It is a fact of life that juveniles get into trouble. But just because the minor will not receive the maximum adult sentence for a crime doesn’t mean he or she should face the charges without representation. In some cases, teenagers who get a fresh start with a clean record have the best chance of straightening up their lives.
If your child has been charged with a juvenile offense, talk to a criminal defense attorney with experience representing juveniles who can help you and your teenager determine how to address your situation.
Many juveniles have not developed the physical and emotional defense mechanisms to endure the trauma of jail. Although juveniles are often held in special juvenile detention centers if they are found guilty, the conditions can still be traumatic and may affect the teenager into his or her adulthood.
Types of Offenses
There are countless offenses that a juvenile may be charged with. Some of the most common include:
- Underage drinking
- Drug possession, drug sales, transporting drugs
- Theft and shoplifting
- Assaults or fighting
- Auto theft
- Open container and public intoxication
- Breaking curfew
- Disturbing the peace
- Minor in possession
- Property damage
- Receiving stolen property
- Tried as a Minor or Adult
Juveniles are under the age of 18 and are usually treated differently from adult offenders. There are separate courts, rules and institutions that govern the juvenile process. The judicial system will make every attempt to rehabilitate the teenager.
There are, however, times when the juvenile will be tried as an adult. This may be the case with especially heinous crimes like murder, rape, arson and kidnapping. The courts may hold what is called a “fitness hearing” to determine if the teenager will be transferred to adult court system, based on factors such as:
- The severity of the offense
- Any past attempts to rehabilitate the juvenile
- Any previous offenses
- The sophistication of the crime
- If the court believes that future rehabilitation attempts will be unsuccessful
While the laws are different for juveniles than they are for adults, the rights are the same. A law enforcement officer must always read the juvenile his or her Miranda rights. The teenager has the right to representation, including a public attorney if they cannot afford to pay for legal services. And in every case, the defense lawyer must fight the charge the same way they would an adult charge in order to prevent a conviction or to obtain a plea bargain for lesser charges.
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