When your child gets into legal trouble, you may not know what to do or where to turn to next. It is a scary thought leaving your child in the hands of a justice system that you likely know nothing about. However, the good news is that juvenile sentencing is much less harsh than what you may be familiar with in reference to adult sentencing. The goal of juvenile sentencing is not necessarily to punish a child, but to rehabilitate them and guide them toward a more productive lifestyle. The even better news? With an esteemed Colorado juvenile defense attorney like
Jeff Weeden, your child has their best shot at getting off the hook entirely. In this post, our attorneys at WeedenLaw will answer your questions regarding juvenile crime and sentencing.
What is Juvenile Crime?
Courts handle criminal behavior with minors differently than they do for adults. There’s a few reasons for this. For one, it would be unsafe to mix children (that is, defendants under the age of 18) with adults in prison. Children are obviously much less developed than adults. As such, placing them in a penitentiary with adult offenders who are often much bigger and stronger than them can be dangerous. In addition, because juveniles are still developing, they have a greater chance at successful rehabilitation. That is why there are separate procedures in place to handle juvenile offenders than there are for their adult counterparts.
In general, the juvenile justice system intends to rehabilitate rather than punish. However, juveniles can receive harsher punishments and sentences if they become repeat offenders.
If a minor commits a juvenile crime in Colorado or a “delinquent act,” they are sent to juvenile court. This differs from an adult court system in that there is no jury in a juvenile court. Rather, juvenile court judges will look at the evidence presented by a prosecutor and reach a decision on their own.
What are the most common juvenile crimes?
Juvenile crimes may either be age-specific or it may be a crime that is punishable for anyone at any age. Some age-specific offenses for a juvenile offender include:
- Underage purchase of tobacco products
- Underage possession or consumption of alcohol
- Curfew violations
- Having sex in a car in a public setting
- Driving underage
These are all common crimes committed by juveniles, as most kids break these laws in a hurry to grow up.
Juveniles may also commit crimes that are illegal no matter what age the offender is. One of these includes shoplifting or larceny. Shoplifting and larceny are petty theft crimes, which usually entail theft of items worth $500 or less.
Another unfortunate yet common crime among minors is simple assault. Each state has its own definition for what they consider simple assault. Simple assault in Colorado (also third degree assault) is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense. It is when one person causes another person bodily injury either knowingly, recklessly, or by means of a deadly weapon. Many times, minors receive a simple assault charge after a physical altercation with another individual, usually another minor, that results in bodily injury.
Vandalism is another common juvenile crime. It entails the destruction of another’s property, including breaking windows, spraying graffiti, keying cars, and the like.
Drug abuse violations are also a more common crime among juveniles. Juvenile drug charges involve the possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of dangerous controlled substances.
What are typical punishments for a juvenile crime?
You may hear a juvenile sentence referred to as a “disposition order.” There are several different disposition orders that a minor may receive. They fall under one of two categories, depending on the history of the minor and the severity of the act. These categories are either incarceration or non-incarceration. These may seem self-explanatory, but juvenile sentencing for incarceration is different than that of the cut-and-dried nature of adult incarceration.
Incarceration options under a disposition order for juveniles include:
- Home confinement (house arrest)
- Minor must remain at his or her house with the exception of school and counseling appointments.
- Judge orders that the child must live with someone other than the original parent or guardian. This could be another relative or in a group or foster home.
- Juvenile hall
- A short-term stay at a juvenile detention center.
- Occurs after the child is discharged from juvenile hall.
- Secured juvenile facility
- A more secure facility than that of a juvenile hall. Intended for more severe offenses.
- Blended sentence
- For serious offenses, a minor may stay in a secured juvenile facility until they reach the age of 18. From there, they will transfer to an adult penitentiary.
- Adult penitentiary
- In extreme cases, a minor may get tried as an adult and must stay in a county jail or state prison. They may even receive life in prison, depending on the crime.
Non-incarceration options include:
- Verbal warning
- Paid to the government or to the victim, if applicable.
- Counseling services
- Community service
- Electronic monitoring
- Required to wear a monitoring device, such as a wrist or ankle bracelet. Tracks movement and location for a certain period of time.
- This may include completing mandatory counseling sessions or anger management classes, meeting curfews, or avoiding certain activities or individuals.
Can a juvenile decision be appealed?
There are a few ways in which a juvenile sentencing decision may get appealed. Two options include informal appeals and the other is a formal appeal.
The first thing you may try to do to appeal a juvenile decision is to try for a new hearing. This would be an informal appeal.
The second informal option is to file a writ with the Court of Appeals. This is generally reserved for juveniles who receive adult sentences. It may allow you to delay the process and keep the case within the juvenile courts system.
Finally, for a formal approach, you may file an official appeal in the 60-day window following a disposition hearing. As with any criminal case, the appeal must indicate a legal mistake that impaired your child’s case. This may be that certain evidence was wrongly included or rejected, the weight of the evidence doesn’t support the verdict, or your child experienced a violation of rights.
Should I have a lawyer for a juvenile case?
Just as effective counsel can drastically impact an adult case, it can do the same for a juvenile case. A lawyer can be the difference between a slap on the wrist and time spent in a juvenile detention center, or worse. We’ll provide you with some specific ways an attorney may be able to help a juvenile in their case.
For one, a lawyer may successfully get the case either dropped, diverted, or handled informally so the minor isn’t incarcerated and has no court record. A lawyer may also be able to arrange for the minor’s release from pre-adjudication detention.
Further, an attorney can put together a compelling argument that convinces a judge to agree to a compassionate disposition order. This argument may even be what prevents the child from being tried as an adult.
If a juvenile has already been tried and completed their mandatory sentences, a lawyer may assist in record sealing or expungement.
Contact Denver Attorney Jeff Weeden for the Best Juvenile Defense
To ensure your child receives the best defense in their juvenile case, you need WeedenLaw on your side. During a consultation with attorney Jeff Weeden, your child’s case will be reviewed and assessed so he can determine the necessary strategies that will receive the best outcome. As a Colorado law firm committed to the well-being and future of your child, Weeden approaches each case with the utmost passion and dedication. He is fully committed to helping your child get back on the path towards a productive future.
For more questions about juvenile sentencing or to get us straight to work on your child’s case, call 720-307-4330 now and schedule your free initial consultation.
Read our blog: Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency: Tips for Parents.