Young man under arrestThis is the next article in my discussion on the handling of charges against juveniles in Austin, Texas. My previous article discussed defending juvenile charges which involve violence. Parents must understand that prosecutors and judges will take such matters very seriously. If your son or daughter’s rights are not fully protected, then there is an increased risk that they will face incarceration. An experienced attorney can help to protect those rights. In this article I will explain what parents may expect when their child is serving probation, after having been found to have committed an offense. If you or a loved one are in need of assistance then contact my office today to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.

Juvenile cases feel very similar to criminal cases, but there are many important distinctions.  Just like a criminal case, police can arrest or detain a juvenile suspect if an offense is committed within their view, or in the case of an investigation, a judge can authorize a warrant for the arrest of a juvenile.

Just like a criminal case, the juvenile accused as a right to a jury trial. More often than not, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will negotiate to try to reach an outcome that is acceptable to both sides.  In most jurisdictions, jury trials in juvenile cases are fairly rare.

The goal of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate offenders, rather than just punish. However, juveniles who have committed offenses involving violence or sexual misconduct can expect to be considered dangerous and may be removed from their home and placed in a custodial setting if the judge decides that is the only safe place for them to be. The goal of an experienced juvenile defense attorney is to convince the prosecutor and the judge that the juvenile can be adequately supervised in the community. This type of disposition is often called probation.  Probation means that an offender has been adjudicated (the juvenile form of convicted) but that supervision at home with various conditions makes more sense than incarceration. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the offense and the juvenile’s prior history, the state will agree to dismiss a case with no adjudication if the juvenile successfully completes some form of diversion program. These policies vary widely from county to county, so it is important that the attorney who represents your child have recent experience with the jurisdiction in question.  Most probations or diversion programs require the child to be evaluated by professionals for substance-abuse and/or mental health problems, and assigned to complete an appropriate program based on that evaluation. It is best for parents to be honest with the evaluator, since a child who has such problems and doesn’t get help is likely to re-offend, or at least is unlikely to successfully complete a probated or diverted disposition.

Any probation or deferral can provide an opportunity for a juvenile accused to prove to the court that he or she can follow basic rules and stay out of trouble. If the terms of a diversion or probation are violated, however, the judge is much less likely to be willing to give the juvenile another “second chance.”  At that point, custodial dispositions are much more likely to be imposed. Even though the primary goal is to rehabilitate, Texas law allows for very harsh punishments, including public sex offender registration, for a juvenile in the appropriate case.  Having an experienced lawyer guide your family through this process with the goal of avoiding long-term damage to a child’s future is crucial.

If your son or daughter has been arrested then it is important that their case be handled correctly from the outset. I am an Austin juvenile defense lawyer who is experienced in handling such matters. I have been licensed since 1995 and am Board Certified in criminal defense by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. My firm recognizes that your family is facing a serious situation and we will give your case the attention it deserves. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation. I also serve the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.