Featured News 2020 What to Expect After Arrest for a Juvenile Crime

What to Expect After Arrest for a Juvenile Crime

If your child was under the age of 18 and arrested for a crime, then chances are that your son or daughter will be prosecuted in a juvenile court. Regardless of how the juvenile court is structured where you live, the procedure and organization of the court will be different from the criminal courts in the adult system.

Juvenile courts are typically organized in one of three ways:

  • As a separate entity from the other criminal courts in the county
  • As a part of the lower court, such as the city court or the district court
  • As a part of the higher court, such as the circuit court and superior court

Stage 1: Arrest & Charges

Police officers have broad decision-making power regarding what to do with a juvenile if there is probable cause to believe a minor committed a crime. They may release the minor with a stern warning (with no further action), release the minor with orders to return to the police with a parent or guardian, take the case to a prosecutor, or give notice for the minor to appear before a probation officer. In some cases, if your child was not taken into custody, they may be asked to return to court within 60 days with a parent or guardian.

However, if the crime is serious enough or if your child is in violation of a prior juvenile court order, the police will make an arrest. There are special rules governing taking a child into custody. For instance, minors must be released with 48 hours of arrest if no petition (charges) has been filed. Children are also entitled to call their parents and an attorney within an hour of arrest—no later.

(One exception to the 48-hour rule is if the offender is 14 years old or older and used a firearm during their offense. These children will not be released until they’re brought before a judge.)

During detention, the court draws up a petition that outlines the jurisdiction authority of the juvenile court over the offense and the individual charged. The document will give the reason for the required court appearance and will list out the charges that the juvenile was detained for. A court intake officer will also evaluate if the charges justify referring the minor to a social service agency or if the case requires a formal court hearing.

Stage 2: Extended Detention (or Release) Awaiting Trial

If the crime being dealt with is extremely serious, then the child may be detained in a juvenile detention facility or may be sent to a shelter, group home, or foster home. Often, the child will be permitted to return to his or her parents after committing a crime. While a child is going through a court case, he or she will undoubtedly need to meet with school counselors, mental health services personnel, and other youth service agencies.

Stage 3: Trial as a Child or as an Adult

In a normal juvenile crime case, your child will go before a judge in juvenile court. Juvenile courts tend to be more informal than adult courts—there’s no jury, it’s not public, and the duty of the judge is to rehabilitate the offender, not punish them. If your child’s allegations are not proven to the court's satisfaction, then a judge will dismiss the case just like in an adult case. If a judge determines that the child is guilty, then he or she will be declared a status offender or delinquent.

In some cases, such as rape and murder cases, older children may be charged as adults. This is because the court may deem that a harsher punishment is necessary, which can be issued in an adult court but not in a juvenile court. Juveniles can even be sentenced to adult correctional facilities if they are tried in an adult court.

Stage 4: Sentencing & Sealing Records

A juvenile will be required to attend another court hearing to determine the disposition of the matter. The defendant may be put on probation or may be put in a juvenile correctional facility, depending on his or her assessed danger level. If a minor was tried as an adult, they may be forced to serve their sentence in an adult prison.

Records from juvenile courts are sealed, unlike adult records which are open to public access under the Freedom of Information Act. Juvenile records are locked to protect the privacy of the offender. This way, a child can still have a bright future regardless of an offense committed in his or her youth. Juvenile records can also be expunged on the youth's 18th birthday if that individual has met certain conditions.

Find a Juvenile Defense Attorney Now

If your child was arrested, it’s vital that you get a proven, experienced attorney working on your child’s case. It’s especially vital that you find an attorney who has experience with the local juvenile court and can help your child navigate their way to a lighter sentence or an outright dismissal of their case. Our criminal defense directory contains some of the best practicing attorneys in your city or county—people who have made their careers protecting their clients from prosecutors and police officers.

Visit our directory today to find the right attorney for your case.

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