Minors that face criminal charges run the risk of damaging their future opportunities. There’s no doubt that children and teenagers think differently than adults. This is the reason why each state has set up its own juvenile justice system. However, cases involving underaged individuals are complicated and may compromise the minors’ career and education for the rest of their lives.
While no bad deed should go unpunished, not all crimes should put a young person’s future at risk. At Russell & Hill, we provide comprehensive juvenile attorney services that help protect your child’s rights and future.
Hiring the best criminal defense attorney will help improve the chances of a positive outcome. At Russell & Hill, we offer quality legal counsel for juveniles to help your family overcome a missed judgment call. Our team has years of combined experience handling juvenile cases, and we can help with a myriad of charges including, but not limited to:
We believe that all children deserve second opportunities. Our juvenile defense attorneys do everything in their power to get the best outcome and provide the necessary guidance to build a successful case.
There are different ways a minor can come into police custody. In most cases, children are either arrested by an officer or held by other authorities and referenced to the police. At this stage, the police officer can choose to proceed in different ways. These are:
When minors are detained, police officers can choose to simply issue a warning and let them go. This will depend heavily on the crime committed and the child’s attitude. This alternative is often referred to as “counsel and release” and doesn’t require the presence of a guardian.
In addition to the warning, a police officer may choose to hold the minor in custody until a parent or guardian arrives. In these cases, the child is issued a verbal warning and a lecture on behalf of the officer. Then, the child is released upon arrival of the parents or guardians.
The gravest step an officer can keep the minor in custody and refer them to juvenile court. In these scenarios, the case enters the juvenile criminal system and it becomes the responsibility of a court officer or prosecutor.
Prosecutors or court officers are responsible for the initial handling of juvenile cases. This person can decide whether to dismiss the case, proceed informally, or formally charge the minor.
There are different elements that can affect a prosecutor’s decision. For example, the severity of the offense committed, the age of the child, evidence backing up the case, past criminal record, the level of control the child’s parents have, and many more.
As you can imagine, dismissing the case means that a prosecutor simply drops the charges. It’s estimated that one out of every five juvenile cases is dismissed. Having the right legal guidance can help you provide the information needed to improve the chances of dismissal.
Prosecutors can also choose to proceed with the case informally. In the informal process, children are not officially charged. That said, they still need to appear in front of a probation officer or judge and are required to carry out one or more of the following actions:
It’s worth noting that prosecutors and other court officers always try to identify cases of parental abuse or neglect. If they suspect that the child is being abused or neglected they may start procedures to remove the minor from the parent or guardian’s custody.
If the prosecutor refers the case to juvenile court the minor is formally charged or “arraigned” in front of a court judge. In extreme cases, a judge can decide to refer the child to an adult criminal court, although these instances are very rare.
At the same time, the judge or referee will also decide if the child can remain in the parents’ custody or if he/she will be detained.
When the minor faces a judge, one of three things can happen:
Judges can choose to maintain jurisdiction over the case and send the minor to a recommended program, such as counseling or psychotherapy. But, if the minor fails to fulfill these obligations, formal charges may still be reinstated.
The minor may also have the possibility of reaching a plea agreement. As part of the deal, they may need to complete different programs, obey curfews, and cover the damages caused.
The judge may also choose to send the case to an adjudicatory hearing, which is similar to a criminal trial. The minor appears in front of a judge rather than a jury. At the end of the hearing, the judge determines if the juvenile is innocent or delinquent.
In delinquency rulings, a probation officer is assigned to evaluate the minor, order psychological examinations and other necessary tests. The probation officer can provide these at the disposition hearing where the judge will devise the best plan of action. These often include counseling, probation, reimbursement for damages, or detention in a juvenile facility.
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