Legal Guide

Juvenile Crimes: When Might You Need a Lawyer?

Juvenile courts vary greatly in comparison to adult courts and proceedings, as they often include the application of differing laws and procedures. Juvenile courts have a uniquely different set of expectations and resources at their disposal for handling juvenile offenders.

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In most juvenile crime cases, a minor is already allotted a public defender – at no cost if warranted by inability to pay. There are several variables to take into consideration before making the decision as to whether or not seek and obtain legal representation for your juvenile. A great start is to consider an experienced, licensed, and well reputed attorney’s office that specializes in the area of juvenile offenders and related crimes, such as Massey, Stotser & Nichols, P.C..

Severity of Crime and Punishment

By principal, a legal system is put into place to create a reputable, ethical, and moral checks and balance system to equally distribute decisions on prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, and reintegration. While not only limited to juvenile courts, it is much more common for these approaches to be honored in a juvenile court as the necessary resources are much more readily available.

Whether the minor in question is responsible for a “petty” offense such as graffiti, public disturbance, or petty theft, versus more severe offenses such as assault, rape, burglary or murder can make all the difference in the necessity of legal representation.

First Time Offenders and Solutions

For first time offending delinquent youth - dependent upon the nature of the crime - there is typically great leniency applied by the courts, assuming no prior criminal history exists. It also helps if the minor in question is of verifiably good moral character, along with a current positive involvement in the community, education, or work.

In many cases, a judge and juvenile court will lean on the ability to simply sentence a first time offending youth to a fine or mandatory community service. In some instances, the consequences could be, more or less, dependent upon the nature of the crime and history of the offender. Often, a lawyer is not necessary for these types of proceedings. In fact, doing so can actually hinder the speed or ability of the courts to prosecute or release the offending minor.

How Do Courts Observe Juvenile Offenders?

It’s important to understand that in most instances - regardless of whether or not a juvenile has a legal parent or guardian - that once inside of a courtroom, to appear for an offense “parens patriae” is instantaneously applied by principal. This coined term represents the assumed power and role of the state in such cases.

In other words, the child or minor becomes a “ward of the state”, and while this sound scary it’s actually not such a bad thing. It just reinforces the reality that specialized court systems are in place to support, and more commonly charge, a juvenile with a “civil offense” versus a criminal offense, and instead charge the juvenile with a “delinquent act”, not a crime. Both of these work in favor of the juvenile and court process.

Lastly, if in doubt, or it’s believed there is a likelihood of the juvenile facing a transfer to an adult court for his or her offenses, you should strongly consider the value and necessity of acquiring a lawyer.

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