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Right To A Juvenile Attorney

The Right To A Juvenile Attorney In Texas: What Parents Need To Know

Does my child need a juvenile attorney in Texas?

If your child has been taken into custody and is charged with an offense, he or she must be represented by a juvenile attorney. That is the law. Whether you hire the attorney – or one is appointed by the court – will depend on your ability to pay for legal representation.

In this blog post, we will discuss your child’s right to a juvenile attorney in Texas and answer some frequently asked questions by parents.

Can I represent my child in juvenile court in Texas?

No, a parent cannot represent their child in juvenile court in Texas, nor can the child represent themself. The youth must be represented by a juvenile attorney who is licensed to practice law in Texas and qualified to handle juvenile cases.

How quickly will my child need a juvenile attorney?

Within two working days after a child is taken into custody, a detention hearing will be held before a judge to determine whether the youth will be released to a parent or guardian while the case is pending or if they will be detained – that is, remain in the juvenile detention center. Under Section 54.01 of the Juvenile Justice Code, the court must notify the child and his or her parents of the child’s rights to legal counsel before that first detention hearing.

Ideally, your child needs an attorney before the detention hearing – so within two working days after being taken into custody.

What if there wasn’t enough time to get an attorney before the detention hearing?

Lisa Herrick
Meet our Juvenile Board Certified Specialist Lisa Herrick

Because of the strict mandate that requires an initial detention hearing within two working days, occasionally, a juvenile will not be represented by an attorney during the detention hearing. In those instances – if the child is detained – the judge will immediately appoint counsel or order the parents to hire an attorney. Once an attorney is in place, the attorney can request another detention hearing.

If the juvenile was released by intake or didn’t have a detention hearing, the juvenile is required to be represented by an attorney within five working days after prosecutors file a petition against the youth – that is, charge the youth with an offense. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for your child.

Under Section 51.101 of the Juvenile Justice Code, if an attorney is appointed at the initial detention hearing and the child is detained, the attorney must continue to represent the child until the case is resolved, the family retains an attorney, or a new attorney is appointed by the juvenile court judge.

What if I can’t afford a juvenile attorney?

If you can’t afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for your child prior to the initial detention hearing – or within five working days after prosecutors file a petition, or charge, the youth. To determine if you are indigent, the judge will turn to criteria established by the juvenile board of the county in which the juvenile court is located.

In Tarrant County, for example, a youth is considered indigent if:

  • The income of the person responsible for the juvenile is less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines;
  • The liabilities of the responsible person for the juvenile are more than his or her assets;
  • The responsible person is unable to afford a juvenile attorney qualified to represent the youth for the office which is charged;

To determine whether the juvenile is indigent, the juvenile court judge may question the parents regarding their ability to afford an attorney or rely on statements made to a probation or intake officer regarding their financial situation. In some cases, the judge will require the parents to reimburse the county for certain legal expenses.

Can I select the court-appointed juvenile attorney?

No. If the court is appointing a lawyer for your child, you cannot choose. The judge will select an attorney from a list of qualified attorneys who are eligible for appointment to represent children in juvenile proceedings.

What if I don’t like my child’s court-appointed attorney?

If you don’t like the juvenile attorney appointed to represent your child, you can hire a different juvenile attorney of your choice to replace the court-appointed juvenile attorney. You can also request that the court appoint a different juvenile attorney, but be prepared to explain to the juvenile judge why you are requesting a new juvenile attorney.

The juvenile court judge may or may not appoint a new juvenile attorney, depending on your reasons for requesting a different juvenile attorney and whether there is good cause to do so.

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Why is it important to have an experienced juvenile attorney?

Juvenile law is a very specialized area that combines civil and criminal rules and procedures. That’s why it’s extremely important to hire an experienced lawyer who practices in juvenile court every day and understands the juvenile system.

At Varghese Summersett, we are fortunate to have attorney Lisa Herrick on our team. Lisa is Board Certified in Juvenile Law, which means she is an expert in juvenile law. In fact, she is one of only three attorneys in Tarrant County who hold this designation.

Lisa has handled hundreds of juvenile cases and is well-versed in all aspects of juvenile law, from intake through adjudication. She knows the juvenile judges, prosecutors, and probation officers in Tarrant County and is respected by all for her knowledge and expertise.

When it comes to your child’s future, you can’t afford to take chances. If your child has been accused of an offense in Tarrant County or the surrounding area, call Lisa at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation.

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