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What Happens When A Child Is Arrested Or Detained By Police?

On Monday, September 14, Ahmed Mohamed was arrested by local police in Dallas, Texas for bringing a homemade alarm clock to school. Mr. Mohamed built a clock out of a metal briefcase, a digital display, wires, and a circuit board. He brought it to school to show his teachers and when he showed his invention to his English teacher, the teacher notified school officials, who notified police.

Mr. Mohamed was interrogated by police without his parents or an attorney present, and was arrested for making a “hoax bomb.” He had fingerprints and a mug shot taken, as well as the clock confiscated. He was not charged, but news outlets reported that the police department was considering charging him with making a “hoax bomb” until Wednesday, when they announced that he would not be charged.

In order to be guilty of making a “hoax bomb,” according to Texas law, the device must reasonably appear to be a bomb or, by its design, cause alarm or reaction of agencies designed to deal with emergencies. In this case, reports have indicated that Mr. Mohamed repeatedly identified the device as a clock, and never made any representations that it was anything other than a clock. In addition, the school was not evacuated and the device was not treated as an active explosive or threat, raising questions about how much alarm was really caused by the device.

Parental Rights During Custody and Interrogation

Florida law requires that parents or guardians be contacted when a child is taken into custody. However, case law and recommendations from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement only require that parents or guardians be contacted before an interrogation if the child specifically asks to speak with them before answering any questions.

Rights of Children when Arrested

Children generally receive the same Constitutional protections as adults – such as the right against self incrimination, right to an attorney, right to confront witnesses, and right against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, children often receive additional protections, beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides, which vary in each state.

In Florida, many of the differences between the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system focus on the parents of the child. According to Florida law, children have the right to an attorney, and an attorney will be appointed if they cannot afford one, which is the same as the rule in the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, Florida also adds that if the child’s parents are not indigent, but refuse to hire an attorney, one can be appointed by the court. Additionally, the court may order the child’s parents to obtain a private lawyer, and can find the parents in contempt if they refuse to do so. The parents may also be required to pay some of the costs of probation or housing the child in a detention facility.

Whereas most information regarding adult defendants is public record and can be released to the press, reports regarding juvenile offenders generally are confidential and will only be released to authorized persons and the victim of the crime. Another provision of that same rule requires the police to notify the superintendent of schools when a child is charged with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, which is not required when an adult commits a felony, and which may lead to consequences for the child at school even if he or she is eventually acquitted of any criminal act.

If your child has been stopped or arrested by the police, or if you have questions about your rights, contact the experienced Florida attorneys at The Baez Law Firm for a consultation today.

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