Juvenile Offenses

Are juvenile and adult crimes the same?

No. The purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate, not to punish. Therefore, they are very different than adult crimes. Fortunately the law provides multiple opportunities for a juvenile to avoid the long-term effects of a criminal record.

What is the age of a juvenile offender?

A child can be charged as early as 10 years old and as late as 16 years old. No child younger than 10 years old can be charged with any crime in Texas. Once a child reaches 17 years of age, the Criminal Justice System treats them as an adult for all purposes.

What happens when the police pick up a juvenile for a criminal offense?

Once a juvenile is detained and taken to the local juvenile detention center, the juvenile probation officers will either release them to their parents, or hold them. If the juvenile is held, the law requires a detention hearing within 48 hours. Here the judge must decide whether or not the state can provide legal reasons to continue detaining the juvenile. If the judge decides to keep the juvenile, the juvenile is entitled to a new detention hearing on a regular basis.

This hearing is the only way to obtain a juvenile's release from the detention facility because the bail process for adults does not apply to the Juvenile Justice System.

What is a Detention Hearing?

It is a hearing in front of the juvenile judge where the prosecution must prove at least one of the five grounds upon which the judge may continue to detain the juvenile. This hearing is not the time to contest whether or not the juvenile committed the crime or conduct of which he/she is accused. Rather this is just a time to contest the State's ability to legally continue holding the juvenile in detention.

What are the 5 grounds that will keep a juvenile in detention?

The five grounds upon which the Juvenile Judge can order a juvenile held in detention are:

  1. The juvenile is likely to flee or be removed from the jurisdiction of the court;
  2. The juvenile's parent, guardian, or legal custodian is not providing suitable care, protection, or supervision;
  3. The juvenile does not have a guardian, parent, custodian, or other person able to return him to court when required;
  4. The juvenile would be dangerous to himself or may threaten public safety if released; or
  5. The juvenile has been previously found to be a delinquent child or has previously been convicted of a jailable offense AND is likely to commit an offense if released.
What are the possible outcomes for a juvenile case?

Here are some of the most common outcomes for a juvenile disposition.

1. Administrative Resolution
The Juvenile Probation department recommends steps the juvenile and/or the family of the juvenile must take, and then the case is closed. The State never files a petition, or formal charging instrument, alleging criminal charges, and the juvenile never appears in juvenile court.

2. Supervisory Caution
This outcome may occur either administratively at the juvenile probation office level or after the juvenile is detained and appears before the judge. No matter where this happens, it is a stiff warning and essentially a dismissal.

3. Deferred Prosecution
Although similar to supervisory caution, it comes with many more conditions. Prosecution is delayed for a period of time and the juvenile is given things to do. If the juvenile successfully completes all of the assigned conditions in the time given, the case is dismissed. If not, the prosecutor can continue to more severe punishment.

4. Probation
If the court finds that the juvenile committed a crime or otherwise engaged in delinquent conduct the court can place the juvenile on a period of probation. Probation can include continued supervision in the home or may include placement outside of the home. A major difference between adult and juvenile probation is that the unlike the defined period of years for an adult probation, a juvenile court may supervise a juvenile until the juvenile reaches a particular age (usually 18 or 21, depending on the circumstances)

5. Texas Youth Commission
If the Juvenile Court finds that the juvenile committed a felony, the juvenile could be sentenced be incarcerated in TYC up to his/her 18th birthday.

6. Determinate Sentencing
If the State meets all the requirements, they can impose a determinate sentence on the juvenile, allowing them to continue prosecuting the case after the juvenile become an adult. Once the juvenile turns 18, the case is transferred to the adult probation, or prison in TDCJ.

7. Certification
Certification is reserved for the most serious of juvenile offenses. If the State meets the procedural requirements and wins a hearing seeking certification in front of the Juvenile Judge, the State can prosecute the juvenile as an adult. If that happens, the case is transferred to the appropriate court for an adult accused of the same crime and the juvenile then will face the same prosecutors, same judge, same range of punishment, and otherwise be treated as an adult for all purposes by the criminal justice system.

As you can see, having an experienced legal team on your side is of the utmost importance when dealing with a juvenile offense. Call Pullan & Young today to schedule a free consultation. 936-647-1540.