How teenage criminals are treated under Texas’ criminal law
The arrest of a young person is a frightening experience not only for the child or teen but also for the parents. When your child is arrested, you naturally have questions about what will happen next and whether your child will be treated differently in the justice system because they are juveniles.
How will your child’s future be affected by the arrest?
When your child is facing an arrest, it’s important to understand Texas juvenile criminal law and ensure your child is represented by an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
Juvenile crime and arrest statistics
According to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), more than 50,000 youth are arrested in the state of Texas each year. Services are provided by local county juvenile justice systems. In the most serious of circumstances, juvenile offenders are committed to the TJJD.
Beginning in 2007, as part of a measure to reduce the number of juveniles referred to TJJD, only those juveniles with felony-level offenses are now referred to the department.
What’s the goal of the juvenile justice system?
Under the Texas Juvenile Justice Code, the juvenile system is designed for the purpose of both protecting the public but also providing training, treatment and rehabilitation to youth offenders. It also emphasizes responsibility and accountability for the child as well as the parents.
Data released by the TJJD indicates that juvenile system admissions have decreased over the last few years. Even so, anytime a youth enters the juvenile justice system, there is cause for alarm.
National statistics indicate that youth who enter the criminal justice system may have an increased likelihood to commit further crimes, are less likely to obtain an education and may earn a lower income in the future.
Given those possible scenarios, it’s little wonder that parents are fearful of the future when their child is facing an arrest and possible conviction.
Who is considered a juvenile in Texas?
Under Texas law, anyone who is 17 or younger may have their case presented in a juvenile court. There are completely separate courts as well as judges and detention facilities in Texas for juveniles.
Furthermore, all records related to juvenile cases are sealed. This means there is no public access allowed for these criminal files. The only exception to this is that when a youth is arrested, the school district administration will be notified of the arrest so that they understand the student is not committing truancy by failing to attend school.
Can juveniles be charged as adults?
In extremely serious cases, juveniles may be charged as adults. These cases usually involve felony crimes and are of a violent nature. The decision of whether a juvenile will be tried as an adult is solely at the discretion of the prosecutor.
The main difference regarding being charged as an adult or as a juvenile is that when a youth is certified as an adult, the juvenile may then serve their time in an adult facility. Furthermore, certified juveniles may face life sentences, although there is the possibility of parole. They can’t be sentenced to the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The process of certifying a juvenile as an adult is extensive. In determining whether to grant the request of the state for the juvenile to be tried as an adult, the court will take a variety of factors into consideration, including the maturity of the juvenile, previous history and the nature of the alleged offense.
Juvenile criminal sentencing
As the parent of a juvenile facing arrest and possible conviction, you may naturally have questions about how penalties may differ and whether youth are granted the same rights as adults.
Ultimately, sentencing often depends on the severity of the crime and the juvenile’s previous criminal history. In some instances, the juvenile may only be sentenced to community service while being ordered to undergo counseling and make restitution.
Juveniles may also receive what is called “deferred adjudication.” This is basically a form of probation that typically lasts for around 6 months.
In other cases, juveniles face the possibility of serving time in a juvenile detention center.
Juvenile probation rules and regulations
In the event a juvenile is sentenced to probation, the youth may be placed on probation in their home or in another program. In some cases, the child may be sentenced to probation in a foster home. This probation may extend until the age of 18. Almost all juvenile offenders who receive probation will also be sentenced to mandatory community service.
If your child has been charged with a crime, your best chance for success is hiring an experienced defense attorney with experience representing juvenile cases. Houston lawyer Matt Sharp will not only represent your child in court, but he will also help you to understand the juvenile justice system and explain possible outcomes.