The role of a juvenile criminal defense attorney is crucial in safeguarding the legal rights of minors who face criminal charges.
Unlike adults, young offenders often lack the emotional and cognitive maturity to fully comprehend the legal processes and consequences they are facing.
The unique knowledge of juvenile defense attorneys is essential in navigating the complex legal framework that addresses the needs and rights of minors.
They serve as advocates, ensuring that their young client receives fair treatment and that rehabilitative, rather than punitive, measures are prioritized.
Without proper representation from a juvenile criminal defense attorney, a minor may be subjected to harsh penalties that do not consider the potential a child has for change and growth.
Such outcomes can cause significant immediate harm and have long-lasting effects.
This negative impact can disrupt educational opportunities and future employability, leading to a perpetual cycle of criminal behavior.
Issues with recidivism later in life can often be eliminated by getting the right criminal defense lawyer as a juvenile has their first brush with the criminal justice system.
The seasoned juvenile criminal defense attorneys at Austin Hagee Law Firm are indispensable in breaking this cycle and guiding clients towards a more constructive path.
To get started, contact our San Antonio criminal defense lawyers today.
Most Common Juvenile Offenses
The most common juvenile offenses in Texas range from relatively minor infractions to more serious crimes. Here are some of the most commonly reported juvenile arrests.
- Theft and Shoplifting. Theft, particularly shoplifting, is a common offense among juveniles. This usually includes taking merchandise from a store without paying or stealing personal items from others.
- Drug Offenses. Possession or distribution of controlled substances like marijuana, possessing prescription drugs, or other illegal drugs are common offenses among young people.
- Alcohol Offenses. Underage drinking and offenses related to alcohol consumption, such as DUI, are frequent among juveniles.
- Assault and Battery. Physical fights and altercations that lead to bodily harm can result in assault and battery charges.
- Vandalism and Graffiti. This involves defacing public or private property.
- Trespassing. Entering someone else’s property without permission can lead to a trespassing charge.
- Curfew Violations. Many areas in Texas have curfew laws that restrict when juveniles can be out without an adult. Violations of these laws are common.
- Truancy. Skipping school without a valid excuse can be considered a juvenile offense.
- Disorderly Conduct. This can include a wide range of activities, from causing a public disturbance to using offensive or abusive language in a public setting.
- Traffic Violations. These can include speeding, driving without a license, and reckless driving.
- Cyber Crimes. With the increasing use of technology, crimes like cyberbullying and unauthorized access to computer systems are also becoming more common among juveniles. Also posting public threats on social media has become a more closely monitored crime, especially those that include certain details and target a specific group.
- Firearm Offense. Illegal possession or use of firearms can also be a significant issue. In the eyes of law enforcement, juveniles should not mix with firearms.
The rate of juvenile arrests in Texas has been a subject of ongoing concern and scrutiny for policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and social service organizations.
Punishment for Juvenile Crimes
Like many U.S. states, Texas has a separate judicial system for juveniles, focused more on rehabilitation and corrective measures than punishment.
However, severe crimes can sometimes result in harsh penalties, including imprisonment. Let’s look at some typical punishments.
For first-time or low-level offenders, diversion programs offer an alternative to formal legal proceedings. These programs may involve community service, educational classes, or counseling.
Your child can be placed on deferred probation, which allows them to remain in your community under specific conditions and will not result in a conviction on their record.
Your child can be placed on probation, which allows them to remain in your community under specific conditions.
Restitution and Fines
A judge may order your child to pay restitution to victims for damages they received from criminal conduct or fines.
Courts often require community service as a primary form of punishment in addition to other penalties like probation.
The court may order short-term detention in a juvenile facility for more serious offenses or for juveniles who have violated the terms of their probation.
Commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department
In more serious cases, your child may be committed to a facility run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for an indeterminate period.
These facilities are geared toward rehabilitation, but are more restrictive than other options.
Certification As an Adult
In extreme cases involving severe crimes like murder or aggravated assault, juveniles aged 14 or older can be certified to stand trial as adults. This opens the door for more serious penalties, including long-term imprisonment.
This informal probation allows your child to avoid a formal court proceeding if they meet specific conditions. If completed successfully, the charges may be completely dropped.
The juvenile justice system is geared towards correcting behavior and rehabilitating the juvenile where possible, rather than punishment.
However, the severity of the crime and your child’s prior record can lead to stiffer penalties, including incarceration.
Defenses to Juvenile Crimes in San Antonio
In Texas, defenses for juvenile offenses can vary depending on the nature of the crime, the evidence available, and the specific circumstances surrounding the case. Some of the types of defenses can be found below.
Lack of Evidence
The most straightforward defense is that there’s insufficient evidence to prove your child committed a criminal offense.
The defense may argue that your child was wrongly identified as the perpetrator. This argument will likely be stronger if it is supported by alibi witnesses or surveillance footage. Objective evidence can help strengthen this defense.
In cases involving assault or violence, it may be possible to argue that your child acted in self-defense and that any harm caused was justified.
This can be very common in school as bullying often leads to situations where self-defense may be necessary.
Duress or Coercion
If they were pressured or threatened into committing the crime by another individual, this could be a potential defense.
Your lawyer could argue that your child was a victim of entrapment if law enforcement or an individual working for law enforcement induced them into committing a crime they otherwise would not have committed.
In some cases, it may be possible to argue that your child was incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions due to mental illness or impairment.
While not a defense per se, first-time offenders may be eligible for diversion programs that focus on rehabilitation. Successful completion can result in the prosecutor dismissing the charges.
Best Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Choosing the best San Antonio juvenile criminal defense lawyer is crucial in defending a minor against criminal charges. Several factors should guide your decision-making process.
- Amount of experience. Look for an attorney who has experience in juvenile law. The juvenile justice system differs significantly from the adult system, and an attorney experienced in this area will be better equipped to navigate its intricacies.
- Reputation in the legal community. Check online reviews and ask for recommendations from trusted friends, family, or other legal professionals. High praise from multiple sources generally indicates a reliable and effective attorney.
- Initial consultation. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. Use this opportunity to gauge your comfort level with the attorney, ask about their experience, and discuss potential legal strategies and fees.
- Communication and accessibility. A good attorney should be easily accessible and open. They should explain complex legal jargon in a way that you and your child can understand.
- Knowledge of the local legal community. Attorneys who are familiar with the local San Antonio courts and have relationships with prosecutors and judges may have an advantage in negotiations and trial proceedings. It is ideal that your attorney has experience practicing in your community as a prosecutor and defense attorney.
- Ethics and integrity. Check the attorney’s record with the Texas State Bar Association to ensure they are in good standing and have not been subject to disciplinary action.
- Personal connection. If your child is in trouble with the law, it is crucial that both you and your child feel comfortable with the attorney you choose.
By weighing these factors carefully, you can improve the chances of choosing an attorney who will effectively represent your child and work towards the best possible outcome.
Has Your Child Been Charged with Committing a Delinquent Act?
If your son or daughter was recently detained and is awaiting a hearing, you may be searching online for a “juvenile criminal defense attorney near me.”
If so, look no further than the Austin Hagee Law Firm. We take a holistic approach to every juvenile defense case we handle, ensuring we do everything possible to protect your child’s future from the harm of being adjudicated delinquent.
To schedule a free consultation today, call the Austin Hagee Law Firm at 210-903-7769. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.