If your son or daughter is away at college for the first time, the freedom can be liberating — but it can also be overwhelming. For the first time in a teenager’s life, they are able to make their own choices and decisions independently of their parents.
Which does not necessarily mean that all of those choices will be the right ones. That’s what causes Georgia parents to lose sleep at night. But when your kids’ futures hang in the balance, it’s important for parents to remind their offspring that they need to protect their rights if they get into a situation involving the police.
Teens have basic rights, too
It’s understandable that a young person who is confronted by an authority figure like a police officer will defer to him or her. But if that deference involves your teen surrendering their constitutional rights, it can be a major problem.
To avoid additional problems that can adversely affect their future in myriad ways, make sure that your college-age kids know the following:
- Survive the arrest. This is especially important for people of color who could be racially profiled for minor or perceived violations. Remain calm, non-combative and non-threatening. If improprieties occur during the arrest, they can be addressed later.
- Ask if you are free to go. During an interaction with police, asking this question determines the trajectory of the situation. If they cannot arrest you, they must let you go.
- Don’t consent to warrantless searches. Police may ask to search your car, person, room, house, purse, backpack or other possessions. Instruct your kids to say calmly, “I politely decline to consent to a search.”
- Never resist arrest. Doing so often leads to avoidable injuries and sometimes even fatalities.
- Remain silent after arrest. Other than asking to speak to an attorney and giving their legal name, your teen should not feel compelled to answer police questions.
If they’re still minors
Younger teens who get arrested have additional rights as juveniles, which can include the right to call their parents. Make sure that your children know this as well.
Parents should also understand how an arrest as a juvenile or young adult can dash your son’s or daughter’s hopes and future aspirations. They could be tossed out of school or lose their financial aid benefits, as well as have the door slammed on many career and other opportunities.
While bad decisions can and should have consequences, involved parents can attempt to make sure those consequences are not permanent. If you teach your kids about their constitutional rights it can avoid many legal pitfalls.