Family Matters Law Group P.A.
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Juvenile Offenses: Overview of Juvenile Criminal Court

Some people are under the mistaken belief that an attorney is not necessary when their child is being charged criminally, or that the child's school can make the charges just "go away". The reality is, the sooner you higher an attorney, the better the outcome can be.  The consequences may include secure detention, a permanent criminal record, or even being charged as an adult ("direct file").  

After a juvenile is arrested, they are taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC). The parents are contacted and, with minor offenses, the juvenile and parents are given a Notice to Appear in court at a later hearing. Alternatively, the juvenile can be held and taken to a Detention Hearing within 24 hours where a judge will decide whether further detention is necessary (for no longer than 21 days), or to release the juvenile and under what conditions. It would be best to have an attorney present at this hearing to argue for the best results possible.


As with adult crimes, there is a prosecutor in charge of filing formal charges in juvenile cases. Hiring an attorney prior to that decision being made would allow your attorney the opportunity to speak to the prosecutor and argue against the filing of charges, or fight for the filing of lesser charges. 

Once criminal charges are filed, there are diversion programs available that could result in a dismissal (nolle prosequi) of all criminal charges. Diversion and drug court are both available for first-time offenders. However, as with other instances, entry into both those programs rests entirely within the prosecutor's discretion.

As an example, my client whom shall be referred to as "Andrea," was charged with Possession of Alprazolam, a third-degree felony, in juvenile court. There was indication in the police report that she gave her friend one of the pills (not in exchange for money, just as a gift) so that was considered "evidence of dealing." Although she could not be charged with selling the pills, she was initially denied entry into drug court. However, once I was hired to represent her, I spoke to the prosecutor in charge of the case and she was permitted to enter drug court to get her case dropped.

Unlike with adults, there is no right to a jury trial. For juveniles, the same judge that oversees your case from the beginning will likely be the judge to render the verdict at your trial. In addition, although some offenses will be automatically expunged at 24 years old, it is possible to get it removed from your record earlier. Contact a defense attorney knowledgeable in the juvenile criminal court that can properly defend you or your child's interests. 

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