What You Know May Hurt You and Impact the Rest of Your Child’s Life
Juvenile delinquency means that a child, but for his young age, is alleged to have committed a delinquent act which would be a crime if he or she is an adult. The parents’ decisions for the child at the beginning of such a matter may literally define the course of the child’s life. This blog post explores some of the inherent traps in a delinquency allegation or charge (created not as intentional traps but to safeguard constitutional rights)—the Big Three:
Lawyer up and Remain Silent: First, a juvenile is frequently asked to make a police statement about what he or she is alleged to have done (or is still doing such as with drug or gang activity). Generally, parents have to consent to this. While no case is the same, and police, juvenile officers, and judges, want the juvenile rehabilitated to be productive adults, making a statement—without seeking the advice of counsel first—is a statistical mistake legally speaking. The juvenile has a right to counsel and to remain silent—unless a parent waives this. The need to remain silent should continue in jail, and other inmates frequently testify about jailhouse discussions; phone calls are recorded. There are a few situations where a waiver may make sense but a non-lawyer is seldom able to make this complex decision.
Waiver to Adult Court: Although reserved for particularly heinous cases, a “child” may commit a high-profile crime or one that is particularly heinous. When this occurs, if the standard is met he or she might be waived into adult court and tried and sentenced as an adult. This means that a sixteen-year-old who committed homicide (assuming he or she was not successful in self-defense claims) could spend life in prison. Thus a “juvenile delinquency” proceeding has profound consequences speaking to the need to remain silent and lawyer up. This is not understood or well understood by the public. And statements, once made, are hard to take back or add to—the theory being that if there was more, the juvenile would have said it, notwithstanding this defies what is currently understood by psychological research.
Collateral Consequences of Juvenile Record: Perhaps the least understood implication is that a juvenile record can have profound consequences--even if the juvenile is not waived into adult court. For instance, a juvenile who commits a sex crime may be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life. No explanation is necessary of the consequences; surprisingly, the most misunderstood about registered sex offenders is the difficulties in obtaining housing that is outside the prohibited proximity to other children. Another implication is for military service. While most juvenile records cannot be accessed after a certain adult age, this prohibition does not apply to the military (such as in disclosing such in applying to the armed forces) or law enforcement and can be used in adult courts to enhance adult crimes.
In the final analysis, a juvenile delinquency proceeding may be nothing more than that and the juvenile obtains help and moves on in a productive way; but it may be, and often is, such that life-long consequences follow. Be cautious and discuss this with a skilled juvenile defense attorney. And perhaps, depending on his or her advice, a parent may need a civil attorney because parents may be civilly sued for wrongs (torts) of their children.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle juvenile delinquency cases throughout the state. This blog is not intended as a solicitation for services, nor specific legal advice. It is an advertisement.