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Frequently Asked Questions about Juvenile Matters
Q: What is juvenile court?
A: Children who break the law are subject to a separate judicial system called the juvenile court system (in some states, the court may be called Family Court or Probate Court). Generally, the focus of the juvenile court system is more on rehabilitation than on punishment. In some cases, however, older juveniles who commit more serious crimes will be charged as adults and tried in the regular criminal courts. In such cases, sentences will be more in accord with adult punishment, whereas in juvenile court any incarceration is usually in a more rehabilitative setting and generally ends when the juvenile attains the age of majority.
Juvenile courts in many states also hear cases involving the abuse or neglect of children.
Q: What is the maximum age for juvenile court?
A: The most common maximum age for a child to be in juvenile court is seventeen years, although some states set a maximum of fifteen or sixteen. Some states set different ages for particular types of crimes. In most states, cases involving a juvenile of any age may be transferred to adult court.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the United States Department of Justice reports that in 1999, juvenile courts in the U.S. processed approximately 1,673,000 delinquency cases. When the stakes are this high, your best bet is to have a tough juvenile defense attorney on your side.
The juvenile law attorneys at the Van Nuys, Southern California law office of Eisner Gorin LLP, are board-certified criminal trial specialists with a combined 50 years of courtroom experience defending juveniles on charges of all types. If your child or grandchild has been arrested, you need a legal advocate to guide you through the complex juvenile justice system and to prevent the mistakes they may have made today from affecting their life for years to come. When it's time for an aggressive defense, count on Eisner Gorin LLP. Contact our office by e-mail, or call toll-free at 877-781-1570 for a prompt response.
If your child or grandchild is facing charges for a misdemeanor or felony crime or juvenile delinquency, don't talk to the police first. Talk to us. We speak English, Russian, Armenian, Spanish, Farsi, and Hebrew.
Juvenile Criminal Matters - An Overview
Juvenile law deals with crimes committed by children. The maximum age varies from state to state, but the maximum age for a juvenile offender is usually seventeen. Governmental bodies, including the federal government, states, and cities, prosecute all types of crimes committed by children, from traffic violations to felonies like rape and murder. If your child has been charged with a crime, it is essential that you seek legal counsel from an experienced juvenile defense attorney at once so that you can preserve his or her rights and future.
Children involved in juvenile court matters have many of the same rights their parents would have if they were accused of a crime. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to cross-examine witnesses against them, and the right to be represented by an attorney. Juveniles often have additional rights - in most states, juvenile court records are not open to the public, but are sealed, so that no one will be able to learn about a juvenile record. A juvenile defense attorney can explain and clarify your local practices and take some of the mystery out of a frightening situation.
What To Do If Your Child Is Arrested
There can be few more frightening or intimidating telephone calls that a parent can receive than one saying that his or her child has been arrested. The first reaction of most parents is to panic. What is a parent to do?! The first, and seemingly hardest, task is to avoid giving in to that panic. Your child needs your help now, as much as at any other time in his or her life. Panicking helps neither of you. To help you and your child in this most difficult time, you should consult an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
The second task is to keep the disciplinarian in you from clouding your judgment! Many parents of children who are arrested for relatively minor offenses, such as vandalism or shoplifting, are inclined to let the justice system "teach a lesson." Although all children need discipline, a child who is under arrest faces a system that is going to be far more frightening and intimidating than any he or she has ever encountered before. Your child needs your support.
Many states have adopted laws that make parents responsible for the actions of their children. Some states impose criminal liability on parents, and other states provide that a parent may be sued by a person injured by a child. In addition, many cities and counties have enacted ordinances, or local laws, that make a parent guilty of an offense, such as "failing to supervise a minor," if a child breaks the law. Since the laws vary so much, and since the legal and financial consequences may be severe, you need an experienced juvenile attorney to advise you regarding your rights and responsibilities.
How the Juvenile Justice System Works
The juvenile justice system works differently from the adult court. A child may enter the juvenile justice system after being arrested, or, in some cases, after a referral by school personnel, probation officers, crime victims, or even parents. Skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyers know their way around the juvenile justice system and can navigate through the complex procedures to ensure the fairest possible conclusion.
Trial as an Adult
There often is a possibility that a juvenile will be tried as an adult, in adult criminal court, rather than in juvenile court. The protections of a juvenile court proceeding do not exist in adult court: Court proceedings and records are not confidential, but are open to the public, and the court may impose the same sentence on the juvenile (jail time, fines, probation) that would be imposed on an adult. The full implications of trial as an adult can be more fully explained by an attorney knowledgeable in juvenile defense law.
Juvenile Matters Resource Links
Child Welfare League of America The CWLA is an association of over 1,000 nonprofit entities that assist over 3.5 million abused and neglected children and their families each year with a wide range of services.