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Should Windham parents know their teens' legal rights?


Even the most law abiding Willimantic County residents can have a run-in with the law. You don't have to be guilty of a crime to be accused of one or slapped with criminal charges. Innocent or not, how a defendant responds to an arrest, an interrogation or a judge can be crucial to a case.

Some defendants harm their legal chances by not contacting an attorney after criminal allegations are made. It's easy for someone who doesn't understand his or her rights fully to say or do something incriminating, particularly in a highly stressful, unfamiliar situation. Now, imagine if the person in trouble is your high school or college teen.

Teens don't have to be "bad" to get caught up in illegal activity or to be accused of committing a crime. The author of a legal advice guide for women recommends parents learn all they can about their children's rights in the event a child is faced with a serious legal problem. Talking with a lawyer before any trouble occurs beats a panicked call to a stranger when a child is in a police station.

This isn't about anticipating illegal behavior from a teen. It's about being informed so you and your teen know how to act should a legal problem arise. In this case, knowledge is protection.

The author used an example of a teen, asked to hand over his or her cellphone, after being confronted by a teacher about possible texting misconduct. How should the teen respond? A teen, unaware that the school has no right to open the cellphone without reasonable suspicion, might not act appropriately.

Make sure you and your child understand school's rules before a teen leaves for college. An understanding of criminal and civil consequences may encourage lawful behavior. Knowing what to do and say in a time of legal crisis is beneficial for Connecticut defendants of any age.

Source: CNN, "Why parents of teens should have a criminal defense lawyer on speed dial" Kelly Wallace, Mar. 12, 2015