Do I have to hire a lawyer for every juvenile case? Yes. Under the Texas Family Code, if your child is charged with a Class B Misdemeanor or greater, requiring appearance before the Juvenile Court, the parents are required to hire a lawyer for their child. If the family cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed.
Can the police interrogate my child without me being there? Yes. They can, and they do. Often, they will go to the school and speak to your child without your knowledge. However, the Fifth Amendment applies to juveniles as well as adults. Kids can invoke protections both by asking for a lawyer and by asking for their parents. (Ask for the lawyer every time to be safe.) They should sit silently and say nothing unless and until they consult with an attorney and/or their attorney is present. Additionally, police cannot take written statements from a child in custody without their parents’ permission (or an attorney’s consent).
Many times, however, police of whatever jurisdiction – campus police, sheriff’s, city police, FBI, etc. – will all try to start a conversation consensually (“I would just like to talk to your son to find out his side of the story.”) DO NOT BE FOOLED. This is interrogation. Talk to an attorney first, and do not consent to speak to the police or allow your child to speak to the police without an attorney present. Unfortunately, probably 99% of the time, parents give permission without realizing the ramifications if their actions. Usually, this is in response to a police officer’s assertion that he will “help” the kid if he cooperates, or that the parents “must” bring the child in. Even more intimidating is when the officers show up at their house to talk unannounced. Parents should NOT consent to their children talking to a police officer without consulting an attorney. Remember: after consulting with an attorney, the child and parents can always decide to cooperate and give a statement with the attorney present to ensure that they are protected.
Can the Assistant Principal at my child’s school question him without me being there? School administrators have less of a restriction about interrogation of students. Kids should also be told to ask for their parents or a lawyer if a school official tries to question them about potentially criminal issues. A child’s statements to an administrator cannot be suppressed in the same way unless certain circumstances exist where the administrator is acting with a police officer present, and this is a complicated area of law. Be safe, and don’t talk. Again, after consulting with an attorney, the child and parents can always decide to cooperate.
Is it okay for me to question my child about what happened? We advise that parents limit the questioning of their children about potentially criminal offenses until they have talked with an attorney. There is no parent-child privilege in Texas. Parents can unwittingly make themselves witnesses by asking too much of their children and/or reporting information to third parties.