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Negotiating with parents: Attorney practices in the juvenile plea bargain process.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-04-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000439
Erika N Fountain,Jennifer Woolard

OBJECTIVES Research on plea bargaining is increasing, yet much of this work examines how the process unfolds in adult court. Plea bargaining in juvenile court has several notable differences such as parental involvement. Including parents throughout the adjudicatory process is encouraged but ultimately left up to the attorney. Research has not explored whether attorneys include parents in plea bargain discussions with their clients. The present study examined parental involvement in the juvenile plea bargain process. HYPOTHESES We did not have any formal a priori hypotheses for this exploratory study. METHOD The first author conducted qualitative interviews with eighteen defense attorneys from the juvenile division of a public defender's office on the East Coast where we discussed their most recent case that resulted in a plea bargain. RESULTS Parents were included in plea negotiations and hearings. Attorneys described seeking parental input because parents may be impacted by the terms of the plea and because the court often seeks parental approval. During hearings, parents offered input regarding their child's ability to plea, the disposition plan, and whether they support their child's decision to plead guilty. CONCLUSIONS Pleas might impact parents, so it may be impractical to overlook their interests. However, parent and child interests may conflict, and parents often lack understanding of their children's rights and pleading generally. Therefore, attorneys must not only advocate for their clients, but also educate and manage parents' interests both inside and outside the courtroom. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).