Colorado Springs Juvenile Defense Lawyer
One of the most tragic things we witness in this business is children and minors being branded criminals at a young age. The majority of criminal charges leveled against minors do not involve malice or some kind of criminal intent. Rather, these charges originate out of stupidity or trying to impress peers.
So our goal in defending juveniles charged with crimes is not only to keep them out of jail. It is also vitally important that we make sure that the juvenile’s criminal record is kept as clean as possible so that the charge does not follow the minor to college and on into adulthood. We cannot condone branding a juvenile with the “criminal” label when so much of the youthful brain remains to be developed and so much of life remains to be figured out.
Juvenile charges are essentially the same as adult charges as to what the government must prove to establish guilt. For example, the laws and standards that apply to an assault charge are the same for adults and juveniles. This means that the government must prove that the defendant hit or struck another person and caused an injury for the defendant to be guilty of the charge, regardless of whether the defendant is an adult or a juvenile.
However, the way the courts handle the cases is much different. The sentencing scheme is different, the plea bargaining process is different, and the court procedures are different.
There are two ways that the court case for a juvenile begins. In more minor cases, the officer simply writes a ticket, or summons, that advises the juvenile what the charges are and when he or she needs to show up for court.
In the other cases, the officers make an arrest, and the juvenile is brought to court on the next business day. This court date is called a “detention” hearing, and it is at 1:15 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If your child was arrested on a Wednesday or over a weekend, he or she will have to wait in the facility until getting to court on the next available day.
At this hearing the judge determines whether the juvenile will remain in custody. The judge also determines what conditions to impose on any release from custody. The important thing for the parent to know is that it will make things go much more smoothly if an experienced juvenile defense attorney is at this detention hearing. It is so important that if you cannot afford a lawyer for your child, there will be a public defender present at this hearing to provide some assistance. It is true that the public defender is often inexperienced and overworked, but this assistance is simply vital.
The judge will keep the child in jail if the child is determined to be a danger to himself or others. The judge is going to want to hear a plan for the child to be supervised 24/7. The judge is also going to want to hear how the parents or guardians can assure that the juvenile does not have access to any weapons. The judge will want to know that there is a plan to make sure the juvenile is enrolled in school and progressing toward a degree. Sometimes these hearings are no problem, and sometimes they are contentious and messy.
When the judge releases the juvenile from jail until a future court date, he or she will often impose some conditions on the release. For example, it may be that the juvenile and the parent will have to call in to make accountability checks. A case manager may want a schedule of where the child will be and when. The judge may also order some kind of medical or mental health treatment to take place.
The thing that is best to avoid is having the involvement of the Department of Human Services, or DHS. This is a government agency that provides services to families and children, but in this context, it is a major pain in the neck. DHS will usually be invasive in their involvement in your life, and there will be additional requirements that you will have to spend a lot of time, money and energy complying with.
Generally, it is a good idea to be fully invested in the plea bargaining process when it comes to juveniles. A plea bargain is some type of agreement entered into with the prosecutor. The alternative is going to trial, where a judge determines whether someone is guilty and then sentences guilty parties within the structures mandated by law.
The reason why plea bargaining is so important in these cases is that defendants are not given a jury trial. Just as a practical matter, your percentage chance of being convicted by a judge is way higher than your percentage chance of being convicted by a jury. The prosecutor only has to convince one person that you are guilty, and that one person is predisposed to think that you are guilty. The common phrase that describes this is “a hammer only sees a nail.”
Since the juvenile is not entitled to a jury trial, his or her chances of being convicted of the charge at trial is way higher than it would be for an adult. Consequently, it is incredibly important to fully leverage the plea bargaining process to see if something can be worked out that accomplishes our goals.
The other reason why plea bargaining is important is that if a juvenile is convicted of a charge, the charge will follow that juvenile on his or her record, which can be devastating in the real world. Many times, it is possible to clear a juvenile’s record through the plea bargaining process. The only way to clear a juvenile’s record at a trial is to win the trial, which is more difficult because there is no jury.
Traffic, drunk driving, driving under the influence, driving while ability impaired, and hit and run charges are handled by the adult courts. However, there are several differences from adult cases that good juvenile defense lawyers are aware of when handling these types of cases. The rules that apply to how these charges affect a juvenile’s driving privileges are very different from how they affect an adult’s ability to drive legally. Generally, the rules are harsher, so it is important to know the specific, creative ways to minimize the impact of these rules.
Expungement is the legal mechanism that allows a juvenile to clear his or her criminal record entirely. This process wipes out the record of the arrest, charges and court proceedings. It is only available in certain circumstances, but it can be a godsend in terms of moving forward after facing juvenile charges. The process for expungement is fully explained here. [add link for sealing and expungement page]
Laybourne Law Firm will speak to you about juvenile charges for free. Please call today at 719-381-1707.