Juvenile Crimes are crimes committed by minors under the age of 18. Offenses like traffic crimes, drug use, violent crimes, hate crimes, theft of money or property, sex crimes, evading the law, underage drinking, shoplifting, vandalism or graffiti charges, joyriding, possession of marijuana, curfew violations, disorderly conduct, and other minor crimes could land a minor in court. The prosecutor or probation officer will formally charge a Juvenile for a crime in front of a Juvenile Court Judge. In some cases, if the nature of the crime is complex, the Juvenile will be tried in an adult court. Juvenile Crime charges can affect your child’s life forever. It can go on his/her record and can affect College or University eligibility, future jobs,and financial stability. Val Zuniga has considerable experience in representing Juveniles in court. Call 713-DRUG LAW (378-4529) now for a free consultation. We can assist you through every step of the legal process.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS ARRESTED?
Juvenile Crimes are often unexpected and usually take the parents and adults off guard. A child under 18 who has been charged and arrested with a crime, can create fear and uncertainty in the juvenile and his/her parents. At this stage it is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney by your side who can answer all your questions, assess the entire situation and offer possible solutions. Val Zuniga will do his best to protect your child’s rights from the very beginning. He understands that your child’s future is at stake and works hard to make sure that your child is fully and fairly represented.
THE TEXAS JUVENILE PROCESS
In Texas, a juvenile is considered a child, who is between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. If he/she commits a crime and is arrested before their 18th birthday, they will most likely be tried as a juvenile. As soon as the minor is arrested, the Juvenile Probation Department will conduct an “intake” in order to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the minor committed the offense and if he/she meets the definition of a juvenile. At this point, a determination will be made about whether or not the child should be detained prior to trial.
A minor is usually detained if there are genuine reasons to do so:
- the child is likely to leave/be taken from the court’s jurisdiction; the child has no parent or guardian, or has no adequate supervision from their parent/guardian
- the child has a previous conviction record the child has a history of unruly and violent behavior
- the child is a danger to himself or others around him
If the child qualifies due to any of the above reasons and is detained, the child will then attend two hearings in juvenile court. First, a “Probable Cause Hearing” will be held within 48 hours. Secondly, a Detention Hearing will be held within 1-2 business days.
Next, the child will face a two-part trial. The first stage is the Adjudication Phase. During this phase, a jury will determine whether the leveled charges against the child are “true” or “not true.” The jury must be unanimous in reaching their decision. A child may then decide to opt out of this first phase, and enter a “Stipulation.” A Stipulation is equivalent to pleading guilty. In this case, the process will speed up and move directly to phase two.
The second phase of the Juvenile trial is the Disposition Phase. This is when the minor will receive their sentence for the crime committed and is generally overseen by a judge who decides what punishment will be meted out.
JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS
In Texas, there have been many instances when a child has been tried as an adult. A child cannot receive the death penalty for crimes committed before the age of 18. Trying a juvenile as an adult typically arises when the child commits a grave offense, or when the child becomes a repeat offender. Generally, a child cannot be certified as an adult for offenses committed before the age of 15 except when a child 14 or over commits capital offenses, aggravated controlled substance felonies, or first degree felonies.
SAFETY OF JUVENILE RECORDS
Juvenile records can be accessed only by the police, court judges, employers and school staff. The only way to protect these records from prying eyes is to seal them. This limits the access of your child’s records to only criminal justice professionals. Some juvenile offenses which may be sealed include:
- A misdemeanor punishable by fine committed prior to the age of 17
- An offense committed by a minor under the Alcoholic Beverage Code
- A conviction for Failure to Attend School
If you believe that a juvenile you know is eligible, call 713-DRUG LAW (378-4529) now to protect his/her future. We are here, ready and available to help your child.