A knock at your door wakes you. You’re met by a police officer who explains your child has been arrested. You may be experiencing a variety of emotions from fear to anger to denial. But you must act rationally and quickly to best protect your child. That’s why you need a juvenile criminal defense lawyer who also served as a former municipal police officer–who knows both sides of the law.
Protecting your child’s future.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges but has not reached the age of maturity (typically 18 years old) you may face time in the juvenile justice system. But what is the process of getting there? And once charged, what are your rights?
The juvenile justice system has similar statues from state to state with some variation.
- Typically, minors under 7 years old can’t be tried, even in juvenile court. However, parents may be liable.
- Children between the ages of 7 and 15 however, can be.
- Children as young as 12 and as old as 18 are typically taken to juvenile court. But for serious cases, these individuals may be charged as adults.
When detaining a suspect who is a minor, a police officer can elect to:
- Detain and warn the minor about the consequences of committing the crime before his or her release.
- Detain and hold the minor until the parents or guardians arrive.
- Take the minor into custody and refer him or her to a juvenile court officer.
If referred to juvenile court, the prosecutor will make a decision on whether to dismiss or handle the matter “off the record,” or file formal charges for the crime.
“Off The Record”
If formal charges are not put through, the minor may still appear before an officer or judge to be lectured or press informal charges to the offender.
How Charges are Filed
If charges are filed against your child, there are certain steps you can expect to see.
- Arraignment: The minor will be formally charged.
- Hearing: The court will take jurisdiction over the case or the judge will decide to try to minor as an adult.
- Entering a plea: The minor enters a plea that may proceed to trial.
- Trial: The juvenile court is substantially different than adult court as a judge will likely hear the evidence and decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
- Sentencing: If the charges are true, the judge will sentence the minor accordingly.
- Post-sentencing: The minor may be required to appear before the court to track progress.
Common Juvenile Offenses – Contact a Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer
Most juvenile misdemeanor crimes include:
- Vandalism and graffiti
- Shoplifting and petty theft
- Simple assault
- Underage drinking violations
If you or your child is facing charges in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre or surrounding areas in northeast Pennsylvania, work with a law firm that has an experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney on your side. To learn how our experience and dedication to presenting a strong defense can be your advantage in protecting your future, call (570) 207-4000 or contact us online.