Facing criminal charges is a serious threat to a person’s future regardless of age, but it can be especially intimidating for a minor. Criminal charges, even for someone under the age of 18, can bring penalties that have the potential to alter the course of the defendant’s life. If your child is facing juvenile criminal charges, you may be wondering what you should do next in order to protect his or her future interests.
If the defendant is under the age of 18, he or she will face charges as a juvenile offender. While the intent of this system is to provide the defendant with the opportunity to change his or her life going into adulthood, these are charges you would be wise to take seriously. It may be helpful to understand what you should expect from the juvenile justice system, as well as how to prepare a defense strategy that will allow your child to effectively confront the charges he or she is facing.
Who counts as a juvenile offender?
In most cases, those who are under the age of 18 accused of a crime are juvenile offenders. Minor offenders aged 7 and younger are generally unable to answer for their actions, and therefore are unable to answer for their alleged crimes in juvenile court.
For offenders closer to adult age, they may face charges as an adult if accused of very serious crimes. After the referral of the case to juvenile court, the prosecutor will make the decision regarding whether to drop the case, negotiate a reasonable outcome out of court or take the case to court.
The juvenile court process
If a juvenile case makes it to court, it will follow a procedure similar to the one that adult offenders must face. This includes an arraignment, a hearing, entering a plea, going to trial, sentencing and post-sentencing. The likelihood of a juvenile case making it to trial depends on the severity of the case, the defendant’s criminal record and other factors.
The right defense
A strong defense is critical, even when facing juvenile criminal charges. It is important as a Washington parent to give your child the best chance possible for a positive outcome to his or her case. By understanding how the juvenile justice system works, you can determine how to best move forward with the development of an effective defense strategy.