What is a juvenile detention hearing in Texas?
When juveniles are taken into custody for allegedly violating the law in Texas, they have certain rights that kick in very quickly. One of them is the right to have a juvenile detention hearing within two business days.
The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the child should be released or remain in the juvenile detention center while their case is pending. In this article, we explain what happens during a juvenile detention hearing and how a judge decides whether a child should be detained or released.
But first, please watch this video by Board Certified Juvenile Attorney Lisa Herrick.
What is juvenile detention?
When juveniles in Texas are accused of committing serious crimes – legally referred to as “engaging in delinquent conduct” or “conduct indicating a need for supervision” – they are not hauled off to adult jail. Instead, the law requires that they be taken to a juvenile detention center specifically designed to house and safely secure and supervise youth ages 10 through 16.
Juvenile detention facilities are 24-hour, lock-down facilities intended for short-term confinement. Juveniles may be held until their case is adjudicated or released to a parent, guardian, or another suitable adult under certain conditions. The decision to keep or release a child is up to the judge after a juvenile detention hearing. There is no such thing as bail in the juvenile system.
In Tarrant County, juveniles are held at the Tarrant County Juvenile Detention Center, formally known as the Lynn W. Ross Juvenile Detention. In Dallas County, juveniles are held at the Dr. Jerome McNeil Jr. Detention Center.
When will a child have a juvenile detention hearing?
According to the Texas Family Code Section 54.01(a), a juvenile detention hearing must be held “promptly” – within two business days – of a child being taken into custody. If the child is detained on a Friday or Saturday, then the hearing will be held on the first business day after the child is taken into custody.
If a child is ordered detained, the law requires that they have a subsequent detention hearing within 10 days for as long as they are in custody. In other words, 10 days is the maximum time between detention hearings. The juvenile’s attorney can also request additional hearings at any time.
Who is present at a juvenile detention hearing?
The judge, juvenile, prosecutor, child’s attorney, and a probation officer will be present at a juvenile detention hearing. The juvenile’s parent or guardian should also be present. However, if the parent or guardian can’t be located or cannot attend, the court will appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem to act as the legal representative for the child and represent their interests during the juvenile detention hearing.
Will the child have a defense attorney at the initial juvenile detention hearing?
Ideally, yes. Before the initial detention hearing, the court must notify the child and his or her parents of the right to an attorney. If the family doesn’t have enough time or the financial means to hire an attorney on short notice, the court will appoint an attorney before the initial detention hearing. If the child is not represented at the initial detention hearing due to exigent circumstances and is ordered detained, the judge must immediately appoint the juvenile an attorney or order the family to hire one.
What happens at the juvenile detention hearing?
Juvenile detention hearings are informal proceedings. At the start of the juvenile detention hearing, the judge will explain to the juvenile his to her rights. After that, the judge will usually turn his or her attention to the juvenile probation officer, who will summarize the allegation, provide information about the juvenile’s home situation, and whether the juvenile has any prior juvenile history.
Next, the judge will give the juvenile, parents, prosecutor, and anyone involved in the case an opportunity to speak and argue for – or against – the child’s release. The judge may also have questions for the participants. It’s important to note that Under Texas Family Code Section 54.01(g), nothing the juvenile says during the detention hearing can be used at a subsequent hearing. However, the child’s attorney will advise them about what, if anything, they should say during the detention hearing.
The court will also consider any written reports from professionals at this time.
How does a judge decide if the juvenile should remain detained or be released?
As mentioned, the sole purpose of the juvenile detention hearing is to decide whether the child should be released to a parent or guardian or stay in juvenile detention. The legal presumption is that the child should be released. If the judge orders the child detained, they must find one or more of the following grounds:
- The juvenile is likely to abscond or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;
- The juvenile does not anyone who can provide suitable supervision, care, or protection;
- The juvenile does not have anyone who can guarantee his or her return to court when required;
- The juvenile may be a danger to themself or a threat to public safety;
- The juvenile has previously been found to be delinquent or has previously been convicted of an offense punishable by jail or prison and is likely to commit an offense if released;
- The juvenile is alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct and to have used, possessed or exhibited a firearm in the commission of the offense.
How long do juvenile detention hearings take?
Juvenile detention hearings are usually very short, lasting 10 to 20 minutes. Usually, the judge has a number of juvenile detention hearings scheduled and hears them back-to-back.
How common are juvenile detention hearings?
Juvenile hearing are very common, especially in large counties. In Tarrant County, for example, 3218 juvenile detention hearings were held in 2021, according to 2021 Tarrant County Juvenile Services Annual Report.
What happens if my child is released after a juvenile detention hearing?
If your child is fortunate enough to be released, he or she should be able return home that day. However, the judge will order conditions of release, basically rules that the youth must also follow. They can include conditions such as attend school, take drug tests, and refrain from social media, for example.
What happens if my child is not released after a juvenile detention hearing?
If a child is ordered detained, he or she will have another hearing within 10 business days. During this hearing, the judge will hear about the juvenile’s behavior and progress and reevaluate whether releasing the child is in the best interest of the child and the safety of the public. If the child is ordered detained, he or she will continue to have detention hearings every 10 days until the case is resolved – unless the juvenile attorney waives the hearings.
Is Your Child in Custody? Contact a Board Certified Juvenile Attorney Today.
If you’re looking for a juvenile defense attorney in Fort Worth or Dallas, you are at the right place. Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile Law – one of only three attorneys in Tarrant County who holds this distinction. This means she is considered an expert in juvenile law. You will be hard-pressed to find another juvenile lawyer in North Texas with her expertise and legal acumen.
Lisa has successfully handled every type of juvenile case, ranging from theft to capital murder. She has handled countless juvenile detention hearings – first as a prosecutor and now as a highly-skilled juvenile defense lawyer. She has vast knowledge of the juvenile court system, the process, and how to best help and protect your child. Contact Lisa today for a free consultation at 817-203-2220. If you child is in custody, time is of the essence.