Juvenile crimes in Texas: The basics
Parents do their best to raise good children. We take them to school; we enroll them in extracurricular activities and try to encourage them to make good life choices. Unfortunately, children may find themselves in a bad situation. This situation could escalate, and our children could find themselves facing allegations of criminal activity.
What happens next? How do we help and protect our children while navigating this stressful series of events? Having a basic understanding of how the process works can help ease some of the stress.
Learn how state law works
Every state is different and will handle the situation differently. In Texas, the state can prosecute a child for a crime in juvenile court after their 10th birthday. The state can charge those between the ages of 10 and 17 as a juvenile. Once over the age of 17, the state considers that child an adult for criminal law purposes.
The juvenile system has its own set of rules and procedures, outlined in the Juvenile Justice Code. Differences between the juvenile and adult system include, but are not limited to:
- Arrest. Officers generally do not need an arrest warrant to arrest a juvenile. However, they do need probable cause.
- Probable cause. In addition to criminal conduct, the officer could also arrest a juvenile if there is probable cause that the juvenile is engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision. Delinquent conduct can include anything that could constitute a violation of state or federal law punishable with jail time. Conduct indicating the need for supervision includes fine-only misdemeanors, absence from home without the parent’s consent or “huffing” paint fumes.
- Parent notification. The officer must notify the parent of the arrest and the reason for the arrest “without unnecessary delay.”
- Bail. There is no bail option within the juvenile justice system.
In serious cases, the court may accept certification of the juvenile as an adult. Juveniles certified as adults can face adult sentences and could be placed in an adult facility. This is available for juveniles who are 15 at the time of the offense and, in some cases, can apply for those as young as 14 years of age.
These are just a few things to know before attempting to navigate the juvenile justice system. It is also important to note that you do not have to go through this process alone. When your child’s future is at stake, it is often wise to delegate the legal matters to a professional who is familiar with the intricacies of this unique area of the law.