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Juvenile Criminal Defense: Legal Proceedings for Underage Offenders

As all parents and guardians know well, young people get themselves in serious trouble. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reports that approximately 424,300 arrests of juveniles were made nationwide in 2020 alone. There are specialized rules and procedures in place for juvenile criminal matters. It is crucial that you and your family know how to navigate the system. Here, our Fort Worth juvenile defense attorney highlights the key things to know about legal proceedings for underage offenders in Texas.

Why the Juvenile Justice Process is Different From the Adult Criminal Justice Process in Texas

Texas places a significant emphasis on rehabilitating rather than punishing juvenile offenders. State policy recognizes the developmental differences between adolescents and adults. As such, juveniles have far more options to obtain a better outcome in a criminal case. The juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation. In contrast, the adult criminal justice system is far more focused on punishment and deterrence.

An Overview of Juvenile Delinquency Petitions in Texas

In Texas, when a minor is believed to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision, a legal document known as a “juvenile delinquency petition” may be filed. A juvenile delinquency petition is distinct from a former criminal charge. The delinquency petition is a critical step in the juvenile justice process. In other words, it serves as a formal accusation against the minor. Once filed, it initiates court proceedings, allowing the juvenile’s case to be heard by a judge or jury. Depending on the court’s decision, the juvenile might be subjected to various interventions—ranging from education to counseling to probation to confinement in a juvenile detention center.

Key Caveat #1: Juveniles Could Face Adult Charges for Some Serious Crimes

While Texas is focused on rehabilitation for juvenile offenders, it is essential to note that there are circumstances where juveniles, especially those 14 years and older, could be certified to stand trial as adults. Most often, this happens when the crime committed is particularly severe, such as murder, aggravated assault, or certain sexual offenses.

Key Caveat #2: Texas Criminal Law Treats 17-Year-Olds are Adults

While 17-year-olds are juveniles in a number of different contexts, that is simply not the case in the Texas criminal justice system. One of the unique aspects of Texas’s criminal law is that 17-year-olds are automatically treated as adults. If a person commits a crime just days after their 17th birthday, they will face the same legal proceedings and potential consequences as someone much older

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Fort Worth Juvenile Justice Lawyer Today

At The Law Office of Kyle Whitaker, our Texas juvenile justice attorneys are compassionate, reliable, and experienced advocates for young people. If your child was arrested, we are here as a legal resource. Give us a call now or connect with us online to set up your completely confidential. Our firm handles juvenile charges in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and across North Texas.