Texas Juvenile Courts

If your child has gotten into trouble and now faces a court date, it is because the probation department determined, at intake, that informal sanctions like a warning or deferred prosecution was not appropriate. Taking your child to court can be a humbling experience. Having an experienced juvenile defense attorney makes the process easier.

When the prosecutor receives your child’s case from the probation department, they must determine what to do with it. There are several options depending on the severity of the offense and your child’s history within the system.

Delinquency Petition

The vast majority of juvenile cases in Texas are handled with a delinquency petition. 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.

  1. Probation
  2. Texas Youth Commission commitment
  3. Driver’s License suspension
  4. Restitution and community service

Your child does have the right to a trial by jury under Texas law.

Determinate Sentencing

The prosecution can also decide to invoke determinate sentencing in your child’s case. This is reserved for one of many serious offenses and involves spending time in the custody of the Texas Youth Commission, if it is determined your child committed the crime.

Here are the penalties your child could face if the prosecutor decides to pursue determinate sentencing:

1st Degree FelonyUp to 40 years in custody
Aggravated Controlled Substances FelonyUp to 40 years in custody
2nd Degree FelonyUp to 20 years in custody
3rd Degree Felony Up to 10 years in custody

If it is determined your child did, in fact, commit the alleged offense, they will serve their sentence with the Texas Youth Commission until they reach adulthood and then may be transferred to a Texas state prison for the remainder.

Progressive Sanctions: The Texas juvenile justice model takes into consideration what they refer to as progressive sanctions when determining the penalty your child will face for a delinquent act or crime.

This simply means that as your child is exposed to the system, the penalty they face could get progressively harsher. The system works this way in the hopes that they will keep children out of the adult criminal courts as they grow.

Certification as an Adult

If the offense is very serious or if your child has been in the system multiple times before and he or she is over 14 years old, the prosecution may determine they should be treated as an adult in the Texas criminal courts. If this is the case, a Certification haring will be held.

Before a certification hearing, the judge will order a full investigation of the case and your child. If the judge decides to “certify” your child as an adult, they will face criminal charges as an adult, with no protections that juveniles typically get.

Get Help with a Juvenile Offense in Texas

These can be difficult things to think about when you are considering the person in trouble is a child. An attorney that is experienced in handling juvenile cases is warranted in situations like this.

Call our attorneys to talk about the case today. We can give you more details about how your child’s case may be resolved and we can work together towards the best possible outcome.

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