Texas Juvenile Defense Attorney
A juvenile crime is committed by a child or a minor under the age of 17 but older than the age of 10 in the state of Texas. Depending on the charges and the crime, a child younger than 18 could be tried as an adult, although in most cases, they will be charged as a juvenile when under 17. The charges could be a felony or misdemeanor but make no mistake—even if your child is charged as a juvenile, the penalties can be harsh for certain crimes.
The juvenile criminal justice system and the adult criminal justice system are governed by different laws and rules, which is the reason a juvenile crime attorney will always try to ensure the child is tried under juvenile rules rather than adult rules. When a criminal offense is particularly shocking or outrageous, or if the juvenile is a repeat offender, the child may be tried as an adult in the state of Texas.
Title 3 of the Texas Family Code was enacted in 1973. At that time, the goals of the Code were to provide for the care and development of a child accused of committing a criminal offense, as well as remove the mark a criminal record could leave by expunging or sealing juvenile records. Separation of a child from his or her family was only considered in rare conditions. Through the years, Title 3 changed and was formally revised in 1995. In 2011, the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission were abolished and replaced by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department statistics indicate that male juveniles make up approximately 92 percent of all juvenile offenders while females make up 7-8 percent. About 43 percent of the juvenile offenders in Texas are black, 39 percent are Hispanic, and 17 percent are white. About 65 percent of these juvenile offenders are 16-17 years old, and 96-97 percent are U.S. citizens. Harris County has the highest number of juvenile offenders at nearly 25 percent. Aggravated robbery is the top criminal offense committed by juveniles in Texas, followed by burglary, aggravated assault, assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and indecency with a child.
What Does a Juvenile Defense Attorney Do?
If law enforcement is contacted when a juvenile commits a crime in Texas, the law enforcement officer may issue a warning to the juvenile, sending the warning notice to the child’s parents but not taking the child into custody. Like the adult criminal justice system, a juvenile may not be detained without probable cause. If a juvenile is taken into custody, they may be held at a juvenile processing office (a room at the local police department) for up to six hours.
If the juvenile is not released to their parents or a guardian within those six hours, he or she will be transported to a juvenile detention facility. Parents are supposed to be allowed to communicate privately in person with their children. However, in rare cases, the parents must undergo screening before communicating with their child. If your child has been taken into custody, it is essential that you contact a juvenile defense attorney from Whalen Law Office immediately. Your child’s future is too important to hope for the best simply.
A juvenile defense attorney represents juveniles in criminal matters and has a special knowledge of the laws as they apply to juveniles. The juvenile attorney must represent the child’s best interests during a criminal proceeding. Juvenile defense attorneys have worked extensively in the Texas juvenile legal system, developing contacts and relationships with judges, administrators, and law enforcement. This gives them a definite edge when working on behalf of your child.
A juvenile defendant faces a two-part hearing at trial. The first part is known as the adjudication phase, where a jury determines whether it is likely that the charges against the juvenile are true or not true (as opposed to guilty or not guilty). The verdict of the jury must be unanimous. To avoid the adjudication phase, a stipulation is entered (the equivalent of a guilty plea), and the trial immediately progresses to disposition.
Your juvenile defense attorney will attend any hearings set for your child and negotiate for lesser charges or more lenient sentencing on your child’s behalf. Having an experienced juvenile attorney working zealously for your child ensures that your child’s rights will not be violated and that all facts related to the case will be brought to light.
If the case goes to court, the attorney will argue on behalf of your child, working toward the best outcome possible. Never assume that because your child is under the age of 17, you do not need an experienced juvenile defense attorney. The penalties can potentially be severe, and you want to avoid these harsh penalties for your child when possible.
Why Should You Choose a Juvenile Defense Attorney from Whalen Law Office?
Your choice of juvenile attorney can significantly impact your child’s future; therefore, careful consideration is necessary. You want a juvenile defense attorney who understands the complexities associated with juvenile law. At Whalen Law Office, we have deep knowledge and understanding of juvenile law. We have studied the differences between juvenile law and other areas of law and have used our experience and skills to effectively represent juveniles for offenses ranging from truancy to sexual assault, drug and alcohol crimes, and homicide.
We zealously represent our juvenile clients, taking the entire process very seriously. We will counsel the juvenile and his or her parents through potential charges to representation in detention hearings and trials, resolution and disposition of the case, and sealing a juvenile record. We understand how frightening it is when the state wants to charge your child as an adult, and we will fight against this in the strongest way possible. The Whalen Law Office provides discreet, non-judgmental, professional services to help get the child, parents, and family through any situation.
What Are the Most Common Juvenile Crimes?
The most common types of criminal offenses committed by juveniles in the state of Texas include the following:
- Violations of curfew
- Truancy from school
- Criminal mischief
- Vandalism and graffiti
- Disturbing the peace
- Using false IDs
- Simple assault
- Criminal trespass
- Theft of a vehicle (unauthorized use)
- Shoplifting and other types of theft
- Possession of stolen property
- Possession of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, or other illegal drugs
- Resisting an officer
Of course, juveniles also sometimes commit (or are accused of committing) a more serious criminal offense, including sexual assault, attempted murder, and murder.
What Are the Penalties for Juvenile Crimes?
Most juvenile crimes in the state of Texas are handled via a delinquency petition. At the adjudication hearing, a judge will determine whether your child committed the criminal offense they are being accused of. If the judge determines your child did commit the offense, he or she could be sentenced to probation, Texas Youth Commission commitment, suspension of their driver’s license, or community service and restitution.
The prosecutor may choose to invoke determinate sentencing for your child, which is generally reserved for serious offenses and results in time in the custody of the Texas Youth Commission if your child is found guilty of the offense. Penalties for determinate sentencing can be harsh. For a first-degree felony conviction or an aggravated controlled substances felony, your child could spend up to 40 years in custody. A second-degree felony conviction could result in up to 20 years in custody, and a third-degree felony conviction could result in up to 10 years in custody.
This sentence will be served under the Texas Youth Commission until the child reaches adulthood, when they could be transferred to a Texas state prison for the remainder of their sentence. While this all sounds terrifying to a parent, consider this: An adult found guilty of aggravated robbery could spend from 5 years to 99 years in prison. A juvenile found guilty of the same crime would likely be sentenced to commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until his or her 19th birthday. If your child has been in the juvenile justice system multiple times and is older than 14, or if the offense is particularly violent, the child could be charged as an adult.
Which Juvenile Crimes Can Result in the Juvenile Being Tried as an Adult?
Under certain circumstances, a juvenile defendant could be certified as an adult and will stand trial as an adult defendant, subject to adult punishments and penalties. This may happen when the juvenile is judged to be a chronic offender or has committed a violent, serious crime—usually a first-degree felony or an aggravated controlled substance felony. A juvenile cannot face capital punishment for a crime committed prior to his or her 17th birthday. Your juvenile crime attorney will work hard to keep your child from standing trial as an adult, as this can potentially affect the remainder of the child’s life.
How Can an Unwarranted Search Impact Juvenile Criminal Charges?
Police must have consent or probable cause to conduct a search of a juvenile in the same way they must for an adult. Without parental consent or probable cause, the police need a search warrant. If the police conducted a warrantless search on your child. In that case, your juvenile crime attorney may be able to show there was no probable cause and no consent. Anything garnered through the search would be inadmissible evidence.
How a Juvenile Defense Attorney from Whalen Law Office Can Help
When you choose a juvenile attorney from Whalen Law Office, we vow to help your family navigate through the Texas juvenile justice system with the best outcome possible. We have crucial relationships with juvenile judges, prosecutors, and probation officers. Combined with our deep knowledge of Texas juvenile law, you can rest easy knowing your child’s future is in the most experienced hands.
We will always push for treatment rather than punishment in juvenile cases, making sure you and your child understand the juvenile justice system process each step of the way. Our goal is to take a holistic approach to your child’s juvenile crime issue, making sure there is mental, physical, and emotional stability throughout this difficult time. Contact Whalen Law Office today for experienced juvenile defense.