Although most of us try to follow the law, the reality is that there were approximately 6.3 million arrests of adults aged 18 and over that took place throughout the United States during 2017 alone. While that may sound like a significant number, statistics show that this is actually a 16.4% decrease from a decade earlier, meaning that arrests are actually becoming less common. That said, not everyone should feel safer. According to a recent analysis of FBI data, approximately 27,000 arrests that occurred between 2013 and 2017 actually involved children under the age of 10.
U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that 6.7 million children receive care from a non-relative on a regular basis. But if numbers from the Federal Bureau of Investigations are anything to go by, at least a portion of children across the nation have been placed in the care of the U.S. criminal justice system. When ABC News crunched the numbers, approximately 228,000 children under the age of 12 had been arrested during the aforementioned five-year period. And despite the fact that arrests involving kids under the age of 10 has been on a noticeable decline since 2014, the data is still understandably a huge concern for parents — particularly since the majority of states have no minimum age on the books for children to be charged with delinquency. Moreover, nearly half of states don’t specify a minimum age at which juvenile cases can be sent over to adult criminal court.
Even more worrisome is the fact that school arrests continue to be a problem — and continue to make headlines, as they did when a pair of six-year-olds were arrested in separate incidents in Orlando. While one officer involved in those incidents was fired after restraining the child in question with handcuffs, school arrests like these highlight the ongoing issue of racial disparity and lack of training among resource officers. And even though a bail bondsman might charge 10% to 15% of the bond amount in order to free an individual charged with a crime, the bail system actually doesn’t exist within the juvenile system. In addition, many of the children involved in these cases may be arrested simply because they were acting their age — not because they were hardened criminals. In one of the Orlando cases, the child threw a temper tantrum in class and was ultimately charged with battery.
Although no parent ever expects that their young child will be charged with a crime, the fact remains that it’s entirely possible — particularly if that child belongs to a minority group or has a history of outbursts. And although police equipped with body cameras receive 93% fewer complaints from the public, unfortunately not all police officers have been equipped with this technology. No matter the specifics, all parents should be prepared in case they receive that dreaded phone call from the police. Securing an attorney experienced in juvenile defense cases is paramount, as is making it clear to the child that they should not speak to anyone (including police and probation officers) without their parents and/or attorney there. It’s also a good idea for parents to gather documentation that may help their child, such as certifications of achievement, report cards, and reference letters, if the case does end up going to court. Parents should also inform their lawyer about any pertinent information, such as medical conditions or special needs, that might impact the case.
This is certainly a high-stakes situation — and a frighteningly common one — for American families. But with the proper information and professional assistance, your child may not have to become a statistic.