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We can help juveniles facing criminal charges. Even a Juvenile offense can have lasting effects on a young person’s future. Although the Juvenile Court system is different from the adult system, Juveniles can also face major penalties. Whether or not your child is guilty of a crime, he or she deserves to be treated fairly by both law enforcement officials and judges. We have the experience necessary to help guide you and your child through the juvenile system.

Juvenile Law vs. Criminal Law

The juvenile system is outlined in the Texas Family Code and the criminal system is outlined in the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The two systems have similarities such as: the right to receive Miranda Warnings, the right to an attorney, the right to a jury trial, the requirement that the State prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, plea bargaining, pretrial detention, and community supervision (probation). The difference between the two systems lies in the distinction between the purposes each system serves. The juvenile system’s focus is to protect and rehabilitate a delinquent child, while the goal of the adult system is to punish the guilty offender. The juvenile court has to focus on the "best interest" of the child in determining what services/protections are needed to benefit the child; while the criminal court looks to invoke a punishment proportionate to the crime committed.

Age determines whether a case will be heard by a juvenile court while the type of offense determines the jurisdiction of the criminal court. Juvenile court proceedings are usually informal and may be held privately, while criminal court proceedings are formal and open to the public. Identifying information about the juvenile cannot be released while information about an accused adult is considered public information. Another difference is that a juvenile may be released into the custody of a parent or guardian while an adult is required to post bail before being released. A major distinction between the two systems is that the outcome of a juvenile’s case is eligible for sealing while an adult only has limited circumstances where an expunction or order of non-disclosure may be granted.

The Juvenile Justice System

If your child has been arrested two things can happen; they can be cited and released or detained at a juvenile detention facility. If your child is detained in a detention facility, the District Attorney must file a petition within 48 hours of the time the child is detained.

If your child is in custody he/she is entitled to a detention hearing no later than the second working day after he/she is taken into custody. At the detention hearing a juvenile judge will determine whether to continue to detain your child or release your child to you while the case is pending. At the hearing, the juvenile judge will receive input from the juvenile probation department, the district attorney and defense attorney.

At an adjudication hearing the judge will determine if your child did commit the act(s) they are accused of. If so, they can impose one of several sentencing options: probation; Texas Youth Commission commitment; Driver’s License suspension, restitution and community service. Your child also has the right to a trial by jury.

If your child has been charged with criminal conduct, whether vandalism, underage drinking, assault, or a sex crime, they are facing a system of laws that can carry significant and lasting penalties.

This information is meant to be simply informative and not meant to be considered legal advice as each case varies. Please call the Flores Harbour Law Office today and speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation.