Has your Child been arrested or accused of a Crime?
Any child, age 10 to 16, may be arrested and accused of any crime. Gone are the days that police simply talk to them then drive your child to allow you to deal with their consequences. Many times, police will go to their school, arrest them, and take them to Juvenile Detention, even without their parents' knowledge. Don't accept what police have done with your child was proper - there are many rules police must follow. Your child has the same Constitutional rights you do - and more.
Children may be arrested, detained, and even incarcerated out of town
After arrest, you will not be allowed to simply take your child home - you cannot even bond them out. There must be a hearing within the second day after arrest - a short trial in front of a juvenile judge to decide whether your child will stay in Detention for an additional 10 business days or if you can take them home. A prosecutor and probation officer will present evidence against your child to convince the judge to keep them there. Your child has a right to lawyer to represent them, even at this early phase. Do not go to this hearing without an attorney of your choice fighting for your child's release.
Usually within a month, the prosecutor will file a "petition" - a civil lawsuit against your child accusing them of committing a criminal offense and asking the court to declare them to be a "juvenile delinquent" or "child in need of supervision." Your child has just as much a right to a jury or judge trial as an adult - with all the Constitutional protections as well as more legal protections because they are children. But the process moves more quickly than adult court.
If your child is found to be a "delinquent child," they may be placed on probation up to age 18, required to do community service, or even sent out of town to a placement for up to six months. For more serious offenses, they could even be sentenced to a indeterminate term incarcerated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until they are 19 years old. The most serious of offenses could send them for a determinate number of years to TJJD, then to adult prison to finish their sentence - which could be up to 40 years. In extreme cases, the prosecutor may try to "certify" them to stand trial as an adult - which can be up to life in prison.
Texas Juvenile Law is complex and consequences for your child may be long-lasting
The law is different for children accused of crimes than for adults - it is part criminal, part civil, and many unique rules. There are many additional requirements to make sure they are treated appropriately for their age and that a mistake while they are young does not follow them for the rest of their lives. But those rules are in addition to what an average criminal defense attorney deals with.
Juvenile law is supposed to keep these proceeding "confidential." Make sure it stays that way and your child's future is protected - they should not miss out on jobs and opportunities because of kid's mistake. They also have the right to seal their record when they qualify.
If your child has a criminal issue later as an adult, their juvenile history will be used against them. Prosecutors can see that history and may ask for higher sentences - and the law will increase their sentence if they have spent any time incarcerated in TJJD.
Find an Attorney skilled and experienced in Juvenile Law
Get an attorney for your child quickly, but get one with experience.
Shannon Flanigan spent time in juvenile prosecution while in the District Attorney's Office and has represented many children for criminal offenses from runaway and possession of marijuana to assault and Capital Murder, fighting for them in detention hearings and jury trials.