A skilled juvenile lawyer can represent the juvenile’s best interests and work to ensure that the juvenile gets the help that he or she needs rather than facing punitive measures such as detention.
When your child is acting out, becoming involved with the wrong crowd, or struggling with alcohol and drug use, you may wonder what went wrong. However, there is rarely one explanation for an adolescent’s poor behavior. Your teen may be attracted to a rough group of friends for a variety of reasons. Or your child may be abusing alcohol and drugs due to depression and anxiety. Whatever the cause of your child’s current behavior, once they are in trouble with the law, you have to look forward and determine what is best for them now and in their future. By working with an experienced Houston juvenile attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, you gain an advocate who can protect your son or daughter’s rights and fight for the minimal appropriate consequences for their behavior.
If your child is facing charges, call our office today at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential case consultation.
Texas’ Juvenile Law
In Texas, juveniles are children between the ages of 10 and 16. Typically, once an adolescent reaches 17 years old, they are no longer under the purview of the Texas juvenile system. Instead, if they are arrested or investigated for a crime, they are most likely to be charged with an adult offense.
As for children who are younger than 10, they are not prosecuted for criminal conduct. The law views them as lacking the maturity or development to form criminal intent. If children under the age of 10 are having trouble, Child Protective Services and other services may help the child and family from becoming delinquent in the future.
Common Juvenile Issues
Adolescents can get into legal trouble for actions that are against the law or those that are inappropriate for adolescents, though not unlawful for adults. Some common juvenile issues include:
- Truancy- Minors are required to be in school unless they have lawfully dropped out as teenagers, are homeschooled, or have obtained their degree. When juveniles continuously skip school, they can get into trouble for truancy. Learn more about what constitutes truancy and the potential consequences.
- Alcohol Offenses– Teenagers often get involved in alcohol in an unhealthy way. When they are caught trying to buy alcohol, in possession of alcohol, or intoxicated, they will face legal consequences. If your or your child is in trouble for alcohol, contact Houston juvenile lawyer Ned Barnett right away.
- DUI– If your teenager had poor judgment and drove after drinking alcohol, they may face juvenile DUI charges. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy in regard to adolescents under 21 years old drinking and driving. A criminal defense attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett handles juvenile DUIs and can defend your child proceedings related to this offense.
- Terroristic Threats – When your son or daughter is accused of making threats that make an individual or group of the public fear for their safety, they can face charges that necessitate the need of a skilled Houston juvenile lawyer.
- Drug Offenses– If your child struggles with depression or anxiety, or has fallen into the wrong crowd, they may use marijuana or other drugs. Becoming involved with drugs can quickly lead to an arrest and legal trouble. Learn more about common drug charges for juveniles and the punishments your child faces.
Understanding CINS versus Delinquent Conduct
The various offenses your child may get into trouble for are not the same. There is a difference between CINS and delinquent conduct. Certain behavior is known as Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS). This encompasses acts like truancy, running away, sexting, and certain less serious alcohol and tobacco violations. Most of these actions are not crimes for adults. However, they are inappropriate behavior for adolescents and require consequences, though not detention in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD).
Delinquent conduct is more serious. It is a violation of state or federal law. If your child were an adult, they could be sentenced to time in jail or prison. Delinquent conduct includes offenses such as DUI, intoxicated manslaughter or assault, and sex offenses. If it is determined that your child participated in delinquent conduct, they will face harsher penalties including possible detention.
Texas Juvenile Court Process
When a teenager is picked up by the police or the authorities are contacted by their school, the adolescent will meet with an intake officer at juvenile facility. This officer has some discretion in what happens next. They may send the juvenile’s case through:
- Informal disposition, which is outside of the formal court system
- A first offender program, which may include community service, educational courses, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, and/or restitution to the victims of the offense
- The juvenile court system
Whether the officer believes the juvenile needs to go through the formal court system or not depends on great deal on the minor’s actions and history. If the case is recommended to be heard in court, the basics of the Texas juvenile court process entails:
- Detention Hearing- A disposition hearing happens within one day of a juvenile being detained. A judge or magistrate determines whether an adolescent should be released to their parents or held longer. If the juvenile is held in a detention facility, there must be a new detention hearing every 10 business days.
- Transfer Hearing- If the allegations against the adolescent are regarding a serious offense, then a transfer hearing will be held to determine whether the adolescent’s case should be transferred to the adult court system.
- Adjudication Hearing- The adjudication of an adolescent’s actions is similar to those of an adult’s trial.
- Disposition Hearing- If the juvenile pleads “true to the facts” or a judge determines the adolescent committed an offense, then the court determines the juvenile’s punishment. These proceedings are similar to those of an adult sentencing hearing.
Outcomes of Juvenile Proceedings
There are a number of potential outcomes to a juvenile’s court proceedings. Some juvenile penalties and diversion programs include:
- Diversion Programs- Depending on your child’s actions, there may be pre-adjudication programs they can go through. Some counties have first-time offender programs for certain types of behavior. A diversion program allows an adolescent to face consequences and receive the help they need to avoid getting into trouble in the future. It also keeps an offense off their juvenile record.
- Deferred Prosecution- During deferred prosecution, your child agrees to plead that the facts of the case are true in exchange for going through a probationary program. However, instead of the juvenile court judge entering this plea, it is deferred. Your child then fully participates in the probationary program and completes all of its requirements. Once the requirements are complete and the full duration of the probation has passed, the case is closed. However, if your child does not do everything they are supposed to, the original case moves forward and your child will be punished within the law.
- Probation- If a judge determines the facts of your child’s case are true and rules your child has committed CINS or delinquent conduct, then your child may be required to live under the rules and conditions of probation for a period of time.
- Drug or Alcohol Treatment- If there is evidence that your child is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, then a part of your child’s penalty may be to complete drug or alcohol rehabilitation. This may be part of deferred prosecution, probation, or detention.
- Detention- For serious or multiple offenses, your child may be sentenced for a specific or indeterminate period of time at a TJJD detention facility.
Consequences of a Juvenile Offense
Your adolescent needs to understand what is at stake when there are allegations that they have participated in CINS or delinquent behavior. If a judge finds the facts are true and that they are committed an offense, there may be a number of consequences of a juvenile offense, such as:
- Loss of their driving privileges
- A curfew
- Restricted travel
- Electronic monitoring
- Check ins with a juvenile justice officer
- A disruption to their education
- Difficulty getting into college
- Difficulty getting a job in the future
- Sex offender registration
- Immigration issues such as ineligibility for citizenship or deportation
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
As a parent whose child is in trouble with the law, you have a number of parental rights and responsibilities. You may be liable in some way for your child’s behavior. Even if you do not face legal trouble due to your child’s truancy or illegal actions, you have a number of duties, including:
- Attending your child’s hearings
- Help your child comply with the court orders
- Comply with all court order’s that dictate your actions
However, you also have a number of rights during this time. You have the right to be notified when your child is taken into custody. You have the right to see your child when they are detained, attend their hearings, and speak at certain hearings.
Expunging or Sealing a Juvenile Record
Having a criminal conviction on a juvenile record can make it extremely difficult to move forward in life once you or your child is an adult. It can hold you or your child back from going to school, getting scholarships, grants, and loans, and eventually landing a good job. That is why it is essential to look into whether expungement or sealing of a record are appropriate options.
If you are able to have your juvenile record expunged, you do not have to ever admit to the criminal offenses. The incidents are completely wiped away. If your record is only sealed, then the public cannot find it, but it still happened and you may not be able to deny it.
To learn whether you are eligible to expunge or seal your juvenile record, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away. The sooner you can get your juvenile record out of view, the faster you will be able to move forward with life.
Let a Houston Juvenile Lawyer Help You
If you or your child is in trouble with the law, the best thing you can do is to obtain an experienced Houston juvenile lawyer. If you were being accused of a crime, you would want an attorney to defend you in court. Your child has the same right. By working with experienced juvenile attorney Ned Barnett, you gain someone who will put your child’s best interests first, fiercely protect their rights, and fight for an appropriate outcome in their case.