Parents have certain fundamental rights and responsibilities with respect to their children. If you stop and think about it, parents’ authority over their children is an essential mechanism of our survival and development, stretching back hundreds of thousands of years and predating any legal codes, rules, or traditions. But now, the greater community–embodied by the state–has a similar parental role over children, which sometimes conflicts with the natural rights of parents.
The tension between parental rights on the one hand, and the state’s authority over children on the other, is particularly clear in the context of juvenile law. In Texas, the juvenile justice system has jurisdiction over anyone who was 10-years-old, but not yet 17 at the time they committed an offense which, if committed by an adult, would result in jail time. According to Title 3 of the Texas Family Code, the juvenile justice system’s purpose is to:
- Increase public safety
- Promote punishment for crimes
- “Remove the taint of criminality” from delinquent children
- Provide treatment, training, and rehabilitation in a way that emphasizes accountability and responsibility for the child and the parent
Basically, if your child commits a crime, the government can step in and punish and rehabilitate both you and your child. But what if your child was falsely accused? And if your child is guilty, to what extent can the government interference with your rights of custody, control, and care of your child? A Houston juvenile lawyer can provide you with answers, and ensure that your rights and those of your children are respected throughout the juvenile justice process.
Call the Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation.
What Are My Parental Responsibilities When my Child Is Charged with a Crime?
Under the Texas Family Code, parents are saddled with several responsibilities when their child is passing through the juvenile justice system:
- Attending your child’s hearing–According to section 51.115 of the Texas Family Code, you must attend your child’s hearings. Legally, you are even entitled to skip work to attend your child’s hearing, as section 51.116 of the Family Code forbids employers from firing employees for attending their children’s juvenile court hearings (if they terminate you, you are entitled to get your job back). If you fail to appear, the juvenile court may proceed with the case, and even appoint a guardian ad litem if it’s in the best interest of the child. The court may hold you in contempt, fine you anywhere from $100 to $1,000, and order you to attend parental counseling.
- Helping your child comply with juvenile court orders–You must ensure to the best of your ability that your child follows any probation orders or conditions of release from detention. If you fail to do so, the court may hold you in contempt and file a motion for enforcement, which may result in jail time if you again fail to comply.
- Complying with court orders directed at you–As described above, there are situations where the juvenile court may order you to take or refrain from taking any action as is necessary (and reasonable) for your child’s welfare. If the state takes custody of your child, the court may order you to pay the associated costs, including the cost of your child’s treatment and the restitution of the victims. In some cases, such as when you fail to appear or hire a lawyer for your child, the court may appoint an attorney for your child. At the outcome of the procedure, the court may order you to pay these lawyer’s fees. Again, your failure to comply may result in an order of contempt (with fines) or a motion of enforcement and possible jail time.
As a Parent, You Also Have Important Rights in the Juvenile Justice Process
Fortunately, the Texas Family Code respects to some extent a parent’s rights and authority over the child. As such, as a parent you benefit from the following:
- Right to speak at certain hearings–During the adjudication hearing, when the court will determine the guilt or innocence of your child, you will not be allowed to speak unless you are called as a witness or otherwise ordered to do so by the court. But during the disposition hearing, when the court will determine how to punish your child, you are allowed to submit a written statement and to make an oral statement before the court.
- Right to see your child–If your child has been detained in a juvenile processing office, a correctional facility, a court-ordered placement facility, or under the custody of the Texas Youth Commission, you have the right to see your child in person. Whichever authority has detained your child, however, may decide the time, place, and conditions of the visit.
- Right to be notified–According to Texas Family Code section 52.02(b), you are entitled to be promptly notified when your child is detained or taken into custody, and the reasons behind it. If the authorities fail to notify you, any statements your child makes while in detention may be excluded from the case’s evidence.
- Right to your own lawyer–Your child’s attorney does not represent you, and cannot help you defend yourself against the court’s enforcement and contempt orders. So, in some cases, it may be in your best interest to retain your own attorney. Whenever the court threatens you with jail time, you are entitled to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.
How a Houston Juvenile Lawyer Can Help
You may be attracted to the idea of using a court appointed attorney to defend your child’s interests, and your own should you become the subject of a court hearing. But court appointed attorneys may be juggling dozens of cases, and may not have the time to consider the details of your situation and figure out the best possible defense strategy.
However, at the Law Offices of Ned Barnett, our clients benefit from our undivided attention. We will leave no stone unturned in formulating your defense, and we will advocate zealously on your behalf so that you and your family achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstances. Attorney Ned Barnett is a highly experienced and respected criminal and juvenile attorney in Texas. If you want him in your child’s corner, call the Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 for your free case consultation.