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In Texas, offenses committed by an individual who is 10 years or older but under 17 are handled through the juvenile justice system.
In some cases, a person who is at least 17, but not yet 18, can be prosecuted through the juvenile justice system if they are alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating the need for supervision as a result of acts that occurred before they turned 17.
Our firm handles every level of juvenile defense. In fact, our Fort Worth juvenile defense lawyer Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile Law. This means she’s been qualified as an expert in this area of law.
More than just being an expert, though, Lisa is passionate about defending juveniles because she knows the work she does can shape lives and get young lives back on track. One of the reasons she fights so hard is to avoid not just time in custody but also any blemish on a person’s record – particularly those juvenile adjudications that could leave a permanent blemish that extends into adulthood. That’s no way to enter adulthood. When you hire Varghese Summersett, you are hiring
A juvenile attorney is an attorney who represents the child accused of delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision. A juvenile attorney who is Board Certified is one of the very few attorneys who have proven themselves to be a specialist in the area of juvenile law. There are less than 65 Board Certified juvenile specialists in Texas.
The juvenile system handles two types of conduct:
Delinquent Conduct is conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a criminal law of Texas or of the United States and is punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail. Family Code Section 51.03(a)(1). This includes Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, and felony offenses.
Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS) is conduct, other than a traffic offense, involving fine-only offenses such as truancy, running away, inhalant abuse, expulsion from school or violation of a “child at-risk” court order, prostitution and sexting. Family Code Section 51.03(b).
As a criminal defense attorney can explain, the juvenile justice system does not handle these offenses as “crimes” in the general sense. Even though most juvenile cases are based upon a juvenile’s commission of a criminal offense, the offenses are handled under provisions in the Family Code, not in the Code of Criminal Procedure. As a result, the proceedings and the applicable laws differ from the adult system.
A juvenile defense attorney is an attorney who handles juvenile cases (hopefully regularly) but has not built the expertise, received the recommendations from peers and judges, or sat for and passed the rigorous exam to become a specialist in the area. If your child is charged with a juvenile offense, you cannot do better than hiring a juvenile defense specialist like Lisa Herrick at our firm to represent your child. Although there are only approximately 65 Board Certified juvenile specialists, one of them works at the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Don’t give prosecutors the chance to have an edge.
A juvenile may be taken into custody by a law enforcement agency if the officer has probable cause to believe that an offense has occurred.
Probable cause exists when law enforcement has reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to cause a reasonable person to believe that a particular suspect has committed or is committing a crime.
Note, that this is not an arrest. Based on Family Code 52.01(b), even if a juvenile is taken into custody, they can truthfully state that they have never been arrested.
Once a juvenile is taken into custody, the law enforcement officer will take the juvenile to a juvenile processing office.
The juvenile may be held there for up to six hours. Family Code Section 52.025(d)
The juvenile may be held there for:
In Tarrant County, most juveniles are taken to the Juvenile Justice Center or “Kimbo,” which is located at 2701 Kimbo Road in Fort Worth. A parent has the right to communicate in person privately with the child for a reasonable period of time.
If the juvenile is not released from detention, or if release is not an option because a firearm was used or exhibited during the commission of the alleged offense, the court must have a detention hearing “promptly” but no less than the second working day after the child is taken into custody.
The juvenile must be represented by an attorney at the detention hearing. If the juvenile is taken into custody on a Friday or Saturday, the detention hearing must be on the first working day after the child is taken into custody. Family Code Section 54.01.
At the detention hearing, the judge will determine whether the juvenile should be released or not. There is no way to obtain a bond to secure a juvenile’s release from custody. If the judge determines the juvenile will not be released, another detention hearing must occur within 10 days. While many criminal law provisions do not apply to juvenile cases, the juvenile does have a right to remain silent. During the detention hearing, the judge will be most interested in the following factors in determining if the juvenile should be released:
A prosecutor may file a petition in juvenile court formally charging the juvenile. This is generally a charge alleging the juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct, but it could also be an allegation that the juvenile engaged in conduct indicating a need for supervision.
A summons is how the family is given notice that charges have been filed and the case is to proceed in juvenile court. The summons informs the court when the child must appear in court.
The prosecuting attorney will determine whether to file a petition for a determinate sentence or an indeterminate sentence. If the prosecuting attorney is seeking a determinate sentence, the prosecutor must obtain grand jury approval for the determinate sentence.
Family Code Section 53.045(a) provides a list of criminal offenses, including habitual felony conduct, for which a juvenile may receive a determinate sentence.
These offenses include
A juvenile has a right to a jury at the adjudication hearing, and must affirmatively waive that right in order to proceed before the judge. The judge explains the allegations to the juvenile, the consequences of the proceedings, and the juvenile’s legal rights. The juvenile will enter a plea of “true” or “not true” to the allegations. The Rules of Evidence do apply to this proceeding.
The State’s burden is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile has engaged in the alleged conduct. If the State cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the court must dismiss the charge.
An order for adjudication in the juvenile system is generally not considered a conviction. However, an adjudication for a felony offense that took place after January 1, 1996, that resulted in commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), which used to be called the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), is a felony conviction for the purposes of enhancement in an adult court. TJJD is basically prison for juveniles.
The disposition or sentencing hearing is separate from the adjudication hearing.
The sentence may be determinate or indeterminate.
There is no right to have a jury for indeterminate sentence cases.
The juvenile does have a right to a jury for determinate sentencing cases.
The juvenile court may relinquish its original jurisdiction over a juvenile, and have the juvenile tried as an adult in the criminal justice system if:
It is unusual for juvenile courts to certify juveniles as adults. The court will consider:
Whether the offense was against a person or property;
Board Certification is the highest designation an attorney can reach. Less than 3 percent of attorneys become Board Certified. There are only 65 Board Certified Juvenile Specialists in the entire state of Texas!
We are fortunate to have one of them at our firm. Learn more about Board Certified Juvenile Lawyer Lisa Herrick.
Lisa started her career as a prosecutor in Tarrant County where she honed her skills in trial and established herself as the go-to attorney of her age in juvenile law.
Parents have rights as well as responsibilities in the juvenile justice system.
Pursuant to Family Code Section 61.102(a) parent is entitled to the following information “as soon as practicable” after a child is referred to the juvenile justice system:
Juvenile courts may order parents to pay various fees, court costs, and restitution.
If your child has been charged as a juvenile, it is important to seek counsel from an experienced juvenile defense attorney who has experience handling juvenile proceedings. Our attorneys handle only handle a select number of juvenile cases each year. For instance, we have handled cases involving juveniles charged with murder and sexual assault. If you are interested in finding out if our attorneys would handle your case, give us a call at (817) 203-2220.