Like adults, children can get into legal trouble, but their case progress through a different system than adult offenders. Individuals become a juvenile at the age of 10, and become an adult at the age of 17 under Texas law, and when they are suspected of wrongdoing, they pass through the juvenile court system. One of the most important differences is that children are not found guilty in court. Instead, juveniles charged with sex crimes can be adjudicated as delinquent.
What are the Penalties for Being Adjudicated Delinquent?
The severity of the penalties given to a delinquent juvenile depends on the severity of the crime they are accused of committing. The most common penalty for juvenile offenders is probation, where the child is allowed to live with their parents while remaining under judicial supervision. The court-ordered conditions of probation may include:
- Community service
- Good conduct
- Attending school
- Participation in treatment or counseling programs
- Paying victim restitution
While probation officers enforce these conditions, parents are also expected to participate. Thus, probation is only productive when the juvenile lives in a home with parents or guardians capable of supervision. When the parents’ participation is lacking, the court may order family counseling or parenting classes. In more extreme cases, a juvenile might be placed in a residential treatment facility.
Most sex crime cases involve conduct that is too serious for probation alone. Juvenile courts have the power to order incarceration, and this is sometimes necessary in sex crime cases that involve violence. According to the Determinate Sentencing Laws in Texas, juvenile court judges can hand down sentences as long as 40 years for capital and first-degree felonies. Most sentences are much shorter.
Juveniles May Need to Register as Sex Offenders
If your child is adjudicated delinquent because of a sex crime, the juvenile court may order up to 10 years of registration as a sex offender. 10 years may not sound like a lot, but for young people, it’s an eternity. Many juvenile sex offenders find that the requirement to register results in public condemnation and emotional trauma that can follow them for years.
A juvenile court may order your child to attend counseling, and based on the results of that counseling, decide whether registration is necessary or appropriate. At this stage, the advocacy of a Texas juvenile attorney can be invaluable. It may be possible to avoid years of stigma by advocating against your son or daughter’s placement on the sex offender registry.
Some Juveniles May be Charged as Adults for Serious Sex Crimes
In felony cases, children who might otherwise qualify as juveniles may be tried as adults. Children 14 years of age or older may be certified to stand trial in adult courts when they’ve been charged with certain serious offenses. In such situations, their case proceeds through the adult criminal justice system. If found guilty, they will be sentenced as adults. A conviction will result in a permanent criminal record that can seriously affect their ability to receive an education and become productive members of society. Furthermore, juveniles who are tried as adults may be required to register for life as sex offenders.
Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett for Help
If you or your child will appear in juvenile court, the presence of an experienced Houston sexual assault lawyer can make a huge difference. Keeping the case in juvenile court is essential for avoiding the harshest criminal penalties. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we understand that good case outcomes for juveniles charged with sex crimes require thorough advocacy from the earliest stages of the criminal justice process.