Juvenile Law Attorney
Liza Burke is an expert in Juvenile law matters including:
Juvenile Criminal Offenses
Juveniles as young as twelve (and
in some instances, younger than twelve) can be detained, arrested for and
charged with crimes just as an adult can be charged. A common misconception is
that a parent has a right to notification prior to arrest or investigation; this
is not the case. Another common misconception is that juvenile court
authorities will be more lenient. These assumptions of leniency can lead
parents and youth to make mistakes in handling an arrest, interactions with law
enforcement and the court process itself. These mistakes usually involve the
giving of incriminating statements and evidence that are later used to support
and prove a serious criminal charge.
While it is true that relative to
the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system is not as
punishment oriented. However, the juvenile justice system does impose
punishment. Juveniles can be publicly charged, convicted, and incarcerated in a
local detention facility or a state institution. The charge and conviction can
remain open for public viewing and dissemination from a period of years to a
lifetime. The stigma of conviction alone can limit educational, social and
The prosecutor's job is to
prosecutor crimes that he or she thinks can be proven. It is not the police or
prosecutor's role to bring the understanding, love and support of a parent to
their job and they don't do so! Therefore, it is critical that a parent and
youth immediately seek counsel to understand and protect their legal rights in
juvenile criminal matters.
The good news is that there
are many dispositional alternatives available to youth, a juvenile still has a
constitution right to a trial (albeit a trial by judge only), and many first
time offenses carry a standard range called "local sanctions" which allows the
judge to sentence within a range of penalties that include 0 to 12 months of
community supervision (probation), 0 to 150 hours community service work, 0 to
$500 fine and 0 to 30 days detention.
Although "local sanctions" are not
too harsh, all too often an attorney without experience in juvenile court
matters, even attorneys who are criminal defense attorneys, will take on a
juvenile court case and not have sufficient knowledge of the special aspects of
juvenile justice to get the best results. Just because your child is a juvenile
in juvenile court, does not mean his or her case is simple or the results will
not have big effects on his or her life. Concerns regarding incarceration and
impacts on education, jobs, social relations and a youth's own self-image and
ambition are all factors in identifying the best path and result in a juvenile
Given that the future of a child
is at stake, the goal should always be the best possible result, not just
a satisfactory result.
Juvenile Sex Offenses
Juvenile sex offenses are at the
top of the most serious charges that are filed in juvenile court. These charges
can carry life altering, lifelong consequences.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of our
Washington State laws, a child himself can be charged with raping or molesting a
child. Child molestation and child rape are based on the type of sexual contact
between the children, the age of the youngest child and the number of months
between the youngest child and the older child. A child that is only 12
years old can be charged with child molestation or rape of a child and these
types of sex offense charges are filed every day in Washington State.
It is fair for a parent to hope
that the prosecutor will go easy on your child because he was only 12 or 13
years old. However, age of your child alone will not automatically sway a
prosecutor. The prosecutors charge 12 and 13 year olds with sex offenses
regularly. Working in conjunction with you, your child and perhaps other
experts, it is up to your child's attorney to identify the factors that lead to
either a favorable negotiated resolution or that secure a win at trial. Age
can be one of those factors if presented correctly.
It does not matter that the
alleged victim or his or her parents do not support criminal prosecution. This
fact alone will not control a prosecutor's decision to dismiss or reduce a
charge, but it is a factor that is considered by the prosecutor's office given
the emotional and personal nature of a sex offense charge.
There are particular aspects of a
sex offense charge that youth and his or her parents need to understand and
negotiate their way through the juvenile court sex offense proceedings. Parents
need to understand how to identify when, who and how to obtain specialized
evaluations and counseling. Parents also need to be prepared for extensive
"conditions of release" and detention review issues. The role of the "JPC"
(juvenile probation counselor) should be explained and understood. Aside from
developing any possible defenses to the charge, these are critical other issues
in juvenile sex offense cases and youth and their parents should always proceed
with skilled private counsel if possible.
Liza Burke has represented kids
charged with juvenile sex offenses such as indecent liberties, rape of a child,
child molestation, assault with sexual motivation, communication with a minor
for immoral purposes, luring and rape in Snohomish County Juvenile Court, Kitsap
County Juvenile Court and King County Juvenile Court and the charges were most
often Rape of a Child and Child Molestation. Ms. Burke's clients have been
youth coming from all types of communities including Mercer Island, Bellevue,
Issaquah, Seattle, Bothell, Kenmore, Everett, Auburn, Kent and Bainbridge and
most of her clients who have been charged with sex offenses are good kids
planning to go to college.
Ms. Burke works hard to ensure
that her youth clients' futures remain intact and bright.
Juvenile Relief from Sex
Juveniles convicted of a sex
offense are required by law to register with the county sheriff. In many
instances, this is the extent of registration. At a minimum, it can be
personally troublesome to be a registered offender and an inconvenience as
well. At its worst, it can trigger flyers and an internet listing as a
registered sex offender.
The good news is that the law
provides an avenue for relief from registration. Provided there has been no
reoffense and the petitioner can prove that the purpose of future registration
is no longer served by requiring ongoing registration, the court can relieve a
person of the duty to register. This is not an insurmountable burden, but it
does require some preparation to ensure the petition to the court is solid and
likely to succeed.
Students have a right to a public
education and certain due process rights if the school attempts to take that
right away. Students also have an obligation to follow school rules and not
disrupt the welfare or order of the school environment. Kids are kids and
teenagers are teenagers and they can make mistakes. Parents and kids alike do
not want educational opportunities curtailed because of a an alleged behavioral
problem unrelated to academics. Unfortunately, in this post-Columbine world,
schools are quick to suspend and interrupt a student's education.
There are important due process
rights that your child has. If there is a long term suspension (suspensions
over 10 days long) or expulsion, your child has a right to a hearing and certain
prehearing rights. The hearing does not take place in juvenile court or a
court of law, but it is a hearing that must be conducted in compliance with the
law. Unfortunately, school officials are not lawyers and often do not follow the
law when suspending or expelling a student from school. Most parents aren't
lawyers either and are confused and overwhelmed by the expedited nature of the
To assert your child's student
rights, you must affirmatively request a hearing within very short timelines 3
days for long term suspensions. This is much different from having a
conversation with the principal. A common mistake for parents is to confuse
this step with the more formal administrative hearing authorized by law. This
vital right to contest the suspension may be waived by a confused parent who
fails to act quickly.
A parent and student also have the
right to demand and inspect prior to the hearing, the evidence that will be
offered at the discipline hearing. This should be done in writing and delivered
quickly to the right person at the school. Persistence in follow up is
imperative as many schools do not prioritize these requests despite the law.
There are other rules that are
required as part of "due process" for the student that should be asserted and
understood. Liza Burke helps parents and students understand and assert these
One key determination to make is
also whether the student is facing or may face a possible criminal charge in
juvenile court. If so, it is important to consider that ANY statement your child
may make in the course of defending himself/herself in the school disciplinary
context may also be used against your child in a possible criminal proceeding.
Most parents do not want their child taken out of school, but have greater
concern for a possible criminal proceeding. The latter can have its effects on
school and future opportunities as well. Liza Burke offers consultation and
representation in this area and assists parents and students in identifying the
most protective and effective strategies.