A criminal record for a juvenile can have a devastating impact on their future. The aim of the Texas juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate children that have committed crimes and to prevent them from re-offending in the future. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can support your family through the juvenile court system and potentially keep your child’s criminal record clean.
If your child has been arrested for a criminal offense, contact a Houston juvenile defense attorney from The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC or call us on 832-843-1691. We can explain the juvenile court system and plan the best course of defense for your child’s case. The sooner you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the more we can do to protect your child’s future and have greater success in the juvenile courts.
Juvenile Status In Texas
In Texas, a crime committed by a child between the ages of 10-16 will be labeled as a juvenile offense, and they may be charged in the juvenile court process. Once over the age of 17, offenders will be treated as adults and charged in the adult justice system.
There are some opinions to change the cut-off age within Texas Law from 17 to 18 to be more in line with Texas ‘age of majority, which is 18 years old. In some cases, the offender may be of juvenile age. However, if the crime is more serious, then it will not be treated as a juvenile offense and can be dealt with as if they were an adult.
Crimes Charged In The Juvenile Justice System
A juvenile can be arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes that an adult can commit. This means they can be charged with Class C Misdemeanors to First Degree Felony offenses. If the juvenile offender is tried in a juvenile court, the crimes committed are separated into two categories.
Conduct Indicating A Need For Supervision –
Often referred to as CINS, these behaviors may not be illegal for adults, or they are illegal for adults but would only lead to a fine with no jail time, should the adult be convicted. Even though some of the behaviors are not illegal for adults, if they are performed by a juvenile, they are of concern.
This conduct includes –
- Drinking (excluding drinking traffic offenses).
- Expulsion from their educational setting.
- Driving under the influence.
- Paint and glue inhalation.
- Sending and engaging in sexually motivated messages.
- Running away from home.
- Truancy or the failure to attend school.
- Using tobacco products.
- Electronic transmission of sexual media or material of a minor.
- Violation of a child at risk order.
- Minors in possession of drugs or alcohol.
Delinquent conduct is a list of behaviors that are illegal for adults and result in jail time for adult offenders. These offenses are extremely serious when committed by an adult, so these types of juvenile offenses are severe, with serious consequences. These types of offenses are –
- Felony offenses.
- Sex offenses.
- Driving intoxicated.
- Intoxication assault.
- Violation of court orders.
- Intoxication manslaughter.
- Fake ID charges.
Minors Charged As Adults
The decision for a minor to be charged as an adult is usually decided by the juvenile court. However, a prosecutor may petition for the court to remove the exclusive jurisdiction and therefore result in the child being tried in an adult criminal court. A court may make this decision to move a minor to a district court for a number of reasons;
- The minor was 14 years or older when they are alleged to have committed the capital offense, a felony of the first degree, or an aggravated controlled substance offense. There must have also been no adjudication hearing conducted in regard to the case.
- The minor has allegedly committed a felony offense.
- The minor was 15 years or older when they are alleged to have committed a second or third-degree felony offense or a state jail felony offense. Again, there must have been no adjudication hearing conducted in regard to the offense.
- Once a thorough investigation and hearing have been conducted, the court has decided there is sufficient evidence and probable cause that the child did commit the offense. In this circumstance, the offense would be serious, or the background of the child’s welfare requires criminal proceedings.
There are a number of factors that the court will also consider before deciding to try a minor as an adult in the criminal justice system:
- The maturity of the child.
- The previous history of the child.
- The sophistication of the child.
- The criminal record of the child.
- The offense was against a person or property – if the offense was against a person, the courts tend to transfer this to adult justice systems due to the likely severity of the crime.
- The likelihood of rehabilitation for the child through the services, facilities, and procedures available through the juvenile court.
- The protection of the public.
A Warning Notice
A warning notice is usually a step prior to an arrest, similar to a traffic citation. This type of notice is issued by a police officer, and a copy will also be delivered to the child and to their parents/ guardian. Another copy is then sent to the juvenile board’s office to inform them of the behavior of the juvenile. This is also kept on record should further recurrences happen. As this is a warning, it is well worth viewing this as an opportunity to educate your child about the consequences that can come with such behavior.
The Right To Silence And Counsel
In the event of your child being arrested in Houston, TX, you must contact an experienced juvenile defense lawyer as a matter of urgency. It is not recommended for a juvenile to discuss an alleged crime with law enforcement officers without legal representation or their advice. It is within your child’s rights to remain silent and wait for counsel before having any discussions with the police.
The Impact Of Juvenile Criminal Charges
The impact of a criminal charge on a minor will vary in severity. As a basic rule, the more severe the offense, the more the conviction will impact their future. Factors such as the minor’s prior criminal history and the quality of their defense in court will also pose an impact.
Commonly, a minor that has committed Conduct Indicating A Need For Supervision behavior will be served probation. Children that are convicted of delinquent conduct can face juvenile detention for between 1-2 years.
In more serious cases, children being convicted of severe crimes (or multiple felonies) can be sentenced to ‘determinate sentencing. This type of sentencing means that a juvenile can be given lengthier sentences; a maximum of 10 years for a third-degree felony, a maximum of 20 years for second-degree felonies, and a maximum of 40 years for first-degree felonies.
The consequence of more extreme cases is that a juvenile court can redirect a juvenile case to a criminal court. The child will be tried as an adult and convicted with adult punishments if they are found guilty. As well as the criminal impacts, a juvenile f0und guilty can have a disrupted education, be ordered to sign the sex offenders register, restrictions on travel, and monitoring from law enforcement agencies such as curfews and electronic tag monitoring.
Juvenile Criminal Records
One of the most commonly asked questions is how can a defense lawyer prevent a juvenile offense from resulting in a criminal record. Ultimately, it is always recommended to hire an experienced juvenile defense attorney at the earliest opportunity to ensure you are not dealing with the prosecution team alone.
After an arrest and charge, a detention hearing is when the justice process will begin for the child, and they will be required to have legal representation. It is imperative that as a family, you research the right defense lawyer, as opposed to accepting the lawyer assigned to your case.
At The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, our legal team is focused on assisting juvenile offenders and their families that are charged with offenses in Fort Bend County and Harris County. Our law office contains highly skilled and experienced defense attorneys that are dedicated to working for a positive outcome for each individual case.
Juvenile Offenses Consequences
If a juvenile is found guilty of a crime, there are a variety of consequences that can be put in place. Many of these consequences are not an option for adult offenders but are put in place with the aim of rehabilitating the child to prevent future re-offending. The consequences listed below are dependent upon the offender’s age, criminal history, and the severity of the crime and are determined by the local probation department or the court –
- Restitution – This term means the juvenile will be required to repay the victim of the crime or the victim’s family. This is often in cases where the crime leads to the loss of a life and serious property damage.
- Probation – Probation for juvenile offenders can take place in their homes, at a foster care facility, or via an alternative program. This order can be put in place until the child is 18 years old. In addition to the probation term, the juvenile is likely to be ordered to complete mandatory community service.
- Deferred prosecution – This is an order whereby the juvenile is placed on a voluntary probation term that usually lasts about six months. If the terms of the deferred prosecution are violated, it is likely the juvenile’s criminal case will lead to a prosecution.
- Supervisory requirement – The probation department can provide some regular counseling for the child. This is often to support the emotional needs of the child that could have been contributing to the behaviors they were displaying. In these cases, the child and their family will be referred to social services, too, to ensure thorough support for the whole family.
- Incarceration – In extreme cases, the Texas Juvenile Justice System may decide to incarcerate a juvenile for their crime. The transfer to the Department of Criminal Justice can take place at 21 years of age. Depending upon the crime that was committed and the child’s background, decisions such as how long they will be incarcerated, their eligibility for early release, and the potential transfer to the Department of Criminal Justice will be considered.
Contact A Houston Juvenile Defense Attorney Today
The arrest of a child can be confusing, emotional, and worrying for a family. No family should try to navigate the complex justice system alone, which is why it is always recommended to find the right support through an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
If your child has been arrested for a criminal offense, contact one of our experienced juvenile defense attorneys. Our defense lawyers can construct a defense suited to your child and the alleged offenses whilst advocating for appropriate consequences.
A juvenile defense lawyer can pursue alternative consequences such as deferred prosecution, probation, and treatment for drug or alcohol problems. To discuss a juvenile case with one of the Love DuCote Law Firm LLC defense lawyers, call 832-843-1691 today.