If you are younger than 17 & accused of committing a crime, you need to know what to expect in Juvenile Court. Crimes committed by children younger than 17 are called “delinquent acts.” If you are found delinquent, a Juvenile Court judge has the authority to sentence you to confinement and supervision until you are 21 years old. Below are some basic things you should know about Juvenile Court. If you have more questions about you or your child, contact us today.
1: Can someone search and interrogate me?
YES. Any public official may try to search you and your belongings if they claim to have “probable cause.” This can include a police office, school teacher or school administrator.
However, you have the right to refuse a search. Be polite but make it clear that you do not consent to the search of your property or body. Physically resisting does not help and may in fact may lead to more trouble.
2: Do I have the right to remain silent?
YES. This can be very hard when facing a teacher, principle, or even police officer. Nevertheless, you can assert your right to remain silent. If a public official continues to ask questions, you can politely chose not to speak.
3: Do I have a right to an attorney?
YES. If you are being detained or questioned, you have the right to ask for an attorney. If you are a parent, it is your responsibility to stop any questioning of your child until you have spoken with an attorney. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is ask their child to “come clean” or “just tell them what they want to know.”
Because your child is facing significant punishments, your family should have the benefit of speaking with an attorney before speaking with the police. An experienced attorney can help a family and child avoid a false admission of guilt. Furthermore, an attorney can protect your child from unnecessary court-ordered confinement and supervision.
4: Can the police detain me?
YES. Children younger than 17 can be arrested and detained by the police. If you are detained, Juvenile Court must have a detention hearing within 48 hours. However that period can extend to 5 days if you are being detained because of an arrest warrant.
5: Do I have a jury trial if I’m accused of a Delinquent Act?
NO. Children in juvenile court don’t have a right to a jury trial. If you are accused of committing a delinquent act, an attorney can defend you in a formal hearing known as an adjudicatory hearing. At an adjudicatory hearing your attorney will be able to present evidence and question the evidence of the State.
Despite of this, you still have many of the same rights as an adult to the Due Process of the law. You can confront your accusers and question witnesses. Most importantly, you are presumed innocent unless the State can prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
6: Do I have to go through a Juvenile Court hearing if I’m guilty?
NO. Your attorney can negotiate alternative resolutions with the juvenile court judge and prosecutor. Alternative outcomes include an informal adjustment, pre-adjudication diversion, or counseling and supervision that can help you avoid being sentenced as a delinquent.
7: Can Juvenile Court send me to prison?
NO. But you can be sentenced to confinement in a Youth Detention Center. Consequently, you can be ordered to stay in a Youth Detention Center if you are waiting for a hearing date, or if the judge sentences you to time in confinement.
However, confinement should be considered an option of last resort. Alternative options such as a curfew, counseling, and other programs provided by juvenile court can resolve your case and avoid the detention center.
8: Why would I be in adult court?
Children younger than 17 can find their case in Adult Court when a Juvenile Court Judge orders a transfer. This occurs when your judge decides you cannot be rehabilitated by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
In addition, your case can be assigned to an Adult Court for certain charges. Juvenile Court does NOT have exclusive, original jurisdiction for the charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, or armed robbery committed with a firearm.
9: Will a delinquent act be part of my criminal record?
NO. A delinquent act is not classified as a crime or conviction. As a result, it will not show up on a criminal background check. However, courts or law enforcement do have access to your delinquent history.
10: Can the police see deleted posts or messages from a phone or social media app?
YES. Phone and Social Media companies can be forced to share their records with the police. This includes information about your account, saved messages, and deleted messages. Storing, sharing, and even receiving nude images or images of underage people kissing can be considered a crime and a delinquent act.
Don’t wait to speak with an attorney. If your, or your child’s future is in jeopardy, contact us to discuss your options.