A juvenile arrest is a frightening experience for anyone involved. If you are a minor, you are wondering what you could be facing with a criminal offense, and how it might affect your future. Of if you are a parent of a child accused of a crime, you are doubly concerned about the consequences down the road.
Children make mistakes. That mistake might be impulsive or aggressive behavior, or it might be as innocuous as being with the wrong crowd at the wrong time.
Unfortunately sometimes those mistakes are serious and involve the Texas legal system. Knowing what your child can expect in the Texas system of Juvenile Justice is the first step toward understanding the problem, and figuring out the best solution.
Having an experienced juvenile defense attorney on your side can allow you to focus on the things you do best, supporting your child during this difficult time.
What Happens in a Juvenile Arrest or Criminal Charge?
Typically your child enters into the system by a referral from law enforcement or an arrest. Depending on the circumstances, when a child is arrested, they are read their rights and may be handcuffed like any adult law violator. However, if the suspected offense is not that serious, your child may simply be taken in to the probation department.
In addition to arrest by law enforcement, children can be referred to the juvenile probation offices for intake by parents, educators, or people in the community.
Juvenile Court Intake
The first step in the juvenile process is an intake done by probation officials. During the intake, done immediately after the potential arrest, your child could be distraught or even intoxicated. This is where probation officials need to decide what immediate actions need to be taken.
Intake officers will evaluate your child, what they are accused of, and their home situation. They will determine if the case will go to court or if it can be resolved using an informal method. If it is decided that the case will go to court, the probation officials will determine if your child needs to be held in confinement or if they can return home awaiting court action.
There are several reasons your child could be detained. Although the preference is always to send a minor child home with parents, any of the following could be reason to hold them.
- If the child is likely to abscond, or leave the immediate area to avoid further court action,
- If there is no suitable supervision outside of detention,
- If there is no one to ensure the child’s return to court,
- If the child is a danger to themselves or the public, or
- If the child has a criminal or delinquent history that leads the probation department to believe further offenses will be committed upon their release.
If the child is detained a judge must hold a detention hearing within 48 hours. Detention hearings are then held every 10-15 business days to ensure the child’s and court’s best interests are being served by continued detainment.
Informal Dispositions and Other Less Serious Outcomes
The probation department could determine that no further action is needed aside from a warning, or they can determine to resolve the situation with an informal disposition. This outcome depends on the situation and specific circumstances, your child’s history with law enforcement, and the current charges.
Options like deferred prosecution or counseling allow your child’s case to be settled without going through the juvenile court process. When possible, these avenues are preferable to going to court.
As your child’s defense attorney, I can fight for options that avoid your child needing to go to court after a juvenile arrest or criminal accusation.
If, however, the probation department determines the situation warrants a court appearance, there are several routes with may be taken once the case is referred to the prosecutor.
If that happens, the situation can be a little more serious and complicated. But there are still options to work out, with the ultimate goal being to preserve all options for your child’s future, and avoid having him or her tarred with a criminal conviction.