If You Want Your Under Age Child's Arrest in NYC Family Court to be Adjusted (You Do), Get a Lawyer to Help

You Need a Lawyer for Your Child’s Probation Intake Interview for Juvenile Arrest in NYC Family Court - You Want the Matter to be Adjusted.

If your juvenile or underage son or daughter is arrested in New York City, he or she likely has a Family Court Appearance Ticket that sets up an “Intake Interview” with the Department of Probation. This intake interview with Probation is far more important than you may realize, and it represents a golden opportunity for the matter to mostly be stopped before it starts, saving your child and you a potentially drawn out, and dangerous time going back and forth to Family Court. In the language of the New York City Family Court, this golden opportunity is called “adjustment”.

If your juvenile or underage son or daughter is arrested, you need to be working toward getting the matter adjusted. You need a criminal defense lawyer to help you with this, to help prepare your child and you for this all important intake interview, and even to participate, which is permissible under New York law.

The term “adjusted” or “adjustment” is used throughout the Family Law, but actually isn’t specifically defined. In practice, however, it refers to the power of the Probation Department (in some cases in cooperation with the Court) to keep a particular case from ever being prosecuted in Family Court, and resolved more informally.

If a juvenile case is adjusted, for example, the juvenile may be asked to write a letter of apology, where appropriate, or may be asked to take a class or two, or may be asked to participate in specific services to help address whatever issue led to the behavior that generated the arrest in the first place. Restitution (payment to a complaining witness of damages to property, for example) may also be part of the adjustment. As long as the requests by Probation are complied with, the matter goes no further, and no formal charges (a Family Court Petition) are ever brought. This is the holy grail of resolutions in Family Court under age arrest circumstances, apart from a dismissal or successful defense at a fact finding (the Family Court term for a trial).

Types of Cases Subject to Adjustment

Not all arrest charges are going to be subject to adjustment, or at least subject to more routine adjustment. Certain “designated felony” cases are removed from routine adjustment possibility. The designated felony cases that are removed from routine adjustment possibility are listed in the law, but can generally be considered to be most violent or sexually related felonies. Check with your lawyer about any individual felony to be sure. Designated felony cases are still capable of being adjusted, but as a general rule the Court must agree to the adjustment. Generally, Probation would seek Court approval after the intake interview and prior to the filing of the Family Court Petition. (This makes putting your best foot forward in the intake interview for designated felony cases that much more important, and creates that much more reason to involve a lawyer right away.)

On the other hand, offenses that the criminal law identifies as misdemeanors, are more likely to be adjusted only on the determination by Probation and the results of the intake interview. Especially for those under age defendants with no criminal history, adjustment is a real possibility, for offenses such as petit larceny (shoplifting), theft of services (jumping the turnstile), criminal possession of controlled substance, criminal possession of marijuana, and even assault in the third degree. If your son or daughter has been arrested in NYC for one of these misdemeanor type offenses and has no criminal history, you need to obtain counsel immediately to prep for the intake interview, because adjustment is certainly in play and you want to make sure that you do everything possible to make it possible for adjustment to happen.

Probation’s Determination About Whether to Adjust a Case

Probation will interview your child, will interview you, and will interview the complaining witness, if any, and may interview other witnesses before making the decision about adjustment. Your child’s lawyer has a right to be present at this interview and should be there. You and your child should be prepared for the interview. If there is a particular complaining witness in a case (the alleged victim of an assault in the third degree case, for example), the complaining witness will need to agree to the adjustment process or the matter will have to be referred to court. This is not an invitation to reach out to the complaining witness in efforts to convince him or her to be ok with adjustment. Such “reaching out” however well intentioned and innocent, can be misconstrued, and in the worst circumstances, could lead to additional charges of “witness tampering”.

Statements in the Intake Interview

A common and legitimate concern is how can an accused person like your child have a conversation with Probation about criminal allegations when the Government may be bringing criminal like proceedings? Wouldn’t it make sense not to say anything? We all have the right to remain silent, right? Well, it is a little more complicated than that, in part because of the opportunity that adjustment offers. But as a technical legal matter, no statements made by your child during the intake interview are allowed to be used in Court at a “fact finding” (the Family Court trial), if the case were to go that far. Therefore, there is some measure of security in this, although this rule is not as sweeping as it may seem. Statements may be used in other parts of the process, including perhaps at preliminary hearings or at “dispositional hearings” (sentencing). And so it is that consultation with an attorney ahead of the intake interview is important so that what is said is carefully considered and not off the cuff or filled with thoughtless errors or exaggerations.

Timing of the Intake Interview

The timing of the intake interview depends on the seriousness of the charges. A juvenile or under age person who is charged with a designated felony will require the intake interview within 72 hours. A juvenile or under age person who is charged with a non-designated felony or misdemeanor offense will have an intake interview scheduled within two weeks and will usually receive a Family Court Appearance Ticket indicating the date, time and location for the intake interview.

Bottom Line - You Need a Lawyer for Your Child’s Intake Interview in NYC Family Court

If you want your child’s Juvenile or Under Age Arrest in New York City to be adjusted, and you most likely do, you need to take every possible step to make this happen, including bringing in a criminal defense lawyer to prepare you and your child, especially when your child has no previous criminal history and is charged with a misdemeanor offense such as petit larceny, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of marijuana, or assault in the third degree. If the matter is adjusted, you and your child are done, and will never have to darken the doors of a Family Court Courtroom. If the matter for some reason is not adjusted, you will have counsel involved from the earliest stages and you will know that your child’s interests have been protected from the start.


Don Murray, pictured here, is a founding partner of the New York City criminal defense law firm Shalley and Murray. He and his partner James Shalley, have been representing people, including young people accused of crimes in New York City for more than 25 years. If your under age son or daughter has been arrested and has received a Family Court Appearance Ticket for an intake interview with Probation, you need help right away. We can help. Call or text us now at 718-268-2171.

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