juvenile offense attorneys

When a parent receives that phone call that his or her child has been arrested or charged with a juvenile offense, it is scary and overwhelming. The primary concern for any parent is to protect your child's future from the devastating effects of an arrest. It is imperative that you consult with an experienced and compassionate attorney who will stand beside your family during this most trying time.  

In theory, the juvenile system's goal is rehabilitation, rather than punishment.  However, in reality, overzealous prosecutors push for harsher sentences and for filing the case in adult court, called a direct file. Hiring an experienced attorney can result in the case staying in the juvenile system, where there are better options for actually focusing on the needs of the child and rehabilitation. Delinquency proceedings are serious and have real, legal consequences.  

Right to Remain Silent
Unfortunately, many parents think that when the police show up at their house, it is better to cooperate and encourage their child to talk to the police.  This advice is not in your child's best interest.  If the police want to talk to your child in connection with any sort of crime, it is in your child's best interest to have an attorney present. Your child has a constitutional right to remain silent and request an attorney.  You can tell the police your child will not talk to them without an attorney present.  

What Happens After My Child Is Arrested?

  1. The Juvenile Detention Center: After your child is arrested, he or she may be taken to a Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) or to the police station. Here, he or she will be questioned about the charges. Whatever your child says can and more than likely will be shared the police and the State Attorney’s Office. A caseworker will determine whether your child should be held before his or first court hearing, based on his or prior criminal history as well as other factors. If the caseworker determines that your child should be detained, he or she will be transferred to a Juvenile Detention Center.

  2. Detention Hearing: Within 24 hours, your child will have a Detention Hearing where the judge will explain the charges, determine whether the police had probable cause for the arrest, and if there is probable cause the judge will decide whether your child should be held until his or her adjudicatory hearing. Parents have a right to be present for this hearing.  Your child also has a right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an an attorney, the judge will determine whether your child may be represented by the Public Defender.  If the child is going to be detained until his or her adjudicatory hearing, the it must be held within the next 21 days.

  3. Pleas: Your child may choose to plead “guilty” or “no contest” at any time. This decision is ultimately up to your child; however, your child needs to wisdom of his or her parents and the wise counsel of an attorney.  If your child chooses to plead guilty or no contest, then your child will not have an adjudicatory hearing, and your child will lose his or her right to appeal and case will proceed to the disposition, or sentencing phase.

  4. Adjudicatory Hearing: This phase is the equivalent of a trial in adult court.  The trial is held before a judge.  Your child has no right to a jury trial. Your child does not have to testify.  Your child can present witnesses and evidence.  Just like the burden in an adult case, the State must prove that your child is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If your child is found guilty, he or she may be held 15 more days before the disposition hearing, or sentencing.

  5. Disposition Hearing: This phase is the sentencing phase. The goal is supposed to be rehabilitation of the child. Your child cannot be sentenced to prison. Your child can be sentenced to probation, with conditions like performing community service or paying the victim back. The judge may also send your child to a mental health or drug treatment program. In some circumstances, a judge may send your child to a commitment program, which is a supervised residential program.

It is imperative that you contact Attorney Heather Bryan if your child has been arrested.  You need a compassionate attorney who will stand beside your child and help protect his or her rights.  Contact us today for your free and confidential consultation, 863-825-5309.