When an adult commits a crime, they face arrest, trial, and either sentencing to jail or hefty fines. When a child commits a crime, however, juvenile delinquency charges come into play. These charges differ greatly from adult criminal charges. There are even some charges that are specific only to minors due to their age. When your child faces juvenile delinquency charges, you’ll likely have several questions about what is going to happen next and how you can prevent further legal problems. Here are five things parents should know about the juvenile delinquency process.
Types of Juvenile Delinquency Charges
When it comes to minors, there are two categories of charges they can face.
If a minor commits an act that is a crime if committed by an adult, the courts charge them with a criminal offense. However, the juvenile court will legally refer to these as ‘delinquent acts.’ This classification helps protect the information and privacy of the minor even after they turn 18, as delinquent acts are not as severe or public as crimes. Being charged with a delinquent act can still result in fines and time served at juvenile hall, but it will have a lesser impact on their adult life overall.
If a minor commits an act that courts don’t consider a crime if committed by an adult, they can face status offense charges. These acts are only an offense because of the age of the participant. Such acts include:
– Alcohol Consumption or Possession
– Breaking Curfew
– Skipping School
If a minor is caught for a status offense, they are often not in as much legal trouble as they would be with a delinquent act. However, the minor may still face fees and required community service.
When your child is arrested for either a delinquent act or a status offense, they may be released into your custody or taken immediately to juvenile hall. The decision about where to take the minor is at the discretion of the arresting officer and juvenile probation office. Typically, the court relases a child to the custody of their parents for status offenses and minor delinquent acts. Major delinquent acts usually mean the minor goes directly to juvenile hall for holding until their hearing.
If your child is taken to juvenile hall, you have a right to meet with them and be present at all interviews and hearings. It’s important that you meet with your child as soon as possible and inform them not to talk without you or your attorney present. Minors are not always aware of their rights, and some officers can take advantage of that to secure an arrest or higher disposition. Your child’s first hearing will likely be that same day or the very next morning. Depending on the severity of the crime, the juvenile court is more likely to release a child back into their parent’s custody if you are present at all hearings and show a strong desire to take your child home and maintain control of their actions.
Being Tried as An Adult
In most juvenile cases, the courts treat delinquent acts as such due to the age of the minor. Children under the age of eighteen lack the responsibility and development needed to understand the laws. They also can’t make the right choices regarding them. This is why the juvenile system exists in the first place. It’s to help regulate these behaviors before the minor reaches the age where their acts are considered crimes.
Some acts are so criminal or damaging that the courts may decide to try the offender as an adult. Typically, courts don’t try minors as adults if they are under 16. Those between 16 and 18 may be tried as an adult for certain high-offense acts. However, anyone over the age of 14 faces immediate felony charges for committing violent crimes. This includes first-degree murder.
Photo by Tim Hufner on Unsplash
An average of 55% of juveniles arrested for a delinquent act or status offense face arrest for a similar charge within a year. The goal of the juvenile court system is to redirect juvenile offenders and set them back on the right path. However, the courts alone are not able to accomplish this. It is mainly the duty of the parents to help steer their child in the right direction.
Committing a juvenile delinquency act or status offense does not immediately cast your child as a criminal for life. In fact, committing acts as a minor can be the only way to learn about the consequences of their actions. When your child is arrested as a minor, it’s important to look at and understand the motivations behind their actions. Why your child committed an offense is more important than the offense that they committed. Being able to understand their motivations is key in helping them avoid future legal troubles.
Getting an Attorney for Juvenile Delinquency Charges
If your child faces juvenile delinquency charges, you need an experienced juvenile attorney on your side. Because courts handle juvenile cases differently than adult cases, it’s important to have a knowledgeable attorney who’s well versed in the juvenile court system. Without proper legal representation, your child’s rights could be violated, and their case worsened.
Attorney Leon Matchin is an experienced lawyer who has helped several clients facing juvenile delinquency charges. His knowledge of the juvenile and criminal systems can help you and your child through the process, whether they face delinquent act or status offense charges. To schedule a consultation about your child’s charges, call Leon Matchin at 732-887-2479 or email him at [email protected].