If your child is charged with a delinquent offense, we know that it is stressful for you as well. Here is a quick list of things our office wants to make sure you know so that our defenders can get the best result for your child:
1. Help your child set up an appointment with his/her appointed attorney as soon as possible. Your child’s attorney’s contact information should be provided on the summons that both you and the juvenile were given. Setting up an appointment quickly will help the attorney to know what information s/he should begin to investigate prior to going to court. If you just got the information, even a phone call to the attorney is helpful prior to your child’s courtdate.
2. Allow your child to speak to his/her attorney without you present. The attorney has a duty to represent your child’s expressed interest, which means s/he represents your child’s interests and decisions, not the family. As a parent, you can and should actively participate in your child’s defense, however, be mindful that the attorney solely represents your child. As such, it is important to allow the attorney to speak to your child alone to discuss the case. Letting your child meet with his/her attorney alone is very important because North Carolina only recognizes attorney/client privilege. In other words, if you are in the room while your child is meeting with his/her attorney, you could be called to testify against your child and jeopardize the attorney/client privilege.
3. Show respect to the Court. We have included a few tips that may assist you in going to court. It is important to note that disruptive or disrespectful behavior could have a negative impact on your child’s case or result in you being held in contempt of court.
Below are some tips for your child’s day in court:
What to wear
The court is a formal place and you should dress accordingly.
It is best to avoid:
- halter tops,
- flip-flops, and
- any clothing that references illegal or illicit activity (example: no shirts with marijuana leaves or sexually suggestive slogans).
Your child’s attorney will be glad to answer any questions about court attire and any specific rules related to the particular courtroom you will be attending.
Arriving at court
You should arrive at least 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to find the courtroom and to give your child time to speak with his/her attorney if needed.
Before entering the courtroom you should:
- turn off electronic equipment, including cell phones, and
- remove hats or sunglasses, unless for medical or religious reasons.
Do not bring any food or drink into the courtroom.
While in the Courtroom
While waiting for your child’s case to be called, try to:
- stay seating and avoid getting up and leaving the courtroom frequently.
- keep conversations to a minimum, and
- avoid using your cellphone or other electronic devices.
It may take a while for your child’s case to be called, so it is best to plan on being in court all day.
Speaking to the judge
You will have an opportunity to talk to the judge. Speak clearly and politely. Do not:
- address comments to other people in the courtroom
- point or use abusive language, or
- raise your voice or shout.
The judge may ask questions or interrupt you. Listen carefully and answer as clearly as you can.
For a comprehensive resource on juvenile court, please see A Guide to Juvenile Court for Youth & Parents in North Carolina.