Special Needs


Loved One With Mental Health Issues, Physical Illnesses, or Disabilities is Arrested

Intro—An arrest can be particularly scary if your family member struggles with mental health issues, a physical illness, or a disability. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support them and ensure their safety while they are in custody.

· Mental Health IssuesIf you are there at the time of the arrest, inform the arresting officer about your family member's mental health issues. Be sure to ask where they are being taken so that you can contact the facility.

When you contact the facility, ask to speak with the watch commander and explain the situation. Detail your family member's condition and diagnosis, and explain any behavior that could be cause for concern.

Once you've spoken with someone at the police station or jail, send a fax or bring documentation of the mental health issue to the facility.

Take the time to contact your family member's treating psychologist or psychiatrist. They may be able to visit your family member at the facility and offer support and guidance and explain the condition and any needs to the police in greater detail.

A student with disabilities being handcuffed

· DisabilitiesA physical disability can make an arrest more complicated. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the police must provide "reasonable accommodations" for suspects and defendants with disabilities, including emergency medical attention when necessary.

However, these accommodations will only be made if the police are made aware of a person's disability. Advocate for your family member and let the police know that they struggle with a documented disability. Explain the disability and provide insight into what kind of help and assistance they may require while they're in custody.

· Illness or Diseaseinform the police immediately if your family member has an illness or disease, especially if it is contagious or requires close monitoring or medical care. Just because they've been arrested doesn't mean that they lose the right to medical treatment, but they must request assistance to get it.

· In need of medicationFirst, inform the police about your loved one's specific condition and explain that they have been prescribed medication for treatment or management of symptoms. You may then be permitted to bring the medication to the holding facility or jail in its original packaging, along with documentation. The police may call your loved one's physician or the pharmacy where the medication was filled to verify its authenticity and use.

If a Minor is Arrested

An 8-year-old student with special needs under arrest

If a child is arrested for suspicion of a crime, they have the same rights as adults—and more. Children must be read their Miranda Rights and told that they have the right to remain silent. If children are not Mirandized, any conversations between them and the police will be inadmissible as evidence in court.

Children also have the right to have their parents present during police interactions and interrogations. Police must make a reasonable effort to locate and contact a minor's parent(s) if the child asks for them. However, children can be interviewed without a parent or attorney present (with very limited exceptions, such as children under the age of 13 facing charges for sexual assault or homicide).

You can prepare for this by telling your child to ask for you and an attorney immediately upon arrest, and also convey this request to the police yourself.

Children are generally not detained for extended periods of time. However, it is important to know that the police have the right to take your child to a county jail, fingerprint them, photograph them and hold them for up to six hours. While at an adult facility, children must be separated from adults.

If your child is detained, the police must make an effort to notify a parent or guardian. Additionally, a hearing must be held within six to 24 hours, depending on the child's age.