What to Expect in Juvenile Court
When your child is in legal trouble, you may not know what to expect. You probably know something about the adult criminal court system, which can be scary even for a seasoned defendant. But juvenile crimes are handled less rigidly than those of adults because the goal is not necessarily to punish a child but rather to guide them toward a productive life by providing the support they need to grow and thrive.
Therefore, unless a child commits a crime as serious as homicide or bodily harm to another person, the goal is treatment and rehabilitation, not necessarily incarceration, unless a judge deems there is no other option.
As a trusted and caring advocate for juveniles caught in the juvenile court system, attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra is dedicated to helping your child get the help they need while leading their case to resolution. To help you understand what your child faces when charged with a crime, Belén Law Firm explains the process.
How The Arizona Juvenile Court System WorksGoverned by the Arizona Children’s Code, juvenile courts have their own rules of procedure and have more flexibility to decide the consequences for a child with criminal charges while still mindful of their basic rights.
When a child commits a crime, it is generally assumed that because their brains are not yet fully developed, they don’t always make good choices or judgments and may not consider the consequences of an act they are about to commit. Because of this and other factors out of the child’s control such as neglect or violent, abusive or unsafe living conditions, the juvenile courts have discretion in responding to and deciding the appropriate course of action. Unless a child is a danger to others, avoiding a juvenile detention center, which could lead to even more negative behavior, may be the best option.
A judge, who often takes into consideration input from juvenile court professionals, social workers, therapists, probation officers, and family members’ appeals, may decide alternatives to detention including:
-Placement with a family member or trusted adult friend, especially if the child can’t be managed at home or if they have been neglected, abused or exposed to unsafe conditions.
-Temporary placement in a therapeutic group home.
-Placement in a mental health facility or other hospital if intensive therapeutic intervention or medical care is needed.
-Commitment to the Department of Human Services for placement in a residential or another reform program.
-Anger management and impulse control training.
-Mandatory, assigned community service.
-Court ordered acquisition of employment.
-Transfer to a school better designed to meet the child’s needs.
-Payment of fines and restitution.
-Time to reflect in a juvenile detention center.
How Arizona Juvenile Court Operates Differently From Adult CourtIn adult court, a defendant endures a trial or enters a plea before a county, state or federal court judge and/or jury and is either acquitted or found guilty. On the other hand, a juvenile will not have a trial but rather an “adjudication.” An adjudication hearing occurs solely before a judge who decides if the child has committed the crime they’ve been charged with.
In juvenile court, when a child is found to be responsible for what he or she has been accused, the child receives a “disposition.” At that point, a judge has the discretion to decide the appropriate consequences for the juvenile’s crime. And rather than label the child as a convicted criminal, they are referred to as “delinquent.”
The exception to this process is when a 16- to 17-year-old Arizona juvenile is charged with murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, armed robbery or certain other violent crimes or if they’ve compiled a substantial number of juvenile court cases. In these cases, they could definitely be tried as an adult, in the state of Arizona.
Finding a Phoenix Juvenile Defense Attorney Fights for Your Child’s RightsWhether you believe your child is innocent, or they have acknowledged they’re guilty of a crime, it’s critical that they have a criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile law to represent them. A child who is forced to face a court alone may encounter many unfair conditions. For instance, a boy is more likely to be more harshly punished than a girl. Or because of their socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, they may be discriminated against in the system.
What’s more important, without proper representation to mitigate the severity of the disposition of their charges, your child’s future can be irrevocably damaged if they are found delinquent for a misdemeanor or felony. Although minor criminal disposition records are sealed from all but police, courts, and prosecutors, if a juvenile has a felony record, schools, daycare centers, hospitals, security companies will be able to access the case disposition.
Furthermore, juvenile justice records are not automatically sealed at 18 years of age. A young adult may apply to seal a juvenile record six months after the final discharge of the offense and termination of any assigned probation.
In the meantime, if a juvenile is bound for higher education, they may have difficulty being admitted to a junior college or university and obtaining student financial aid. Also, they may face challenges in obtaining employment or rental housing and may face immigration issues. In the worst case scenario, if your child is remanded to a juvenile detention facility, they could potentially come out worse than they went in.
With all that said, it’s critical for your child, who may have made a serious youthful mistake, to have YOU, as the parent, on their side. That includes hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney who knows the Arizona juvenile system and will be on your child’s side right along with you.
Belén Olmedo Guerra Knows The Importance of Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Bedside Manner
The importance of appropriate behavior and providing a compassionate legal ear to families is often times overlooked by practicing attorneys. However, Attorney, Belén Law Firm takes much pride in the ability to slow down, and not only help in the legal matters with minor clients, but also in becoming a calming and trusted voice in a chaotic time. She knows that sometimes it is difficult to be a strong parent when you, as the parent, are trying not to fall apart yourself. Hiring an attorney who recognizes the importance of this can be invaluable.
During a free initial consultation with our attorneys, your child’s case will be reviewed, so Phoenix criminal defense attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra can assess the case and explain the strategies necessary for the best outcome. As a law firm committed to the well-being and future of your child, we’ll approach their case with passion and dedication, fully committed to helping them get on the right path toward a productive future.
To begin what may be the fight of your child’s life and have your questions answered, contact the Belén Law Firm at (602) 715-0908 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation for you and your child. Calls are accepted 24/7.