to juvenile court.

What about my child’s record?

The process for removing or destroying your child’s record is called expungement. In order for your child’s record to be expunged, your child’s lawyer must file a petition to the court for expungement. There are only certain juvenile records that can be expunged, and the eligibility varies from state to state. However, the following are a few factors that are considered when making the eligibility determination:

Age: The person petitioning the court for an expungement must be an adult, and in most states that means that the individual must be at least 18 years old.

When the offense was committed: This requirement also varies depending on the jurisdiction; however, generally, a juvenile record cannot be sealed until some amount of time has elapsed.

Type of offense: In some states, serious juvenile offenses may not be eligible for expungement.

Later arrest: Again, this will vary depending on the jurisdiction, but in many states, if the individual requesting the expungement now has additional criminal arrests or convictions, their request to have their juvenile record expunged may be denied.

For these reasons and many more, it is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your child. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.


Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.