Juveniles can commit criminal offenses the same way that adults can. However, the punishment typically differs based on the age of the reported suspect.
Texas outlines a separate criminal process for individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 who are accused of committing crimes.
Even though the juvenile system is more lenient than the adult system, a juvenile can still receive significant consequences that permanently alter the path of their life.
A juvenile criminal defense lawyer can represent the juvenile’s interests in court and emphasize the need for rehabilitation in lieu of punishment.
Our San Antonio Juvenile crime lawyers at the Austin Hagee Law Firm understand the importance of helping juvenile offenders through the process and ensuring their rights are protected.
If your child or another minor is facing criminal accusations, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What Are Juvenile Crimes in Texas?
In Texas, an individual above the age of ten and under the age of seventeen can be charged in juvenile court. The Texas Penal Code outlines different criminal charges for both juveniles and adults.
While the penal code defines different juvenile crimes, the Texas Family Code outlines arrest procedures, hearings, and concluding proceedings in the juvenile justice system.
The terminology and court process in the juvenile system differs significantly from the adult criminal justice system.
A juvenile attorney in Texas can walk you through the basics of juvenile crimes in Texas and help you determine what steps to take next.
Types of Juvenile Crimes
A police officer can arrest a juvenile offender if they have probable cause to believe the juvenile:
- Violated a criminal statute,
- Engaged in delinquent conduct,
- Engaged in conduct indicating a need for supervision, or
- Violated a court-ordered condition of probation.
Delinquent conduct is defined as conduct other than a traffic offense that violates a state or federal penal law, punishable by imprisonment or jail time.
Conduct indicating a need for supervision includes:
- Committing misdemeanor offenses that are punishable by a fine,
- Violating penal ordinances of any political subdivision of the state,
- The child’s voluntary absence from their home without parental consent,
- “Huffing” paint fumes or vapors,
- Violating a school district’s written standards of student conduct,
- Committing prostitution, and
- Committing electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor.
These examples of juvenile criminal offenses are in addition to basic offenses defined by the Texas Penal Code.
What Are the Most Common Juvenile Crimes?
The most common juvenile crimes include:
- Drug possession,
- Minor in possession of alcohol, or
This is a non-exhaustive list of potential crimes a juvenile can commit in Texas.
Punishment for Juvenile Crimes in Texas
For general Texas criminal charges, the offense committed outlines the potential penalty range upon conviction.
A juvenile offender faces the potential of commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until their 19th birthday or placement on probation up to their 18th birthday.
In especially egregious cases, the state may ask the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction over the accused, so they can be tried as an adult.
In other serious cases, the state can seek a determinate sentence, which allows the juvenile’s punishment to be transferred to the adult criminal justice system once they age out of the juvenile system.
The maximum punishment for a determinate sentence is 40 years. Offenses in Texas that are eligible for a determinate sentence include:
- Aggravated assault;
- Sexual assault;
- First-degree possession of a controlled substance;
- Aggravated robbery;
- Criminal solicitation;
- Indecency with a child;
- Arson, if bodily injury or death occurred; or
- Intoxication manslaughter.
A grand jury must approve the determinate petition before it can affect the juvenile’s case.
When Can a Juvenile Be Tried as an Adult?
In some cases, the prosecutor may ask the juvenile court to waive jurisdiction and to certify the juvenile as an adult to be tried in the non-juvenile justice system.
The State can seek certification in any felony case where the juvenile is at least 15 years old and for juveniles 14 years old accused of committing a capital offense, aggravated controlled-substance felony, or a first-degree felony.
When the State files its petition to waive jurisdiction, the judge must order a prehearing evaluation for the juvenile.
During the hearing, the court will determine whether probable cause exists to prove the alleged offense and whether to authorize the transfer to adult court.
In addition to the information provided in the hearing, the court will consider the following factors:
- Whether the alleged offense was against person or property, with the greater weight in favor of transfer given to offenses against the person;
- Respondent’s sophistication and maturity;
- Respondent’s record and previous history; and
- Prospects of adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of the respondent’s rehabilitation by use of the procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile court.
A juvenile criminal defense lawyer can present information to reject the transfer to adult court.
Why Should I Hire a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney?
A defense lawyer with experience handling juvenile cases can offer valuable advantages to a case.
An attorney can help you by:
- Obtaining a copy of the police report,
- Interviewing potential witnesses,
- Locating surveillance footage,
- Compiling information about the juvenile’s background and circumstances, and
- Building a mitigation plan and package for the prosecution based upon the information gathered; and
- Advising you on what is coming next.
The juvenile justice system is a complex process, made even more confusing by the fear and pressure associated with facing criminal accusations.
You do not have to face this process alone. Contact a juvenile criminal defense lawyer at Austin Hagee Law Firm to schedule an appointment.
Contact a Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer at Austin Hagee Law Firm Today
Our juvenile defense lawyers collectively have over a decade of experience helping individuals facing accusations of criminal misconduct.
Attorney Austin Hagee has extensive trial experience from his time as a prosecutor and knows the ins and outs of Texas criminal laws.
Our firm’s trial experience gives us an advantage when preparing a case strategy to present to a judge.
If your child or another minor is facing a juvenile charge, contact Austin Hagee Law Firm today to speak to a member of our team.