Your kids are going to make mistakes as they grow up and learn about themselves and the world. When those mistakes are illegal, though, they can affect the rest of your child’s life.
We have two justice systems here in Texas. The adult justice system focuses on punishing individuals for the crimes they commit and protecting the public. The juvenile justice system (while it does consider punishment and public safety as well), tends to focus more on treating and rehabilitating children who have committed unlawful acts.
If your minor child is charged with a crime in our state, read on to find out what to expect from the Texas juvenile justice system and the criminal process.
What Is a Juvenile Crime Under Texas Law?
- A juvenile is defined as a person who is at least 10 years old, but hasn’t turned 17 yet.
- Delinquent conduct is defined as behavior that could result in imprisonment if an adult had committed it.
- Conduct in need of supervision, referred to as a CINS violation, is defined as behavior that could result in only a fine, if an adult had committed it, or conduct that is not a violation if committed by an adult, such as truancy.
So if a juvenile engages in delinquent conduct or conduct in need of supervision, the juvenile can be referred to juvenile court.
Common crimes committed by juveniles include but are not limited to drug possession, underage drinking, DUI, shoplifting, vandalism, assault, battery, rape, and gang crimes.
What Happens in Juvenile Court?
If a child is sent to juvenile court, several things can happen at this point:
- The child can be dealt with informally and be allowed to return home.
- The child can be charged with delinquent conduct and given the same legal rights as an adult charged with a crime.
- The child can be certified as an adult, which means that he or she will be taken out of the juvenile justice system and charged as an adult.
If a child is charged with delinquent conduct, a judge will then decide what happens next. The charges could possibly be dropped or dismissed, or a judge could choose to adjudicate, which is like a conviction in the adult justice system, finding that the juvenile did engage in delinquent or CINS conduct.
Upon adjudication, different sentencing options are available depending on the nature of the crime: the child could be placed on probation; for certain felony offenses, the child could be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) with an indeterminate sentence; or, for certain offenses, the child could be sent to TJJD with a determinate sentence.
If a child is put on probation, they must be released from probation by the time he or she turns 18.
If a child is sent to TJJD with an indeterminate sentence, the child must be released by the time he or she turns 19.
If a child is sent to TJJD with a determinate sentence, the child could possibly be transferred to an adult prison depending on his or her progress and behavior in TJJD.
Getting charged with a juvenile crime can impact your child for the rest of his or her life. That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced Texas juvenile crimes attorney with proven results as soon as possible so you’ll know the best way to proceed and the best way to fight for your child’s rights.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.