Texas children can face criminal charges as young as ten years old and, to those unfamiliar with it, the juvenile justice system can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright terrifying.
Let us help. Our Austin juvenile defense attorneys at Cofer & Connelly are experienced in all aspects of Texas juvenile law, so can help you and your family navigate the system and assist your child in getting the best possible result in their case.
Partners Rick Cofer and Mark Pryor are both former juvenile prosecutors and have handled juvenile cases ranging from possession of marijuana, a class B misdemeanor, all the way to the most serious crime of capital murder. And with our team approach, your child will be represented not just by a partner with deep experience, but also by our hard-working associates, our investigator (a former homicide and sex crimes detective), and the firm’s mitigation specialist.
And communication is key for us, so as well as the remarkable team of legal professionals, you and your child will be assigned your own Client Care Coordinator. This is someone who is accessible to you every hour of every working day, someone knowledgeable and experienced in the juvenile world, who can answer your questions even when the lawyers themselves are tied up in court.
On top of having the best team in Central Texas, our Austin juvenile criminal defense lawyers know the courts, the judges, and the prosecutors handling juvenile cases. We have the relationships and the respect it takes to resolve cases as promptly as possible but, more importantly, in ways our clients are delighted with.
The juvenile justice system is not like the adult system – there are ways to resolve cases that don’t exist in adult court. Your lawyer should be familiar with them, as we are, and be willing and able to guide you to a place where that terrifying presence of a criminal charge becomes a thing of the past, something that is not just resolved successfully, but in a way that does no lasting harm to your child’s future. That is our aim, in every juvenile case that we handle.
If your child has been charged, or is being investigated for, a crime in Texas, we can help. Contact our Austin juvenile defense attorneys online or at (512) 991-0576 to schedule a consultation today.
What Is Considered a Juvenile in Texas?
In Texas, a juvenile charge is defined as a crime occurring between the defendant's 10th and 17th birthday. A juvenile charge can result from breaking a criminal law, engaging in delinquent conduct, or violating a court order or probation.
What Are Some Examples of Juvenile Crimes?
The most common juvenile offenses are:
- Illegal purchases, such as cigarettes or alcohol;
- Other drug and alcohol crimes, such as possession or DUIs;
- Violent crimes;
- Sexual offenses;
- Status offenses, such as truancy or disorderly conduct; and
How Are Juvenile Charges Different?
Unlike the adult criminal system, an officer does not need to obtain an arrest warrant to arrest a juvenile. However, the officer must deliver the juvenile directly to a processing office without unnecessary delay, and notify the juvenile's parents immediately.
The juvenile court system is intended to not only protect the wellbeing of the public, but also to "provide treatment, training, and rehabilitation that emphasizes the accountability and responsibility of both the parent and the child for the child's conduct." Though this is meant to aid the juvenile, it can introduce many complications and intricacies that only trained attorneys can navigate.
What Crimes Can Juveniles Be Tried as Adults for in Texas?
There are a few circumstances under which a juvenile may be tried as an adult in Texas courts:
- Violent felony offenses
- Felony drug offenses
- Habitual offenses/resistance to rehabilitation efforts
Being convicted as an adult means having the same consequences as adults, which may include prison time, fines, and a permanent criminal record.
If a juvenile commits a felony offense, a judge can transfer their case to an adult court through what is known as a judicial waiver. In order for a case to go to adult court, two conditions must be met according to Texas law:
- There must be probable cause that the child committed the offense. While probable cause is necessary to bring charges against someone, transferring a case through judicial waiver means there is a high likelihood that the juvenile would be convicted of the charges.
- The nature of the crime committed requires that the case be handled in adult court. This requirement could also be satisfied if the child has a history of violence.
To put it simply, a juvenile must be highly likely to have committed the crime and the case must imply that the child has a nature that will not respond to normal methods of criminal rehabilitation.
Age of Waiver
In order for a judge to consider a juvenile waiver in a case, the minor that committed the crime must be at least 14 years old in addition to meeting the offense criteria according to Texas law. Once a juvenile has entered the adult court system, they will remain there if they commit another offense unless they have been acquitted of the charges, the case is dismissed, or an appeal is filed and successful.
Protecting Your Child’s Rights
Unfortunately, it is far too common in Texas for juveniles to be tried as adults, meaning their rights are in danger far before they reach a mature age. If your child has committed a crime and is transferred to adult court under a juvenile waiver, it’s important to seek a Austin juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your child’s rights.
The Austin Juvenile Offense System
Austin's juvenile justice system is run by the Juvenile Probation Board and administrated by the Juvenile Board, a group of judges overseeing juvenile probation. Cases are brought in the 98th District Court of Travis County, located at the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center. The District Attorney prosecutes juvenile charges.
Juvenile charges can result in penalties ranging from "Deferred Prosecution" to up to forty years in prison and registration as a sex offender. The range of possible results is staggering, and charges can be brought for certain offenses even after a child's 17th birthday.
Contact Our Austin Juvenile Defense Attorney Today
Our Austin juvenile offense attorneys have handled hundreds of juvenile cases. We have extensive experience in juvenile courts handling aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assault, and indecency with a child by contact cases. Juvenile sex crimes cases are particularly complex as they regularly involve young children alleged to have committed a sex offense against another child or family member.
If a loved one or family member faces a juvenile charge, it is essential to begin your defense as soon as possible.
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