Can A Minor Be Detained By The Police?

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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As a parent, the safety of your child is paramount. Knowing what to do in the event that your child gets taken into custody by a police officer can be daunting — and not knowing how your rights may or may not measure up against law enforcement’s authority can feel paralyzing. By understanding when, why, and how long your child may be detained by police officers following an arrest or interaction with authorities, parents can ensure that their children are best-positioned for the safest outcome possible. In this blog post, we’ll explore the potential reasons why a minor might get taken into custody by a law enforcement official.

In the vast majority of cases, if your child was arrested and taken into custody, your child must be released to your custody within a reasonable amount of time. Before your child’s release, he or she will appear in front of a judge who will inform your child of the charges against him or her, determine if your child qualifies for an appointed attorney, and likely place pre-trial conditions of your child’s release. You will then be served with a summons that will require you to appear with your child at court on a specified date.

However, in more serious cases, your child may be ordered to remain in a secure detention facility pending trial as it will be detailed below.

Why Is My Child In Custody?

In some cases, your child may be taken into custody, but those circumstances are limited. Generally, your child should only be taken into custody and be required to have a detention hearing to determine if he or she will remain in custody during the pendency of the case if he or she committed an offense that either: (1) resulted in the serious injury or death of the victim or involved the likelihood of serious injury or death to such victim; or (2) unlawfully possessed a handgun or carried a weapon.

However, your child may also be committed to custody if he or she committed any other delinquent offense involving the likelihood of serious physical injury or death, or an offense constituting a felony if committed by an adult, and certain other circumstances are present such as currently being on probation, currently awaiting court action on a previous delinquency offense, among a few other scenarios.

My Child Was Arrested And Placed Into Custody, What Now?

If your child is currently in custody pending a detention hearing, you have a limited time to hire an attorney to seek his release during the pendency of his or her case because, depending on the circumstances, he or she may remain in custody for either up to 48 hours or up to 84 hours before a detention hearing must be held.

As such, it is imperative to hire an attorney who specializes in juvenile delinquency defense and understands the process. In some scenarios, your lawyer may negotiate with the prosecutor on the case to reach an agreement before a detention hearing is held for the betterment of your child and his or her case. For example, in numerous cases, I have negotiated to allow the child to get treatment at a rehabilitation center to avoid a potential lengthy stay in the detention facility and worse off, a conviction leading to an even longer stay in the detention facility.

What Must The State Prove To Keep My Child In Custody Pending Trial?


If your child has been in custody since the time he was arrested, the court must hold a detention hearing within a specified time depending on the circumstances.

A detention hearing is where the judge will decide if your child should go home pending the hearing of his case or if your child should remain in custody during the pendency of his or her case. At the hearing the judge will also determine if your child is eligible for an appointed attorney, if any conditions of release are required, and the judge will read the charges against your child.

It is important that your child has an attorney present for this hearing to insure that he or she advocates for your child’s release from custody. There are 7 conditions that the court considers when determining whether to keep your child in custody pending trial.

First Time Offenders Or Where Over A Year Has Passed Since Your Child Has Been Adjudicated Delinquent Of An Offense Constituting A Felony If Committed By An Adult

If this is your child’s first offense, there are only a few scenarios where a court may continue to detain your child after the detention hearing. Your child may remain in custody if the judge finds probable cause that your child committed a crime that resulted in a serious injury or death of the victim or a likelihood of such harm, or unlawfully possessed a handgun or carrying of a weapon.

Other Scenarios

Your child may be detained pending trial for the reasons stated previously, as well as for a multitude of other reasons that we can go over if your child is currently in custody. For example,

if your child violated probation, if your child is awaiting court action on a previous offense, or if your child is an escapee from a facility.

Alternatives To Custody Where The Court Is Leaning Towards Keeping Your Child In Custody

Most significantly, the State must also prove that there is no less restrictive alternative that will reduce the risk of flight or of serious physical harm to the child or to others, including placement of the child with his or her parents, custodial alternatives, such as rehabilitation centers, or setting bail. Thus, even if the court believes that your child should remain in custody, the court must also consider a multitude of alternatives. This usually will allow us at the very least keep your child out of custody pending trial on strict conditions.

Tennessee law presumes that a defendant should be released on his or her recognizance, meaning that the defendant should not have to pay bail, or should have as low of a bail with as limited of conditions as possible. This is the position that all the attorneys at Barnes & Fersten take because it is beneficial to have your child out of custody for his or her mental and physical well-being, for your well-being as their parents, and for us in preparing for his or her defense.

Contact An Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child is currently in police custody and awaiting a detention hearing, contact Barnes & Fersten today. We understand that this process can be overwhelming and are here to help you through it every step of the way. Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your child through this difficult legal process.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.