H. Michael Steinberg has 38+ years of experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Surviving The Colorado Juvenile Court System – Some Tips For Parents By A Juvenile Court Lawyer

Surviving The Colorado Juvenile Court System - Some Tips For Parents By A Juvenile Court Lawyer.jpgBy H. Michael Steinberg – Colorado Juvenile Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer

Understanding And Surviving The Colorado Juvenile Court System – Some Tips For Parents – The most critical component of success in the Colorado Juvenile Court System is the involvement of parents and family. What families find when they arrive in juvenile court is often chaos and what results in a very negative experience. That experience can be changed by understanding a few important concepts.

Every family knows that the success or failure of a member of that family can turn on the emotional, social, cultural, and financial support of the family. No one knows their children better than a parent. A parent is in the best position to give insight into the juvenile’s behaviors, past experiences and personal needs.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell – the juvenile justice system can create very real barriers which have the result of actually preventing the effective contribution of parents to a successful outcome. Court appointed lawyers, Guardians Ad Litem (GALs), Probation Officers, and Pretrial Services persons either ignore parents or “marginalize” them as the case proceeds through the stages of prosecution.

Sometimes “a law enforcement mentality” takes over for common sense, compassion and understanding.

A Lack Of Trust In Colorado Juvenile Court Proceedings

The frustration felt by many parents in juvenile court is often a matter of perception. Juvenile court is different than adult court – it is intended to be less adversarial less “combative.”

But often parents are confused by the very rigid proceedings and an instinctive lack of trust takes over which combines with feelings of alienation and victimization.

The people who work in the Colorado juvenile justice system at times have attitudes that stem from uncaring and distant parents and that can sometimes result in their treating all parents with disrespect. When a family has had repeated frustration in juvenile court it can lead to a lack of cooperation even for well meaning District Attorneys, Probation Officers and Juvenile Court Judges.

This can, and often does, result in poor outcomes for the juvenile fighting the charges in juvenile court. When a son or daughter is looking to his or her parent or parents for guidance and the parent is confused, angry, or frustrated by the process – the impact on the relationship between the juvenile and his family can be even more alienation. Exhaustion impacts the ability of the parent to “deal” with the expectations of juvenile court.

The Best Interest Of The Child In Colorado Juvenile Court

It is a mistake to ever assume that parents are not acting in the best interests of their child. What changes the perception of others in the juvenile criminal justice system to the parents’ intent as regards their children is when parents, acting without the knowledge, skills and experience they need, are expected to make good decisions in an environment that can be hostile and antagonistic to them.

A healthy respect for the parents ongoing role as a caretaker and the knowledge and information parents can share with the authorities in that role – as a parent – can make certain that – at each stage of the process – the parents input is used effectively and respectfully.

The Goals Of the Colorado Juvenile Justice System

If you begin with an understanding of just how different the Colorado Juvenile Justice System is when compared to the more punitive Adult Criminal Justice System – it can help a parent lower their natural defense systems. The goals of the system are:

Community protection – as balanced against the juvenile’s needs and rehabilitation.

Personal accountability of the juvenile.

The development of adult competencies (learning life skills that usher children into the adult world)

The Answer – Again It Is All About Respect – The Colorado Juvenile Justice System

The collaboration of parents and juvenile court staff requires mutual respect and mutual valued communication. Some tips on how to get there:

  • Engage ONE PERSON to be your”point of contact” – someone you can connect with on a consistent basis to check on the status of the case and your child.
  • Learn the unstated assumptions about your child – the mission and goals of the Colorado juvenile justice system as to YOUR CHILD and learn the “ropes” of the system by reading as much as you can about the procedures that control the system.
  • Obtain as much information from the juvenile pretrial services and probation department or ANY OTHER agency impacting your child.
  • Understand the weaknesses of a system that is overly burdened – learn how the weaknesses of that system can harm your child because of – say – a lack of expected resources to help solve the child’s problems – then find a way around that lack of resources by pressing for alternative solutions, (e.g. if one drug treatment program is full – find another – or an alternative program in a neighboring jurisdiction that has space.)

Parents Feel Alienated By The Colorado Juvenile Court System

A partnership is based on trust. Parents in the juvenile justice system are often treated as extraneous even burdensome obstacles to the process. Parents are unfairly blamed for the acts of their children. Parents can be scapegoated or otherwise blamed for the crimes of their kids.

What parents want is the feeling that the system cares about them. They want to be kept in the loop, to feel treated as a respected partner with honesty and with clarity. What they receive is alienation and the feeling they are to blame for everything. They feel “talked down to” and made to feel worthless.

Blaming The Parents Does Not Help The Child Caught Up In The “System” – It Makes The Outcomes Worse

The research in this area has found that blaming the parents is not only unsupported by the facts of each case but established that when parents are treated with respect and dignity by juvenile justice system professionals the outcomes are much more likely to be successful.

The insights and views of the parents are valuable experiences are valued and utilized.

Information is regularly provided to families from the time of initial contact – arrest, detention, intake, hearings, disposition and placement, and is provided in a variety of means which respect families’ cultures, experiences, and needs.

Family members have a single point of contact within the local juvenile justice system that they can rely on to provide open, honest and up-to-date information regarding their child.

Information is made available to family members through brochures, resources, or other materials that describe the mission, goals and expectations of the juvenile justice system.

Families are referred to self-help resources including local and state level family peer advocacy projects.

Families are included in planning activities associated with the care and treatment of their child, and the plans address the needs of the family to support their child, as identified by the family.

Family members are routinely included in all decisions regarding their child, all planning meetings, and ongoing monitoring. Their input is valued and reflected in the plan, and they come to the table with sufficient knowledge and skills to support their effective involvement.

When a youth is in out-of-home placement, regular communication, visitation, and transportation is provided or arranged for family members.

Aftercare planning for a youth in placement includes a “family plan” that is developed in partnership with the family.

Family centered resources and programs, such as Functional Family Therapy, Multi-Systemic Therapy, or Family Group Decision Making are currently available, or plans are underway to make them available in a jurisdiction.

if Your Child Is Arrested and Enters The Colorado Juvenile Court System – An Action Plan

When you receive the call that your child has been arrested:

Immediately make it clear that your child is not to be questioned without you present. NEVER allow your child to speak to any person in authority Never fall for the suggestion that your child might be “more comfortable” speaking to the police without your presence.

NEVER allow the authorities to delay your seeing your child. Press and press hard to see him or her immediately. If the police try to prevent you from seeing your child go up the chain of authority until you get your way.. Document every one’s names along the way to be used in court later in court when your lawyer seeks to suppress any incriminating statements your child may have made.

Instruct your child to NEVER speak to the police unless it is to give them their name, address. And date of birth. “Lawyer Up” on behalf of your child – instruct your child to always ask for a lawyer at the earliest possible moment.

If there appears to be a reason to call 911- consider it carefully. Once 911 is called – it cannot be taken back. While an altercation with your child may seem out of control – calling 911 may provide an invitation into your family life that yoy may regret. While you may certain frustrations with your child – involvement of the Colorado Juvenile Justice System may be more than you can anticipated and it can create a criminal record long after the 911 call is made.

More Tips For Parents Whose Children May Have Contact With The Colorado Juvenile Justice System

Prepare your child now for police contacts in the future. Teach your child his or her rights under the Constitution. Prepare your child to have the fortitude to withstand questioning by the police and asserting the child’s inalienable rights to end that questioning by asking for a lawyer and or exercising their right to remain silent.

You should actually PRACTICE the phrases your child should use to exercise their rights making sure they understand the precise phrases and what they mean. Always make certain they understand they can exercise those rights and still remain polite.

While it has always been true that police are your child’s protectors that role changes when the child is the target of an investigation the rules change and the police become the child’s adversary as it is now the intention of the police to build a case against them.

If questioned – your child should – in addition to the exercise of their rights above – immediately ask to talk to you and a lawyer. The adage “if you have nothing to hide” demonstrates a naive view of the criminal justice system. You may not believe you have anything to hide- but it is all too common for the innocent to be swept up in a poorly investigated case and implicated in a crime in which they were not involved.

A child may make a mistake in a police interview and could actually admit to doing something they never did. There is never a need to run from a police officer – or to lie when the child is in control of the situation through a clear understanding of their Constitutional rights.

The Role Of The Colorado Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer

Bottom line – an experienced Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer can and will protect your child’s rights. The lawyer knows how to protects those rights and how to prevent mistakes from happening once your child enters the justice system.

No one person is more your child’s protector and champion that the criminal defense lawyer.

Unlike others in the system – the lawyer works only on behalf of your child. Juvenile criminal cases can be very serious with possible sanctions such as jail (juvenile detention) or the removal of the child from the child’s home. Certain kinds of juvenile criminal record may close doors on your child’s future as regards their education, employment, financial aid or a future in the military.

The Colorado Juvenile Criminal Lawyer is there to protect your child from consequences that may follow your child for the rest of his or her life.