Juvenile Criminal Offenses

Understanding the nature of your legal problem is critical to avoiding mistakes early in your case. Please review the Quick Info for Juvenile Arrest and Charging page which includes the Who, What, When, Where and How.

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Understanding 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.

The Juvenile System

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, found guilty, and incarcerated in a local detention facility or a state institution. The charge and record of adjudication can remain open for public viewing and dissemination from a period of years to a lifetime. The stigma of a juvenile adjudication alone can limit educational, social and employment opportunities.

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.

An Experienced Attorney

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 criminal mater.

Given that the future of a child is at stake, the goal should always be the best possible result, not just a satisfactory result.