Juvenile Crime Law

Juvenile Crime Law is a subcategory of Juvenile Law. Although a type of criminal law, juvenile crime law only deals with under-age individuals, who are treated very differently than adults in criminal law, and usually have their own courts of law.

Minors under the age of 18 years, who commit a crime, or otherwise violate established rules and statutes, are identified as juvenile delinquents, juvenile offenders, youthful offenders, or delinquent minors. Laws governing juvenile delinquency are largely enacted and regulated on a state by state basis. The doctrine of parens patriae allows the state to essentially act as parent to a youth by legislation, for the purpose of maintenance, custody, care and protection of the children within the state. Most states have enacted a juvenile code. They determine the rules in taking a minor into custody, how the juvenile may be questioned, restitution orders, conditions of supervision and more. The juvenile is considered to be a resident of the state where the person who has legal custody of the minor resides.

In several states, some minors are classified as incorrigible or status offenders when they refuse to obey their parents and/or commit acts, which while not considered criminal by adults, are prohibited due to the age of the minor offender. This includes school truancy, running away from home, curfew violations, drinking alcohol, or behaving in an unsafe or unhealthy manner.

Juvenile courts hear cases dealing with juvenile delinquents, incorrigible youth or status offenders, and issues of child neglect, abandonment or abuse (juvenile dependency cases). These courts are considered civil, not criminal and the minor is charged with committing a delinquent act, rather than a crime. When a judge determines that a minor has committed a delinquent act, he adjudges the juvenile to be a ward of the court, and is allowed broad discretion when disposing of the case. For status offenders this can include suspension of their license, paying a fine, community service and ordering counseling or specialized classes. In delinquency cases the juvenile can be ordered to complete the same things and more, such as probation, home confinement, placement in a relative's home or in a foster or group home, and even incarceration in juvenile corrections In extreme cases the judge can send the youth to an adult jail or state prison.

In addition to specialized courts of law for juvenile offenses, they are also detained in separate facilities, usually called juvenile corrections, (and often referred to as juvie). These include short term facilities called juvenile halls or juvenile detention facilities and for longer terms, secured juvenile facilities. This corrections system includes social workers and probation officers, and the end goal is to rehabilitate the offender and deter them from repeat offenses. They strive to help the juvenile avoid a life of crime by teaching helpful and effective coping and social skills.

Historically, it was established that minors were too young to be held responsible for criminal behavior and the juvenile law system was set up to handle these offenders, with a focus on rehabilitation, not punishment. However, although still under the legal age of majority, it is becoming more and more common for a minor who commits a serious crime (such as murder), to be charged as an adult and tried in a criminal court of law. They are then no longer under the juvenile system, but enter the criminal law system. Many states have determined that children as young as 13 are now legally responsible for their repeated criminal behavior, or heinous crimes.

For additional information regarding laws regulating children's rights, visit our Children's Rights page.

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Juvenile Crime Law Articles

  • If You Are Charged With a Misdemeanor in Texas
    While misdemeanors are less serious charges than felonies, this does not mean that a misdemeanor charge is inconsequential. A misdemeanor conviction can leave you facing serious fines and penalties – in addition to a range of social consequences that you may not have anticipated. If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, it is time to reach out for the professional legal guidance of an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney.
  • Are Texas Juvenile Hearings Open to the Public?
    It depends on the age of the child. If the child is 14 or older, Texas juvenile hearings are generally open to the public. Under Sec. 54.08 of the Texas Family code, however, hearings are closed to the public if the child is under the age of 14 at the time of the hearing. A judge can open the hearing for a child under 14 to the public if they find that it’s in the best interest of the child or if they deem the public would be better served by opening the hearing. If your child has been detained by juvenile services, they need experienced representation as soon as possible.
  • The Right to a Juvenile Attorney in Texas: What Parents Need to Know
    Does my child need a juvenile attorney in Texas? If your child has been taken into custody and is charged with an offense, he or she must be represented by a juvenile attorney. That is the law. Whether you hire the attorney – or one is appointed by the court – will depend on your ability to pay for legal representation. In this article, we will discuss your child’s right to a juvenile attorney in Texas and answer some frequently asked questions by parents.
  • Texas Juvenile Records: Who Has Access? Can They Be Sealed?
    What information is in a Texas juvenile record? Texas juvenile records contain documentation filed during a youth’s time in the juvenile justice system. These records pertain to juvenile offenders and proceedings brought under the Juvenile Justice Code. They do not include names of child witnesses or victims, records from municipal or JP courts, or records of non-juveniles which generally means before the age of 10 or after 17 in most cases. Juvenile records typically include: Basic information such as birthdate, home address Reports of arrests, charges, and detention Court documents Disposition status Treatment records Academic records
  • What Is the Juvenile First Offender Program in Texas?
    Texas Family Code Sec. 52.031 allows juvenile boards across the state to establish first offender programs for the referral and disposition of children aged 10 to 16 taken into custody or accused before the filing of a criminal charge of: 1. Conduct indicating a need for supervision; 2. A Class C misdemeanor, other than a traffic offense; or 3. Delinquent conduct other than conduct that constitutes a first, second, or third-degree felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, a capital felony, a state jail felony or misdemeanor involving violence to a person, or the use of or possession of a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or a prohibited weapon, as described in the Texas Penal Code.
  • Violent Juvenile Crimes in Texas: Defending Tough Cases
    Violent juvenile crimes in Texas are on the rise, and in Tarrant County, that’s especially true with homicides. In fact, homicides increased 80 percent from 2020 to 2021, the most recent year statistics were available. This increase in violent juvenile offenses has led to a need for experienced, highly-skilled juvenile defense attorneys.
  • What Happens During a Juvenile Detention Hearing in Texas?
    What is a juvenile detention hearing in Texas? When juveniles are taken into custody for allegedly violating the law in Texas, they have certain rights that kick in very quickly. One of them is the right to have a juvenile detention hearing within two business days. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the child should be released or remain in the juvenile detention center while their case is pending. In this article, we explain what happens during a juvenile detention hearing and how a judge decides whether a child should be detained or released.
  • Disorderly Conduct in Georgia
    Disorderly conduct is perhaps one of the most commonly charged misdemeanor offenses in the State of Georgia. A State statute exists, but many cities and counties have local ordinances that are used to keep cases (and fine money) local. By reading over the language of the OCGA disorderly conduct statute, you can see the broad description the Georgia Legislature used to create a "catch-all" misdemeanor law for Georgia disorderly conduct charges under O.C.G.A. Section 16-11-39. Most local ordinances closely track the GA statute's language.
  • Texas Juvenile Intake Process
    When a juvenile is accused of committing an offense in Texas, they are not treated like an adult criminal defendant. Although they may be temporarily handcuffed and placed in a police car, they are not hauled off to a stereotypical jail, where they will be searched by a gruff sheriff’s deputy and locked up with other inmates. Juveniles are not “booked into jail.” That term isn’t even used. Instead, the juvenile justice system in Texas employs a process called juvenile intake. In this article, we will explain the juvenile intake process in Texas and what parents can expect if their child is taken into custody or accused of an offense in Fort Worth or the surrounding areas. If law enforcement authorities or juvenile officials have contacted you about your child, your next call needs to be to an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
  • Determinate and Indeterminate Sentences for Texas Juvenile Criminal Offenders
    When a juvenile is adjudicated of a crime in Texas, they will receive either a determinate or indeterminate sentence. These two sentencing options have different implications for the juvenile’s future, so it’s important to understand both – especially if you have a child facing juvenile prosecution. Like most everything in the juvenile system, determinate and indeterminate sentences can be confusing – even for attorneys and legal professionals. That’s why it is so important to have an experienced juvenile defense attorney in your corner if your child has been taken into custody.
  • Juvenile Crime Law Articles

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