Juvenile Defense Lawyers in Fort Worth
Being charged with a crime is a serious situation for anyone to be in, with consequences that could last a lifetime if a good lawyer isn’t at your side. That risk is even higher with minors, defined in Texas criminal law as someone at least 10 years old, and no older than 17. While juvenile crimes will carry lesser sentences than those of an adult, the long-term impact on a young person’s life can be extremely serious.
A Fort Worth juvenile crime lawyer at the side of you or your child could make all the difference for the future. Call the Law Office Of Mark M. Childress at (817) 497-8148 or contact us online today.
Types of Juvenile Crimes
Juvenile crime covers a lot of ground in Texas law. It can include kids who are chronically absent from school. Or, if they are at school, perhaps there’s other violations. That includes loitering and mischief, which can happen in most any public area. Littering is a common juvenile crime.
It’s not uncommon for kids to seek out fake identification cards to buy alcohol or cigarettes. They may find themselves in trouble for disturbing the peace or for disorderly conduct. Using a car unauthorized and unlicensed can land a minor in legal hot water.
You might read these crimes and others like them and think that the minor in question certainly isn’t the first to try a lot of things. That’s true–but they are still crimes. The young person that gets caught faces serious consequences and needs help.
Furthermore, juvenile crime isn’t confined to areas that a lot of adults might identify with. Kids between the age of 10 and 17 have gotten into trouble for burglary–including with a weapon. They have been caught attempting fraud, assault and battery and even murder. Suffice it to say, a lawyer needs to be summoned in these cases.
All juvenile crimes are classified one of two ways. The first ones we listed are considered conduct in need of supervision. These cover all crimes that are fine-only misdemeanor offenses. The second category of more serious crimes are termed delinquent conduct when the charged person is between the ages of 10 and 17. Delinquent conduct is anything that can be punished with jail time.
The Juvenile Criminal Process
Once the minor is arrested they must be delivered quickly to a processing office, where parents or legal guardian are promptly notified. How quickly does this have to happen? The state of Texas defines it as without unnecessary delay. The speed of the process continues with a requirement that the minor face a detention hearing within 48 hours or–if the arrest takes place on Friday or Saturday–on the first business day the court system is open again (Monday, except in three-day weekend situations).
The juvenile courts are obligated to make a reasonable effort to notify the parents or guardian of when the detention hearing will take place. If they cannot be located, the court must appoint an attorney for the minor.
Bail does not exist in juvenile court, but the rules are set to make their release after the hearing a likely possibility. The only ways the minor can be detained until their official court date is if they are considered a flight risk, lack any parents or guardian, or are considered a real danger to themselves or the community. A previous conviction in juvenile court will work against the minor.
A Juvenile Court Trial
A prosecutor will likely present their charges in front of a grand jury. The grand jury is most commonly known for its use in high-profile cases involving adults, with a purpose being to help prosecutors determine if the obtained evidence will sway the actual jury at trial. In a Texas juvenile case, if the prosecutor does not secure approval from the grand jury, the case will not go forward.
Depending on the gravity of the crime, the prosecutor may seek to have the juvenile tried as an adult. For this to happen, the minor must be at least 14 years old. This is a drastic step typically reserved for murder cases or particularly serious drug offenses.
Once criminal charges are formally filed, a court specifically designated to hear juvenile cases is where the trial will take place. It will be the job of the juvenile’s attorney to conduct a truly rigorous defense of their client. This means examining all evidence, including questioning the police on how the evidence was obtained. Police officers are required to have probable cause for conducting any kind of search.
For example, let’s say police found illegal drugs on a minor. That evidence might still be inadmissible–unable to be presented to the jury–if the police did not have probable cause to conduct the search to begin with. A lawyer with experience understands the need to challenge the prosecution’s evidence every step of the way.
At the Law Office Of Mark M. Childress we believe in the justice system. That includes believing in the justice system’s expressed goal of seeing the rehabilitation of youth as a priority over and above jail sentences. If you have a minor that has gotten themselves into trouble and needs legal counsel to help work through it, please call us at (817) 497-8148. You can also reach out online. We’ll set up an initial consultation where you can tell us what happened and will tell you how we can help.
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