One of a parent’s worst nightmares is getting the phone call that their child has been arrested. Driving down to the police station, a million questions and fears overwhelm you. What could have caused him or her to do this? Will he or she have a criminal record forever? What kind of penalties will the court give? What kind of punishment should YOU give? What happened?

After making sure that your child is alright, there are a few steps you can immediately take to get control of the situation and proactively start directing your child’s case to the best possible outcome.

Get a lawyer as soon as possible – Make sure that neither your child nor you make any statements to the police or anyone else without speaking to an attorney first. While you want to be cooperative, your child has the right to remain silent. Make sure law enforcement do not coerce your child into making a statement until your family has consulted with an attorney.

Be cooperative – While you don’t want to make premature statements, you do want to be courteous and polite with law enforcement, prosecutors and anyone else involved in the process. Your emotions are likely running high, but keep your cool and remain as cooperative as possible.

Defer to your lawyer’s guidance – Juvenile offenses and criminal charges involving minors are handled much different from those in the adult criminal justice system. Your attorney will know how to proceed to achieve the best possible outcome, so allow him or her to do the job and advocate on behalf of your child without your interference.

Make sure your child understands the gravity of the situation – Judges are often looking to give minors a second chance, particularly if the offense was not severe. If the court can see that your child is remorseful for the offense and realizes the severity of the situation, he or she is much more likely to be granted a lesser sentence.

Talk to your attorney about your child’s record – There are often options for wiping a juvenile’s record after he or she turns 18. Know your options and take proactive steps to cleaning the record.

Larry P. McDougal is a trusted criminal defense attorney with a record of achieving the best possible outcomes for his clients. He is a veteran of the criminal justice system and experienced in negotiating favorable outcomes with prosecutors and judges. For more information, click here.