Frequently Asked Questions for a Juvenile Attorney:
1. I was Charged With a Crime as a Juvenile, What is Going to Happen?
Sally was charged with graffiti. She was caught with fresh paint on her fingers right outside her San Antonio, Texas School. She was arrested by the police, and after she was told her right to remain silent, and was told her right to have an attorney present, she confessed to being the one that did the Graffiti. What is going to happen to Sally now? This is one of many possibilities: Sally is sentenced to stay in the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center, until her first court date which is in 10 days. She will be in the center during the day and night, and will not leave, just like real jail. She will attend court in her jail suit on the 10th day. Her parents will be told what the court date is and will have spoken with the probation officer that is investigating the case. When she arrives at court, her juvenile attorney will greet her, and will talk to her about her case. The juvenile attorney will have access to the police report that was written against her, and the lawyer will go over various parts of the file with the juvenile defendant. If it is obvious that the Juvenile committed the crime and the juvenile wants to take probation, then the attorneys will set up all the paperwork to go before the judge that day. If all goes well, the Juvenile will be released to her parents and will start her criminal punishment.
2. Should I get a Juvenile Attorney, or Will a Regular Criminal Defense Attorney Be Just as Good?
Answer: If you or your child has been charged with any type of juvenile crime, and the child has been served and given notice to appear at the juvenile justice center, then definitely, our Firm’s position is that the child will be best served to have a juvenile Attorney rather than a criminal defense attorney that does not usually do juvenile work. The reason for this position is simple; The juvenile justice system is substantially different than the adult justice system. The juvenile attorney will have familiarity with many aspect of a case that a regular criminal defense attorney will not have. Juvenile Defendants (formally called respondents) will want to have an Attorney with as much experience in the particular type of case as possible.
3. What do Juvenile Attorneys Know that Regular Criminal Defense Attorneys do not know?
a. When Child is Taken into custody, the child’s parents and guardians shall be promptly informed (in adult criminal court, no one is informed about an arrest, except for the person being arrested)
b. A child/ Juvenile Respondent has more protections when it comes to confessing crime than an adult has. We have in Texas, what is called the reasonable juvenile standard. If a reasonable child of his/her given age and maturity would not have felt free to leave when the officer was questioning him, than anything the child said should not be admitted as evidence against the child. In addition, a magistrate will go to extensive lengths to assure that a child understands the right to remain silent and have an attorney present before any statement may be admitted against a child. There are many other juvenile laws that apply only to children. Accused Criminals that are minors should make sure the lawyer they hire is familiar with the vast differences in the law.
c. Beyond answers a and b, a juvenile attorney has (or should have ) a great deal of knowledge about what types of punishments a child can expect to have when facing a certain crime. This enables a juvenile attorney to negotiate plea bargain agreements well because the lawyer can tell the difference between a good plea bargain offer and one that exceeds the average punishment that a child would usually take for the given offense.
4. How is Adult Criminal Court Different than Juvenile Court?
The District Courts in Texas that handle juvenile justice run much differently than adult court. Because child based crime is the subject matter in these juvenile district courts, they are set up to enable clear communication between the lawyers, the child, the parents and the probation officers. All parties work very hard to make sure that the child is given the opportunity to understand the law that is now affecting them profoundly. In adult court, there is far less effort that goes into assuring the adult understands the entire process. Of course, adults have the right to understand the charges against them, but the system for children takes into account that a juvenile child will need more time and effort on average to understand the process. Part of the due process guaranteed to us innately includes the accused getting the opportunity to understand what is happening.
So, the courts are different in that juvenile court is slower moving, the punishments are generally less severe and the fines are much lower.
In Bexar County, Texas an adult convicted of possession of marijuana less than 1 gram, can generally plan on doing 6 months of deferred adjudication probation, with a $250 dollar fine + $450 in court costs, + $30.00 per month in supervisory fees and 24 hours of community service. A child with the same possession of marijuana charge will face 6 months of probation, and a $100.00 fine (no attorneys fees and minimum court costs), along with family counseling, substance abuse counseling and some community service. (The fines are lower than adult court punishment fines.) The adult is not given counseling, because the focus is not as much on fixing the adult’s marijuana use as it is collecting money and punishing the adult generally. Whereas, a juvenile receives a lot of attention to try to rehabilitate him or her. The system is more sensitive to the young nature of the child.
Because the child court is sensitive to the age of the child and the fact that this process is potentially traumatizing and embarrassing, the court is run much more formally than the adult criminal county courts in texas.
5. Can a Juvenile Defendant / Child be Searched at School?
A Juvenile Attorney will usually tell her clients that yes, a child can be searched at school and does not have the same expectation of privacy as an adult. Currently, there is a two part test in determining the reasonableness in the search of a student: 1. The search must be based on reasonable suspicion that there is evidence to be found against the student, and the search must only be limited to an area that belongs to the student which could reasonably turn up evidence against the student. Similarly a student can be asked to take a urinalysis test, but only if there is reasonable cause to request the test. Mandatory drug testing of all juveniles is not permitted at a school. However, all athletes at a school can be required to take a urinalysis without any violations to the constitution according to the most up to date cases on point.
6. Miscellaneous Laws that The Juvenile Attorney Will Know
Here is a quick list of laws that Juvenile Attorneys know which regular criminal defense Attorneys may not know:
1. A person 14 or younger cannot be charged with prostitution;
2. A child in the United States cannot be sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole (because this is considered cruel and unusual punishment). The only exception to this rule is that a child who has committed a capital murder crime before september 1, 2009 can be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
3. Parents and guardians of Juveniles CANNOT be required to take drug tests for a juvenile court as a condition of the CHILD being placed on probation in the parent’s care.
If you need a Juvenile Attorney, Call us! (210) 271-1800. We take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will take care excellent care of the juvenile defendant.