Juvenile Defense for Minors in Fort Worth
In Texas, when minors are accused of committing crimes, they are handled through the juvenile justice system, rather than adult criminal court. The juvenile system – which is specifically for youth under age 17 – is very different than the adult system.
For starters, it is designed to be rehabilitative, rather than punitive. The focus is supposed to be on helping youths learn from their mistakes and become productive members of society, rather than punishing and incarcerating them. The terminology, the process, and penalty ranges are all very different in juvenile court than in adult court.
That’s why it is so important to hire an experienced juvenile defense lawyer if your child has been accused of a crime. Juvenile cases require very specific knowledge and understanding of the law in order to achieve the best possible outcome and protect your child’s future.
Hire a Board Certified Juvenile Specialist
Board Certified Juvenile Defense – Lisa Herrick of Varghese Summersett PLLC
There are only 65 Board Certified Juvenile Specialists in the state of Texas, and Lisa Herrick, of Varghese Summersett PLLC, is one of them. She is an expert in every type of juvenile case and has made her mark handling the most serious cases, including sexual assaults, robberies, murders, and capital murders.
Before becoming a defense attorney, Lisa served as a prosecutor for more than eight years. For many of those years, she was assigned to the juvenile division, where she developed a passion for juvenile law.
She now uses her vast experience as a juvenile prosecutor on the other side of the docket as a skilled and highly specialized juvenile defense attorney. Lisa is committed to giving juveniles a second chance and works to ensure that whatever brought them into the juvenile justice system does not define them – or result in a record that could follow them into adulthood.
Lisa is a frequent speaker on a variety of juvenile justice issues. She regularly handles the following types of juveniles cases:
- Drug Offenses
- Marijuana Offenses
- Theft Crimes (including shoplifting and auto theft)
- Violent Crimes (including sexual assault, assault, robbery, murder, and capital murder)
What age is considered a “juvenile” in Texas?
In Texas, a juvenile is defined as a person at least 10 years old but not yet 17. And while the juvenile justice system assigns criminal responsibility to youths between those ages, it doesn’t not mean a youth who has already turned 17 cannot be brought in the juvenile system.
The age of the person at the time of the alleged offense dictates where the case is handled, and there are many factors that affect whether a case stays in the juvenile system or gets moved to the adult system after a child turns 17.
How are juvenile cases different than adult cases?
First and foremost, the goal of the adult criminal justice system is primarily to punish, while the juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitation. Other differences include:
- Not every juvenile case begins with an arrest. Many juvenile cases begin with a referral, where several things can happen: The juvenile can be handled informally and returned home; the juvenile can be charged with delinquent conduct and released; the juvenile can be charged with delinquent conduct and detained.
- Unlike adult cases, bonds for juvenile cases are not driven by money. You do not post a bond in the juvenile system. A judge decides whether or not to release a juvenile based on his or her ability to follow the law and return to court.
- The possible punishment for a juvenile case can be very different than an adult case. For example, the death penalty is not a possible sentence in a juvenile case.
These are just a few examples of how juvenile cases are different than adult cases, but it highlights how important it is to have a seasoned juvenile defense attorney in your corner if you child is facing juvenile charges.
What are some common juvenile offenses?
Juveniles can be charged with the same offense as an adult. However, there are certain crimes that we see regularly in the juvenile justice system, including:
- Sexual Offenses
- Drug Offenses, including controlled substances, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia
- Probation Violations
- Criminal Mischief
When is a juvenile detained?
Unlike adult cases, not every juvenile case involves an arrest. However, when a juvenile is arrested, there is a possibility that the child will be detained. That is, the youth will be held in a juvenile facility, rather than released to a parent or guardian, while their cases is pending. Circumstances in which a child may be detained include:
- the child is likely to leave/be taken from the court’s jurisdiction;
- the child has no parent or guardian, or does not receive adequate supervision or care from their parent/guardian;
- the child is a danger to himself or others; or
- the child has a previous adjudication.
If your child is facing a juvenile charge, it is undoubtedly a scary and tumultuous time. While parents have a vested interest in making sure their children understand that there are consequences to poor decisions, every parent also wants the best for their child. A skilled juvenile defense attorney can help you navigate the juvenile justice system and help get your child back on track.
Can my child avoid arrest and prosecution through an alternative program?
Depending on the nature of the alleged offense, the child’s history, and the county of prosecution, there might be options that affect whether or not the child is arrested and formally prosecuted.
For example, under Family Code Section 52.031, certain misdemeanor offenses are eligible for the First Offender Program. This program allows first offenders to avoid entering the juvenile justice system by performing community service, attending training cases, or undergoing treatment or counseling. If the juvenile fails to complete the program, their case would then be referred to juvenile court for prosecution.
Similarly, juveniles may also be able to avoid the juvenile justice system through something called “deferred prosecution” which is codified in Section 53.03 of the Family Code. Deferred prosecution basically dismisses the case in exchange for successfully serving probation.
Again, the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate juveniles and prevent them from becoming criminal offenders as adults.
Juvenile accused of a crime? Contact Lisa Herrick.
When it comes to the juvenile justice system, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach or solution. It is a highly specialized area of law that requires a dedicated and experienced juvenile defense lawyer.
Lisa Herrick is one of only three attorneys in Tarrant County who are Board Certified in Juvenile Law. She has successfully represented countless minors who have been accused of crimes. She understands the unique challenges that come with these cases and will work tirelessly to ensure that your child’s rights – and future – is protected every step of the way. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation today.