If your child has been charged with a crime, you are probably nervous about criminal penalties and how they will affect their life. You may know very little about the juvenile court process, but what you have heard isn’t good. In order to obtain the best outcome possible for your loved one, contact experienced juvenile attorney Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767. He will help you and your child navigate the complex juvenile court system in Texas.
The Juvenile Court Process
When someone under the age of 17 is arrested, the process differs greatly from the adult criminal court process. Adults may be booked, held in jail, charged with a crime, and bond out of jail. Adults may be given the option of an attorney or go through the process of plea bargaining and trial very quickly. However, juveniles who are arrested face a different process. They may be arrested and released to their parents unless charges involve serious or violent crimes, in which case they may be transported to a juvenile facility. Juveniles may then enter the juvenile court process, which involves many hearings prior to trial.
- Referral to First Offender Program – Some juveniles may be released and have their cases referred to the appropriate agency to administer a first offender program. Programs differ, but many use community services, education, rehabilitation, and restitution to victims. If juveniles complete the program, allegations may be dropped and they may avoid court entirely.
- Detention Hearing – The first hearing in the juvenile court process is a detention hearing, which must happen within one business day of juveniles being detained. At the hearing, a judge or magistrate will determine whether it is safe to release juveniles to their parents or guardians, or if they should be held longer. The court does not look at the merits of the charges. If juveniles are detained, there must be a new detention hearing every 10 business days. In many cases, an actual court appearance is not required.
- Transfer Hearing – Depending on the allegations against adolescents, the prosecutor may ask the juvenile court to transfer the case to the adult court system. Whether this is possible depends on age and seriousness of the crime allegedly committed. Children under 14 or who have been accused of misdemeanor crimes cannot be transferred to the adult court system.
- Adjudication Hearing – Juveniles have a right to a fair trial, just as adults do. At the adjudication hearing, juveniles who do not plead guilty are tried for alleged crimes. This is similar to the adult trial phase of the criminal court process.
- Disposition Hearing – If juveniles plead guilty, or “true to the facts,” or if the adjudicating court finds that the allegations are true, then the court determines punishment during the disposition hearing. This is like an adult sentencing hearing.
- Appeal – Like adults, juveniles have the right to appeal the court’s decision to a higher court.
Potential Outcomes for Juvenile Cases
Juveniles may be sentenced to:
- Probation – During probation, juveniles live at home, but must follow strict rules and restrictions. They may need to report to a probation officer on a regular basis, and their movement may be restricted during that time period.
- Detention – Juveniles may be sentenced to incarceration in a county detention facility for 6 to 9 months.
- Texas Juvenile Justice Department Detention – Juveniles found guilty of multiple or serious crimes can be sent to TJJD, which has low, medium, and high security facilities. A juvenile court can set an indeterminate or determinate sentence. An indeterminate sentence may include a 9 month to 2 year stay in a TJJD facility. Parole may be an option after 9 months as long as juveniles show progress in treatment and rehabilitation. Juveniles may remain in TJJD custody until they are 19 years old. A determinate sentence may last for years or even decades, and can result in transfer to an adult facility and adult parole.
- Drug Abuse Treatment – A case can be moved to a juvenile drug court, where a punishment will revolve around education and treatment instead of probation or detention.
- Deferred Prosecution – Juveniles may also be sentenced in an alternative court. The Juvenile Probation Department can help juveniles who committed less serious crimes or who are not labelled as habitual offenders negotiate plea agreements for 6 to 12 month probation instead of incarceration.
Most juvenile records are sealed so that adolescents who made mistakes are not punished as adults. However, juveniles who are convicted of sex crimes and other serious felonies, may be incarcerated into adulthood. At that point, they are transferred to the adult system and their records will be public.
Contact a Houston Juvenile Lawyer Today
One of a parent’s worst fears is finding out that their child has been arrested. If that happens, you are not alone. Attorney Ned Barnett will help you navigate the juvenile court system. He will focus on getting your child the help they need in order to get back to school and continue with life. With the help of an experienced Houston juvenile lawyer at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, your child does not have to suffer after a legal mishap.
Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767.