When Parents Get Arrested

June 26th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman

A child’s needs, we like to think, are important in the eyes of the law. Children are vulnerable and impressionable. Decisions about what is in a child’s best interests are routinely made in family court, and there are many public programs available that help children receive proper healthcare and education. However, a common situation where kids are frequently overlooked is when a parent gets arrested. The moments right before and after an arrest can be utter chaos, and often the children are forgotten. Many children witness the arrest, many experience financial strain as a result, some of them are ridiculed at school, and all of them experience loss and grief.

More than five million kids in this nation have had a parent in jail or prison at one point or another. In Kentucky, 13% of children have had an incarcerated parent – the most of any state. It has been estimated that there are 1.7 million children who currently have at least one parent in prison, with another 1 million who have at least one parent in a local jail.

The kind of stress a child carries over having a parent in jail or prison is just as significant as that which comes along with divorce, abuse, or domestic violence. In an attempt to address the problem, law enforcement is starting to take action to help the children left behind after roadside traffic stops, raids, and arrests. The U.S. Justice Department and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (the largest organization of police officials in the U.S.) are issuing guidelines to agencies in an unprecedented attempt to provide for those children who find themselves suddenly dealing with parental detention.

The change has to come from this most basic level. Research done in California found that only 13% of arresting officers routinely asked suspects whether they had dependent children and that almost two-thirds of state departments did not have any policies that outlined when or how to take responsibility for children during or after arrests. There’s no reason to believe that Kentucky wouldn’t have comparable statistics.

Specific policy recommendations include:

  • Determining the whereabouts of children during parental arrests.
  • If emergency placement is necessary, family members or close friends are preferable to social services or the police. Being taken by law enforcement or child welfare agencies can have an intensely negative emotional impact on a child, especially immediately after a parent is taken away.
  • Child welfare authorities should assist law enforcement to ensure emergency placement where necessary. Pre-arrest planning between the two entities should be mandatory so that children don’t have to witness arrests or be present during raids.
  • Standardizing guidelines at the federal level rather than continuing with the individual patchwork of practices of the DEA, FBI, ATF, and U.S. Marshals.

If you are a parent who has been pulled into the criminal justice system, you have more at stake than those without children. What happens to you can significantly and permanently affect a young life. An advocate in your corner who will thoroughly review and investigate your situation can make all the difference in the charges filed against you, the outcome of your court case, the length and type of any sentence, and more. No matter where you are in the process, if you’ve been accused of a crime or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, skilled representation. Call today at 859-685-1055 or fill out this convenient online form for a free initial consultation.