How do you, as a parent, know what to expect in juvenile court? Is juvenile court even something you can mentally prepare yourself for? When your child is in legal trouble, you may not know what to expect. You probably know something about the adult criminal court system, which can be scary even for a seasoned defendant. But juvenile crimes are handled less rigidly than those of adults because the goal is not necessarily to punish a child but rather to guide them toward a productive life by providing the support they need to grow and thrive.
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Therefore, unless a child commits a crime as serious as homicide or bodily harm to another person, the goal is treatment and rehabilitation, not necessarily incarceration, unless a judge deems there is no other option.
As a trusted and caring advocate for juveniles in the juvenile court system, attorney Jeff Weeden is dedicated to helping your child get the help they need while leading their case to resolution. To help you understand what your child faces when charged with a crime, attorney Weeden explains the process.
Call WeedenLaw, criminal defense attorneys at 720.307.4330 today to learn more about how you can help your child defend against juvenile and underage crimes.
How The Colorado Juvenile Court System Works
Governed by the Colorado Children’s Code Title 19, revised statutes, juvenile courts have their own rules of procedure and have more flexibility to decide the consequences for a child with criminal charges while still mindful of their basic rights.
Juvenile crimes are assumed to occur because the children’s brains are not yet fully developed and that they don’t always make good choices or judgments and may not consider the consequences of an act they are about to commit. Because of this and other factors out of the child’s control such as neglect or violent, abusive or unsafe living conditions, the juvenile courts have discretion in responding to and deciding the appropriate course of action. Unless a child is a danger to others, avoiding a juvenile detention center, which could lead to even more negative behavior, may be the best option.
A judge, who often takes into consideration input from juvenile court professionals, social workers, therapists, probation officers, and family members’ appeals, may decide alternatives to detention including:
- Placement with a family member or trusted adult friend, especially if the child can’t be managed at home or if they have been neglected, abused or exposed to unsafe conditions.
- Temporary placement in a therapeutic group home.
- Placement in a mental health facility or other hospital if intensive therapeutic intervention or medical care is needed.
- Commitment to the Department of Human Services for placement in a residential or another reform program.
- Anger management and impulse control training.
- Mandatory, assigned community service.
- Court ordered acquisition of employment.
- Transfer to a school better designed to meet the child’s needs.
- House Arrest
- Payment of fines and restitution
- Time to reflect in a juvenile detention center
What Is A Parent’s Financial Obligation In A Juvenile Case Disposition?
If a disposition mandates restitution for damages caused by your child, as a parent you will be held responsible for paying damages. Any person, partnership, corporation, association, government, or religious organization is permitted to recover damages of not more than $3,500 in court from the parent(s) of a minor who damages property or causes bodily injury.
How Colorado Juvenile Court Operates Differently From Adult Court
In adult court, a defendant endures a trial or enters a plea before a county, state, or federal court judge and/or jury and is either acquitted or found guilty. On the other hand, juvenile sentencing does not require a trial, but rather an “adjudication.” An adjudication hearing occurs solely before a judge who decides if the child has committed the crime they’ve been charged with.
In juvenile court, when a child is found to be responsible for what he has been accused of, he receives a “disposition.” At that point, a judge has the discretion to decide the appropriate consequences for the juvenile’s crime. And rather than label the child as a convicted criminal, they are referred to as “delinquent.”
The exception to this process is when a 16- to 17-year-old Colorado juvenile is charged with murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, armed robbery, or certain other violent crimes or if they’ve compiled a substantial number of juvenile court cases. In these cases, they may be tried as an adult.
Advocating For Your Child’s Rights
Whether you believe your child is innocent, or they have acknowledged they’re guilty of a crime, it’s critical that they have a criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile law to represent them. A child who is forced to face a court alone may encounter many unfair conditions. For more information, look at Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer?
For instance, a boy is more likely to be more harshly punished than a girl. Or because of their socio-economic status, race, or ethnicity, they may be discriminated against in the system.
What’s more, without proper representation to mitigate the severity of the disposition of their charges, your child’s future can be irrevocably damaged if they are found delinquent for a misdemeanor or felony. Although minor criminal disposition records are sealed from all but police, courts, and prosecutors, if a juvenile has a felony record, schools, daycares, hospitals, security companies will be able to access the case disposition.
Further, juvenile justice records are not automatically sealed at 18 years of age. A young adult may apply to seal a juvenile record six months after the final discharge of the offense and termination of any assigned probation.
In the meantime, if a juvenile is bound for higher education, they may have difficulty being admitted to a junior college or university and obtaining student financial aid. Also, they may face challenges in obtaining employment or rental housing and may face immigration issues.
In the worst case, if your child is remanded to a juvenile detention facility, they could come out worse than they went in.
With all that said, it’s critical for your child, who may have made a serious youthful mistake, to have you on his side. That includes hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney who will be on your child’s side right along with you.
Jeff Weeden Knows The Importance of Criminal Attorney Bedside Manner
The importance of appropriate behavior and providing a compassionate legal ear to families is oftentimes overlooked by practicing attorneys. However, Attorney, Jeff Weeden takes much pride in his ability to slow down, and not only help in the legal matters with his minor clients, but also in becoming a calming and trusted voice in a chaotic time.
Read our blog Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency: Tips for Parents
Call Now To Begin The Fight For Your Child’s Just Treatment In Juvenile Court
During a free initial consultation with our attorneys, your child’s case will be reviewed so Denver juvenile defense attorney Jeff Weeden can assess it and explain the strategies necessary for the best outcome. As a law firm committed to the well-being and future of your child, we’ll approach their case with passion and dedication, fully committed to helping them get on the right path toward a productive future.
For nearly 20 years, attorney Weeden has represented juveniles accused of crimes throughout Colorado including Adams, Arapahoe, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Morgan, Weld counties, and beyond.
To begin what may be the fight of your child’s life and have your questions answered, contact WeedenLaw at 720.307.4330 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation for you and your child. Or if you’d rather, send us a confidential message on our contact page, and we’ll respond promptly.