Larry P. McDougal
Larry P. McDougal - Attorney at Law
Richmond, Texas
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What should I know about Texas juvenile justice?

The juvenile justice system in Texas tries to help juveniles who have started to follow the wrong path. A parent who has a child in this system usually has a lot of questions and concerns because the juvenile justice system is a lot different from the adult criminal justice system.

If you found out that your child is involved in this system, here are some points that you need to know.

Do juveniles have jury trials?

They can. It is up to the juvenile, not the prosecutor, to choose if a judge or a jury should decide if he or she is a child in need of supervision. Obviously, this is a decision that the juvenile should make with guidance from a defense lawyer (more on that later).

In juvenile law, once the judge or jury adjudicates the child, it is the judge who assessed the punishment. Yet if the child is alleged to have commuted a criminal offense in a county other than their county of residence, the trial will stand trial in the county where the offense was committed. If adjudicated, the child can be assessed punishment from the judge in that county or be transferred to their county of residence for the punishment trial.

However, for more serious crimes, juveniles can be certified to stand trial as adults, which takes place in adult courts under the same rules that apply to adults.

What types of charges might the juvenile face?

There are two types of charges that juveniles can face in Texas - conduct in need of supervision or delinquent conduct. Conduct in need of supervision is an act that is only against the law because a juvenile committed it. These are sometimes known as status offenses. Truancy or breaking curfew are examples of these. If an adult did these actions, there wouldn't by a criminal proceeding.

What does adjudication mean?

Once the juvenile's case goes before the judge, the judge makes a decision. If the judge finds that the juvenile did commit the acts, an adjudication is issued. This is similar to a conviction in the adult criminal justice system. Adjudication is a way that the court notes that the juvenile is in need of services. These services occur through the sentence that the court hands down in the case.

What are some sentences the juvenile might face due to adjudication?

Probation and referral to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department are possible sentences. When a referral to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is made, the sentence might be determinate or indeterminate, depending on the circumstances. A determinate sentence has an end date. An indeterminate sentence does not. This option is only used for felony charges.

Why do juveniles need legal representation?

Just like the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile justice system provides the defendants with the right to be represented by an attorney. Juveniles have specific rights that must be respected, so the attorney can help them to ensure they are respected. An attorney might help juveniles understand what options they have in the case.

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