South Australian legislation makes it clear that children under the age of 10 years cannot commit a criminal offence; however, many minors under the age of 18 years, do find themselves in trouble with the law. A police officer, without a warrant, can arrest a minor who is reasonably suspected of having committed an offence and does not need to obtain the permission of a parent or guardian.
Given the vulnerability and naivety of many minors, significant care and attention is required when they come into contact with the police and the juvenile justice system. It is strongly recommended that a minor is adequately represented throughout the entire process. A child who is being questioned by the police has the same rights as an adult not to answer questions unless specifically required to by some other law (which can be the case in South Australia). This means that the child must tell the police his or her name and address but does not have to answer questions about the alleged offence.
It is strongly recommended that minors speak with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity before speaking with police. The legal process can be complex and daunting and many children are unaware of their legal rights and the consequences of the way in which they may express themselves and/or act in the situation. In some cases, where a minor is charged, there may be possible alternative ways to resolve the matter outside of the court system. It is recommended that you speak with a solicitor as soon as possible.
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